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

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Gourd-shaped bottle in form of a worshipper; neck missing, lid a modern addition

  • Stoneware with iron glaze
  • 26.1 x 16.2 x 16.2 cm
  • 1075-1430, Angkor period
  • Origin: Cambodia or Northeast Thailand
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge
  • S1996.109a-b


Gourd-shaped bottle with head and hands of a worshipper (neck missing, replaced by attached lid). Wheel-thrown from coils, with incised, impressed and applied decoration. Base flat, smooth. Traces of seam around outer edge of base indicate that vessel was thrown from coils attached to edge of base made as flat disk. Gourd-shaped bottle with slightly squared lower section representing "body," widest diameter at "hip"; upper section nearly spherical representing "head." Original neck missing.
Clay: stoneware, reddish on surface, light gray in interior (visible in chip on left ear), not completely fused.
Decoration: outside of foot trimmed vertically, topped by narrow ridged bevel, followed by wide bevel. On the torso, slight vertical depression corresponding to "spine." Small hole poked for "navel." Upper arms indicated by broadly-angled vertical cuts; forearms and clasped hands applied and modelled, with incised details of bracelets on both wrists, and fingers (three lines on right hand, four lines on left). Applied buttons for nipples. Around upper edge of torso, "necklace" suggested by multi-grooved horizontal band (combing?) beneath applied coil impressed with closely spaced diagonal lines.
On the head, features applied and detailed with incised lines: crescent-shaped eyebrows with closely-spaced vertical incised lines, meeting above nose; narrow nose ending in point; oval eyes bisected by horizontal incised lines suggesting closely eyelids; horizontal mouth with clearly defined lips; elongated ears with details added by round "flower" stamp impressed above vertical incised line. At upper edge, multi-grooved (combed?) horizontal band.
Original bottle neck broken off. Adhered lid, originally from another vessel: flat band with radiating incised lines enclosing squared edge of flat tier which rise to support everted rim with scallops impressed into edges, pointed cone-shaped center with incised tiers.
Glaze: iron glaze, chocolate-brown glaze with dull luster, numerous small ochre-yellow specks, opaque black where thicker. At lower edge of glaze on "torso," color streaks unevenly to ochre-yellow. The glaze appearance indicates less than optimal firing temperature. The glaze ends in five or six irregular swags overlapping the upper bevel, indicating that the vessel was glazed by inverting it into a vat of glaze and rotating it to glaze all sides completely.

Published References

1. Lawton, Thomas, and Thomas W. Lentz. 1988. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 208–211.

2. Cort, Louise Allison (translated by Tabata Yukitsugu). 2002. "Kumeeru tōki—Hauge korekushon wo chūshin to shita Kumeeru tōki no kenkyū." Tōnan Ajia kōkogaku [Journal of Southeast Asian Archaeology] (Journal of the Japan Society of Southeast Asian Archaeology) 22: 166, cat. no. 79.

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Victor Hauge, November 1996) Dark-brown-glazed anthropomorphic vessel, the facial features in high relief above the ringed neck, arms molded on the body with hands in the attitude of prayer. Lid fused to the head in firing.

2. (Louise A. Cort, August 1997) Exhibition Label, "Arts of Cambodia") Applied and incised details transform these gourd-shaped vessels into human figures in attitudes of worship. The back-to-back figures on one bottle hold up lotus blossoms, while the hands of the single figure are folded in greeting or prayer. Numerous anthropomorphic vessels are found among Khmer ceramics, although their use is not known. Similar objects were excavated from a burial site in Angkor.

3. (Louise Cort, 18 January 1999) A measured drawing of this vessel was prepared by Miyamoto Yasuharu on 10–11 November 1997 as part of the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties survey of the Hauge collection of Khmer ceramics. See media.

4. (Louise Cort, 10 June 1999) A brown-glazed gourd-shaped anthropomorphic bottle of related form and features, notably prominent applied, arching eyebrows, "coffee-bean" eyes, and modeled arms (also with an incised wispy beard) is in the National Museum, Bangkok (Rooney 1984, pl. 47). It is dated second half 11th century.  The neck is broken off unevenly.

Rooney, Dawn. 1984. Khmer Ceramics. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.

5. (Louise Cort, 11 June 1999) The representation of the face on the ceramic vessels—prominent eyebrows, bulging eyes with both lids outlined, straight nose, full lips, elongated ear lobes, horizontal creases around the neck—reflects the rendering of a face on a bronze torso of a woman in the National Museum, Bangkok (Cœdès 1928, pl. XXIII, h. 35 cm.). This piece of unknown origin seems to represent a somewhat folkish level of metal working.

Cœdès, George. 1928. "Les collections archéologiques du Musée National de Bangkok." Ars Asiatica XII: 1–36, Planche VII.

6. (Louise Cort, 16 June 1999) Lids of the same sort as the one attached to this piece were excavated from the Sawai kiln site in Ban Kruat District, Buriram Province  (Natthaphat 1989, 36).

Natthaphat Čhanthawit et al. 1989. Khrư̄ang thūai čhāk lǣng taophao Čhangwat Burīram (Ancient kiln sites in Buriram Province). Bangkok: Krom Sinlapākǭn (Fine Arts Department).

7. (Louise Cort, 10 July 2002) According to Mrs. Tran Thi Thanh Dao, Museum of Vietnamese History, Ho Chi Minh City, a jar of this type was caught by net from the bottom of the Dong Nai River and brought to the museum.  The river bottom yields various sorts of materials, including "Oc Eo" pieces and grinding stones.

8. (Louise Cort, 5 April 2005) An anthropomorphic bottle of this type—most closely resembling the squared upper edge of S1996.111—was published in Institut Indochinois pour l'Étude de l'Homme Bulletin et Travail pour 1943, Tomb VI, Fascicule unique, Hanoi 1944, in the report on a meeting held 28 December 1943. Paul Levy presented a Khmer bottle acquired by l'École Française d'Extrême-Orient "so far unique in Indochina." Mr. Levy proposed that this and similar funerary vessels from cultures in the Americas, the Pacific, East Asia, and the Mediterranean all expressed a concept of the return to the "Mother" after death. The bottle is illustrated by a line drawing.

Cœdès, George. 1944. "Réunion du 28 Décembre 1943." Bulletin de l'Institut Indochinois pour l'Étude de l'Homme Bulletin et Travail pour 1943 6: n.p.

9. (Louise Cort, 3 November 2011) According to Pariwat Thammapreechakorn, brown-glazed vessels of this type date to the Bayon era (late 12th–early 13th century) and are recovered from temple sites in Northeast Thailand.

10. (Louise Cort, 16 January 2017) Changed date from 11th-13th century to 10-75-1430, following Desbat's following Desbat's revised chronology based on excavations in the Angkor area over the past two decades (Desbat 2011, 26), Evidence for excavated anthropomophic vessels is based on the single Srah Srang piece, but Desbat proposes that their dating corresponds to that for two-color glazing, centering on the 12th-13th centuries (Desbat 22-23).

Armand Desbat. 2011. Pour une revision de la chronologie des gres khmers. Aseanie 27 (juin), 11-34.

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