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

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Lime-paste jar in the form of a bird, with lid

  • Stoneware with iron glaze
  • 16.6 x 14.2 cm
  • 1075-1430, Angkor period
  • Origin: Cambodia or Northeast Thailand
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge
  • S1996.144a-b

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) Tall brown-glazed bird lime pot on high foot, large hooked beak, ringed lid, vertical lines striped around sides.

2. (Louise Cort, 1 June 1999) A green-glazed bird-shaped vessel with the same unusual features—large, projecting beak and tall pedestal foot—is illustrated in Natthaphat 1989, 60.  Details of the bird's markings below the beak and applied round eyes are outlined with incised lines and filled with "feathers" created by pressing the pointed tip of a tool into the clay at regular, closely-spaced intervals.  In addition, the vessel appears to have two "baby birds" incised as ovals on the shoulders where the wings would be, with applied eyes, beaks, and tails.  No dimensions are given for the vessel.  It is said to be "from the Buriram kilns."  While the flaking condition of the pale green glaze suggests that the vessel is a genuine kiln waster, it has clearly passed through the hands of a dealer, who glued the conical rim of a small bottle onto the neck opening and inserted a tall stopper, creating a pastiche typical of the early 1970s, when sherds were amply available from the newly-discovered Ban Kruat kiln sites.

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

3. (Louise Cort, 11 June 1999) A large (h. 21.0 cm) brown-glazed vessel with pedestal foot and wide flanged mouth, elaborately incised with the face and wings of a bird, with applied round eyes and large beak projecting upward, is in the Yamamura Collection, Japan (Michio ed. 1989, no. 179, said to come from Ban Kruat).

Yamamura Michio, ed. 1989. Nazo no seramikku roodo ten: ima, yomigaeru Tai, Biruma no kokkyō: Yamamura korekushon [Riddle of the ceramic road: the Thai-Burmese borderland returns to life: the Yamamura collection]. Beppu, Oita prefecture: Yamamura Michio.

4. (Louise Cort, 30 June 1999) In storage at the Phimai National Museum in February this year, I saw another large brown-glazed bird-shaped vessel of this sort.  The edges of its foot were broken off like ours, suggesting that perhaps there had been some sort of problem with glaze running over the foot. 

5. (Louise Cort, 23 July 1999) A large bird-shaped vessel on a pedestal base with brown glaze (h. 17.1 cm), dated 12th–13th century, is in the Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum, Kyoto (Fujiwara Hiroshi 1990, no. 75).

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

6. (Louise Cort, 28 December 2004) Changed Title from Bird lime pot with lid to Bird-shaped lime paste jar with lid.

7. (Louise Cort, 16 February 2006) The identity of the bird represented in this type of container is discussed in Ang Choulean 2000. The bird is the ak, and in popular lore it is know for its fidelity to its mate. Upon the death of its mate, the bird left behind kills itself by flying at full force into a rock or a tree. In ancient Cambodia the lime pot executed in silver or ceramic so typically took the form of this bird that the vessel is known as "ak kambor" (lime ak). Ang Choulean charts the relationship between the ak in nature, which feeds on shellfish, and the ak-shaped vessel filled with lime made from burnt shells.

Ang Choulean. 2000. "Une petite touche de mélancolie: le ak à Angkor." Cambodia Bird News: Special Angkor Issue 5: 17–19.

8. (Louise Cort, 5 December 2006) The brown-glazed jar in the Yamamura Michio collection (see note 3 above) is published also in Ozaki and Tsuzuki eds. 2000, no. 62. It is dated 12th–13th century. The unglazed base of the jar has a deep channel cut just inside the edge.

Ozaki Naoto, and Tsuzuki Etsuko, eds. 2000. Shūgyoku no Tōnan Ajia bijitsu (Gems of Southeast Asian Art—Siam Tohchingbok Collection). Fukuoka: Fukuoka-shi Bijutsukan (Fukuoka Art Museum) and Gotō Bijutsukan (Gotoh Museum).

9. (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 (Desbat 2011, 26). Evidence for vessels with "chestnut brown" (marron) glaze centers on that time span. Armand Desbat. 2011. Pour une revision de la chronologie des gres khmers. Aseanie 27 (juin), 11-34.

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