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

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Vessel in the form of a caparisoned elephant

  • Stoneware with iron glaze
  • 16.6 x 15.6 x 16.8 cm
  • 1075-1430, Angkor period
  • Origin: Cambodia or Northeast Thailand
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge
  • S1996.125

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) Vessel in the form of a caparisoned elephant, brown-glazed overall.

2. (Louise Cort, 2 June 1999) A variety of brown-glazed elephant-shaped vessels in various sizes with openings on the top of the back do not have spouts (compare S1996.124); they appear to have been made for use in storing lime paste.

A spherical four-legged bottle spherical bottle in the form of a caparisoned elephant  with flat base (h. 21.0 cm), has a large flanged mouth, probably for ease of access to the lime (Fujiwara 1990, pl. 91).

A small lime-paste jar in the form of an elephant with four legs (height 12.5 cm), said to come from the Ban Sawai kiln complex in Ban Kruat District, Buriram Province, is in the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University (possibly gift of Dean Frasché?) (Frasché 1976, no. 10).

A smaller lime-paste vessel in the form of a four-legged elephant (11.5 cm.), with brown glaze except for a narrow strip of pale green glaze around the lower body, and fitted with a knobbed lid, was excavated by Bernard-Philippe Groslier in 1964 from the Sras Srang burial site at Angkor.  The site was used circa 1080–1107 and again in the late 12th century, and a date of second half of the 11th century is given for this vessel, which belongs to the Conservation d'Angkor (Brown 1988, pl. XXc).

A smaller still brown-glazed elephant-shaped lime-paste pot (6.7 cm) is in the Fujiwara Hiroshi collection, Kyoto (Fujiwara 1990, pl. 95).

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

Frasché, Dean. 1976. Southeast Asian Ceramics Ninth through Seventeenth Centuries. New York: Asia Society.

Brown, Roxanna M. 1988. The Ceramics of South-East Asia: Their Dating and Identification. 2nd ed. Singapore: Oxford University Press.

3. (Louise Cort, 11 June 1999) The largest intact brown-glazed elephant bottle that I have seen so far is in the Southeast Asian Ceramic Museum, Kyoto, which I visited in May, 1997. The vessel is a standard bottle, perhaps 30 cm high, with wide flanged rim and ornamented foot. Sculpted details of the elephant head, howdah rails, and tassels are applied to the shoulder of the bottle.  A small human figure peers over the elephant's head.   Like all the brown-glazed elephants I have seen, it has round applied eyes.

A fragment of a still large jar with an attached elephant head, bearing mottled brown glaze, was in the materials excavated from the Royal Palace site, Angkor Thom, now under study by Marc Franiatte at the French Mission in Siem Reap (February 1999).

4. (Louise Cort, 16 June 1999) A sherd of a black glazed elephant head of similar form was excavated from the Ban Sai Tho Song kiln site in Ban Kruat District, Buriram Province (Natthaphat 1989, 41).

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

5. (Louise Cort, 16 January 2017) Changed Date from 11th-13th century to 1075-1430, following Desbat's revised chronology based on excavations in the Angkor area over the past two decades. Evidence for zoomorphic vessels centers on the 12th-13th centuries, although Desbat proposes that their production probably continued into the 14th and 15th centuries (Desbat 19-21). He also associates the appearance of matte brown glaze with the late 12th century (Desbat 2011, 26).

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

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