Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)
With its saucer-shaped mouth, slender neck, and elegant body, this vase is beautiful in both proportion and design. The deeply carved, stylized design of peony flowers and leaves boldly fills its central section. Taut curves evoke a sense of energy contained, like a spring ready to be released. The peony was a popular motif because of its colorful, lush blossoms, and because the flower’s name sounds the same as the words for wealth and honor, adding an air of auspiciousness to whatever it adorns. Called the “king of flowers,” the peony owes its popularity to the only woman to rule China as emperor—Wu Zetian, who reigned from 690 to 705. Her passion for the flower inspired its appreciation by the many officials who hoped to advance their careers under her reign.
Cizhou-type ware is made of a coarse stoneware covered with a white slip, a diluted clay coating, which is then scratched or carved, exposing the darker, buff-colored body beneath. Named for the northern kiln site Cizhou, present-day Cixian, located in Hebei province, this popular, sturdy pottery was created for daily utilitarian use. Produced continuously from the 10th century to the present day, it has one of the longest histories of all the major ceramic traditions.
Cizhou-type ware has been called “the people’s ware” because it was made for everyday use.
Mr. and Mrs. Eli Lilly; given to the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1947.
Northern Song dynasty
stoneware with slip and clear glaze, Cizhou-type ware
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