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Jar with a design of animals in sgraffito


Artist Cizhou ware
Period China, Northern Song dynasty, 12th century
Materials and techniques Stoneware with white slip and green glaze
Size H.11.1 MD.9.5 D.13.2 BD.7.0


Though small in size, the illustrated jar is an important and rare piece from the latter Northern Song period of the twelfth century. It was made by covering the entire surface with a white slip and then coating over it with an iron pigment, creating a double-layered ground of white and black. Motifs were rendered by scraping off the iron pigment, or the black ground, to show the underlying white ground. This method is called sgraffito. The jar was then applied with a thin coat of transparent glaze, fired, coated with a green glaze, and fired again, this time at a lower temperature. Extant vessels with sgraffito decoration and green glaze are rare, and known examples consist only of vases. The jar illustrated here is decorated with flower-framed windows placed on three sides around the body, each enclosing a different design of a hare, a dog, and a bird preying upon an insect, all of which are skillfully executed in the style of the Song-Yuan period. The jar, which is believed to have been fired in the Cizhou kilns in southern Hebei Province, is a world-famous piece previously belonging to the collection of Mrs. Alfred Clark of the United States.

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