bowl with two violet spots

Jin dynasty

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The soft, celestial-blue color of Jun ware was a welcomed change from the earlier earthier tones. Splotches of purple can be independent of, yet enliven, the meticulously crafted shapes.

Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

The only decoration on this deep bowl, besides the soft blue glaze, is two irregular spots of violet, which seem almost ephemeral. The vessel is an especially restrained example of Jun ware, a type of ceramic named after the location of its production and prized for its milky, opalescent blue glaze, which was unprecedented in Chinese ceramics.

The bowl’s violet spots were the outcome of an intentional accident. Jun ceramists exploited subtle, complex effects that resulted from copper splashes during the firing process as part of the spontaneous beauty of their works, whereas later ceramists strove to manage every effect of glazing and ring through technical expertise.

The bowl’s simple, deep, almost hemispherical shape balances upon a small foot. The thick blue glaze, pulled by gravity during firing, became thin at the top, revealing the light brown clay body at the bowl’s rim, which is handsomely complemented by the unglazed portion at the foot. The crazing, or crackle, especially evident in the bowl’s interior, highlights the depth of the glaze, much as slanting cracks in ice reveal its thickness.

Multicolored clouds in clear blue skies and purple mists were associated with Daoist omens. It may not be coincidental that Jun ware thrived as Daoism gained in popularity.

Mr. and Mrs. Eli Lilly, Indianapolis, Indiana; given to the John Herron Art Institute, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, in 1947.

Object Information

Jin dynasty
creation date
stoneware with opalescent blue glaze, Jun (Chun) ware
3 1/2 x 6 in.
accession number
credit line
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Eli Lilly
No Known Rights Holder
Asian Art

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