Head from an anthropomorphic bottle; vessel body; unrelated lid (pastiche, disassembled)

  • Stoneware with wood-ash and iron glazes
  • 5.7 x 4.8 cm
  • 1075-1250, Angkor period
  • Origin: Cambodia or Northeast Thailand
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge
  • S1996.111a-b


Upper section ("head" and bottle neck) of an anthropomorphic bottle with green glaze on neck, brown glaze on head; brown-glazed lower lobe of flattened bottle with combing on shoulder, from a separate vessel; unrelated conical lid. Formerly united in pastiche to form single vessel with lid.

All components wheel thrown with incised decoration; applied relief decoration on "head."

(1) Bottle section

Thinly thrown upper lobe ("head") and neck of gourd-shaped bottle. "Head" in the form of a tapering cylinder, slightly narrower at top than bottom.
Clay: fine-grained stoneware clay, pale gray, with some minute black specks. Interior color of clay visible where one applied ear has broken off.
Decoration: deep incised groove at lower edge, defining "head." Features aplied in relief: arched eyebrowns and short, pointed nose applied as single V-shaped piece; eyes applied as two oval pieces, with pupils indicated by short marks, either impressed individually or possibly made by impressing a circular "floral" stamp; mouth applied as short, straight piece, with incised line defining lips; ears applied as projecting crescents (left ear broken off).
Three incised horizontal lines create deep upright flange echoed by two steps above it, defining base of neck, which slopes inward and rises, ending in plain upright rim.
Glaze: on "head," translucent, mottled amber brown iron glaze, darker where pooled, flaking in some areas. Sharp line defining upper edge of brown glaze, just below flange of neck, as though vessel had been dipped upright into vat of brown glaze. On neck, pale yellow-green ash glaze, coating inside of neck and ending in straight line at curve between neck and "head," as though inverted vessel had been dipped into vat of ash glaze. Narrow band of lustrous golden-brown where two glazes overlap.

(2) Flattened bottle

The original form may have been a flattened bottle with small mouth of the same type as S1996.132. Base smooth, slightly inset in center, creating narrow "footrim" by effect if not intent; this rim worn away. Walls rise outward, then bend in, creating C-shaped profile.
Clay: fine-grained, sandy, cream-colored stoneware clay, slightly darker on surface, stained reddish in areas formerly covered by glaze; interior color visible in one gouge on body.
Decoration: wide bevel on wall above base, defined by horizontal line cut in wall; clay surface within bevel roughened by trimming. Above the line, horizontal throwing marks fainly visible in wall. Around present opening of vessel, band of scalloped combing, with narrow, regularly spaced curves.
Glaze: iron glaze, translucent reddish-brown glaze, mottled texture with small white spots, as if glaze had been applied over loose particle of dust or sand and failed to adhere. Glaze ends irregularly below edge of bevel. Glaze finely crackled; has flaked off in areas. Interior of vessel covered by thin film of brown glaze, with some thicker areas where glaze ran in through mouth.

(3) Lid

Wheel-thrown as solid piece, wide, upturned edge with conical center ending in sharp point, bevel on underside above tapered stopper (broken off). A smaller version of the same type of stopper-lid is S1996.140b.
Clay: fine-grained pale gray stoneware clay
Decoration: continuous spiral line incised from edge of lid nearly to point.
Glaze: ash glaze, translucent , thin, shiny pale green, covering all surfaces except for broken surface of stopper.

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.

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Victor Hauge, November 1996) A two-color vessel, the brown-glazed body with human facial features appliquéd on the upper section, the wide bulbous lower section with encircling combed design. Tapered straw-colored tubular extension over the head has a conical cap.

2. (Louise Cort, 18 January 1999) A tall gourd-shaped bottle of this anthropomorphic type, with dark brown glaze on the "body" and "head" and pale green glaze on the bottle neck, was allegedly found at a kiln site in Buriram Province (Natthaphat 1989, 55). This vessel suggests that the original lower half of the Sackler bottle would have been an elongated oval form on a flat base, with the hands of the figure clasped in reverence rendered in relief on the shoulder of the bottle. The base of the Sackler vessel is authentically a Khmer vessel fragment, as indicated by its distinctive base form and the combing below the opening.
An anthropomorphic bottle with the same distribution of two-color glazing is illustrated in Gifu-ken Tōji Shiryōkan 1997, no. 2. A two-color bottle with a cat's head, and with a pouring spout on the chest, is illustrated in ibid., no. 5.

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

Gifu-ken Tōji Shiryōkan (Gifu Prefecture Ceramics Museum), ed. 1997. Tai no kotō (Ancient ceramics of Thailand). Gifu: Gifu-ken Tōji Shiryōkan.   

3. (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.

4. (Louise Cort, 11 June 1999) Another two-color anthropomorphic gourd-shaped bottle in the Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum is illustrated in Toyama Bijutsukan ed. 1994, no. 71, h. 27.0 cm, dated 11th–13th century. The long, squared male face on the narrow bottle has a goatee, over the tip of which his folded hands rest. The hands are not joined palm to palm, as in prayer, but left above right, and may be meant to be holding something, as is the figure S1996.108.

Toyama Bijutsukan (Toyama Art Museum), ed. 1994. Kamratan korekushon Tōnan Ajia kotōji ten I (Southeast Asian ceramics from the Kamratan collection I). Toyama: Toyama Bijutsukan.

5. (Louise Cort, 11 June 1999) A gourd-shaped anthropomorphic bottle with two-color glazing depicting a person holding a pouring spout is in the Nakamura Collection, Machida City Museum, Tokyo (Machida Shiritsu Hakubutsukan 1995, no. 67, h. 26.8 cm), dated 12th–13th century.  The figure also bears an applied "caste mark" on the forehead.

Machida Shiritsu Hakubutsukan (Machida City Museum). 1995. Kumeeru no yakimono [Khmer ceramics]. Machida Shiritsu Hakubutsukan zuroku 93. Machida: Machida Shiritsu Hakubutsukan.  

6. (Louise Cort, 7 June 1999) A two-color anthropomorphic bottle with head quite similar to this one—a cylindrical shape with incised horizontal ridge below the "chin" and another above the eyebrows suggesting a hairline, above which the walls angle in sharply to the neck—is illustrated in Fujiwara Hiroshi 1990, no. 69. The applied features are similar in character, including the elongated curving ears which reach from the upper to the lower horizontal line, accentuating the squared feeling of the face. The Kamratan face appears to have a goatee, with small hands crossed over the lower tip. The vessel is dated 12th–13th century.
Another bottle in this same style, but with an overall brown glaze, is illustrated in Stock ed. 1981, no. 47, dated mid-12th century.

Fujiwara Hiroshi. 1990. Kumeeru ōkoku no kotō (Khmer Ceramics from the Kamratan Collection). Singapore: Oxford University Press.

Stock, Diana, ed. 1981. Khmer Ceramics 9th–14th Century. Singapore: Southeast Asian Ceramic Society.

7. (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'Etude 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.

8. (Louise Cort, 24 May 2007) A two-color anthropomorphic bottle, with a lower, rounder "head" (the green-glazed neck had been broken and ground down), was recovered from the Dong Nai River and is now in the collection of the Museum of Vietnamese History, Ho Chi Minh City (acc. no. 6196).

9. (Louise Cort, 24 May 2007) A two-color anthropomorphic bottle, with a lower, rounder "head" (the green-glazed neck had been broken and ground down), was recovered from the Dong Nai River and is now in the collection of the Museum of Vietnamese History, Ho Chi Minh City (acc. no. 6196).

10. (Louise Cort, 16 January 2017) Changed Date from 12th-13th century to 1075-1250, 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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