Ceramics in Mainland Southeast Asia:
Collections in the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

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Jar with four ornamental lugs

  • Stoneware with iron glaze
  • 32.9 x 31 cm
  • Possibly Sawankhalok ware
  • 14th-15th century, Ayutthaya period
  • Origin: Thailand
  • Excavation provenance: Puerto Galera site, Mindoro, Philippines
  • Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
  • F1996.35

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Louise A. Cort, 2 December 1996) Among Southeast Asian ceramics, jar forms are relatively unstudied (as compared to smaller tableware and ornamental pieces), and many jars cannot yet be attributed to a specific kiln site. (No doubt more kilns remain to be discovered.) This jar was surely made at a kiln somewhere in mainland Southeast Asia, and its alleged excavation in the Philippines suggests a date in the 14th–16th centuries, when such trade flourished. For this reason, even if the jar turns out to be a product of a Cambodian but post-Khmer empire kiln (something I believe increasingly might be possible), it is contemporaneous in date with the products of Vietnamese and Thai kilns already represented in the Freer collection and, for that reason, belongs there rather than in the Sackler. It is unlike any piece in the Hauge collection.

The small upright, pinched-together lugs on the shoulder of this jar are found on Khmer ceramics of the type dated to the heyday of the Khmer empire (11th–13th century), as represented on Hauge jar no. 8. As indications of continuities as yet poorly understood (simply stylistic? indicative of technical transfer?), such lugs are also found on the unglazed gray jar from the Suphanburi kiln in central Thailand in the Freer collection (F1996.26), and on Hauge jar no. 54, which Victor Hauge describes as related in glaze and decoration to Khmer ceramics but in form to early Thai ceramics, and as from an unidentified kiln in Thailand. The thin, rather matte blackish-brown glaze on this jar also relates to the glaze on some Hauge Khmer pieces (although it is unlike no. 54). The flared rim is seen on certain jars from Northern Thai kilns (such as the green-glazed jar in the Rockefeller collection, identified as Northern Thai, although there is disagreement on the specific site: see Leidy 1994, no. 113.

In both form and materials this jar is unlike typical Sawankhalok brown-glazed jars (although John Forbes identified it as such). Northern Thai kilns were remote from the international port of Ayutthaya, and few pieces are found outside the mainland. It is usually said that "Khmer" pots were not exported either, since their heyday predated the period of intensive international trade. Yet Japanese traders visited Cambodian ports in the 16th and 17th centuries, so Cambodian pots of that era (as yet unidentified) could have entered into trade as containers for commercial items. I entertain the intriguing possibility that this jar represents a period of Cambodian ceramic production as yet unrecognized. Archaeological research just beginning in Cambodia, as well as comparative studies in our conservation department using the Hauge collection, should yield information.

Leidy, Denise. 1994. Treasures of Asian Art. New York: The Asia Society.

2. (Louise A. Cort, 2 December 1996) See several jars of comparable size and condition in the sale of Thai and Burmese ceramics on March 15–April 6, 1996 at Eric J. Zetterquist Gallery in New York.

Zetterquist, Eric J., ed. 1996. Thai and Burmese Ceramics. New York: Eric Zetterquist.

3. (Louise Cort, 28 January 2008) It no longer seems likely, based on evidence of kiln sites and use sites, that this jar was made in Cambodia (in an Angkorian or post-Angkorian context), although the form of the jar shows indebtedness to Khmer jar prototypes. In Origin, changed Thailand or Cambodia? to Thailand. Changed Ware from Sawankhalok ware to Possibly Sawankhalok ware. Changed Date from 14th–16th century to 14th–15th century.

4. (Louise Cort, 2 June 2008) According to Don Hein, in Washington to deliver the Pope Memorial Lecture, this jar is not Khmer ware; it is not Maenam Noi ware. The lugs are raised higher than those that appear on normal Sawankhalok jars of this type. The angled strip of clay at the join between the shoulder and the neck is typical in shape. The lines were incised on the shoulder to locate the lugs. This jar appears genuine and is probably Sawankhalok ware.

5. (Louise Cort, 29 October 2014) Viewing this jar after quite some time, its "Angkorian" traits seemed more pronounced, including the quality and luster of the glaze and the color and texture of the clay body. This may relate to the barrel-shaped black-glazed jars for which evidence increasingly suggests a continuation of production into the post-Angkorian period.


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