Vessel in form of a conch shell with zoomorphic face

  • Stoneware with iron pigment under ash glaze
  • 9.6 x 18 x 11.4 cm
  • 1075-1250, Angkor period
  • Origin: Cambodia or Northeast Thailand
  • Gift of Victor and Takako Hauge
  • S1996.168

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, Massumeh Farhad, and Ann C. Gunter. 2000. Asian Traditions in Clay: The Hauge Gifts. Washington, D.C.: Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, 147 (illus.), no. 61.

3. Cort, Louise Allison (translated by Tabata Yukitsugu). 2002. "Kumeeru tōki—Hauge korekushon wo chūshin to shita Kumeeru tōki no kenkyū (Khmer ceramics—research on Khmer ceramics centering on the Hauge collection)." Tōnan Ajia kōkogaku [Journal of Southeast Asian Archaeology] (Journal of the Japan Society of Southeast Asian Archaeology) 22: 164, cat. no. 61.

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Victor Hauge, November 1996) Light-green-glazed ceramic in shape of conch shell, with animal face at the whorl end and stippling around the opening.

2. (Louise A. Cort, August 1997) Exhibition Label, "Arts of Cambodia") Khmer vessels for liquid are as diverse as the jar with pouring spout, which exemplifies an Indian concept of jar form, and the elephant with a spout on its shoulder. The small vessels shown here also take the forms of animals or birds and probably imitate containers made of silver or gold. The bird- and rabbit-shaped jars held lime used in betel, a fresh leaf wrapped around various ingredients and chewed for stimulation and refreshment. Actual conch shells were used in religious ritual as horns or for pouring purifying water, and both ceramic and bronze versions were also made.

3. (Louise Cort, 18 January 1999) A bronze conch-shell shaped vessel with stand is in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, L76.24.15.

4. (Louise Cort, 7 June 1999) Khmer ceramic conch-shall shaped vessels occur in green, brown, and two-color glazed versions and in a wide variety of forms. Some are naturalistic; others appear to be ceramic versions of stylized bronze vessels, bearing incised decor. (The Hauge conch falls in between the two extremes.)  They also vary in the direction of their twist, although some have straight openings that also seem to indicate a bronze prototype.
Naturalistic conch with green glaze, brown glaze applied to the tip and the edges of the opening, l. 20.1 cm, dated 11th to 12th century (Fujiwara 1990, no. 114)
Stylized "bronze" conch with elaborate impressed decoration following outline of opening and contours of whorls, l. 19.3 cm, dated 11th–12th century (Fujiwara 1990, no. 115).  Like the bronze vessel (ibid., same page, no no.), this vessel does not appear to have an opening in the shell end; thus it may have been a pouring vessel rather than "horn."
Brown-glazed shell with impressed decoration around the elongated opening only, l. 18.3 cm, dated 12th–13th century (Fujiwara 1990, no. 116).
Brown-glazed shell forms with broad openings projecting "sideways" from the twisted shell and ending in wide, flat end rather than narrow tip (a different type of shell?), l. 16.8 cm and 17.0 cm, dated 12th–13th century (Fujiwara 1990, nos. 117–118).

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

5. (Louise Cort, 8 June 1999) The double row of stipples used to outline the details on this conch-shaped vessel bears a resemblance to the detailing on the bird-shaped vessel (S1996.154).

6. (Louise Cort, 8 June 1999) Two realistic green-glazed ceramic conch shell were found at the eleventh-century temple site of Prasat Ban Phluang, in western Surin Province, about thirty-five kilometers northeast of the kiln sites centering around the district town of Ban Kruat, Buriram Province (Childress and Brown 1978, 66 (photograph) and 68 (measured drawing showing interior structure). A fragment of one conch was found in the entrance to the sanctuary tower; another fragment of the same piece was found on the front terrace together with the temple's deposit stone, which had been thrown from the sanctuary during a looting (ibid., 68). This conch was constructed so as to produce a sound when blown through a small hole at the tip of the shell. A second green-glazed conch fragment is proposed as having been used for lustrations, because of its spout-like tip (ibid., 71). Both these vessels were dated by the authors in consultation with Bernard Groslier to the Baphuon period (1050–1066/8), characterized by thin, pale, uncrazed green glaze and dense, hard clay bodies (ibid., 71). A conch with a thin wash of brown glaze was also found (ibid., 68).

Childress, Vance, and Roxanna Brown. 1978. "Khmer Ceramics at Prasat Ban Phluang." Arts of Asia 8(1): 66–73.

7. (Louise Cort, 8 June 1999) The stippling used to outline the details of the conch is unusual, but it is also found used in a similar manner on a green-glazed elephant head sherd said to have been found at a Buriram kiln site (Natthaphat 1989, 79). The stippling is perhaps related to a silver-working technique.

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

8. (Louise Cort, 9 June 1999) Double lines of stippling, enclosed by parallel incised lines, also appear in the decoration of a green-glazed elephant-shaped lime pot dated to the Jayavarman VI period (1080–1107), in the Conservation d'Angkor (Brown 1988, pl. XVI-d).

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

9. (Louise Cort, 10 August 1999)  Conch shells were used in both Hindu and Buddhist contexts, as indicated by the Mahayana Buddhist iconography on the bronze mounting for a Khmer conch shell in the Cleveland Museum of Art (Guy 1989, fig. 19).

Guy, John. 1989. Ceramic Traditions of South–East Asia. Singapore: Oxford University Press.

10. (Louise Cort, 2 June 2000) A green-glazed conch-shell was found in the Sras Srang cemetery in Angkor, seemingly in the mid-11th century section of the site (Brown 1988, pl. 25-b).  Certain areas of the piece are defined by double lines filled with hatching.  The long end of the piece is broken off at a point similar to that of the Sackler piece, suggesting perhaps an intentional rather than accidental break, although the long end would certainly be vulnerable to accidental breakage.

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

11. (Louise Cort, 16 January 2017) Changed Date from 11th-12th 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 green-glazed Buriram-type bowls (distinguished by the formation of the base) at Angkor-area sites begins in the late 12th century but may date to the beginning of the 12th century, coinciding with the end of production of green-glazed "Kulen" wares in the Angkor area (Desbat 2011, 15-16).

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

12. (Louise Cort, 16 March 2017) The "eyes" are accented with iron pigment. Changed Media from Stoneware with wood-ash glaze to Stoneware with iron pigment under ash glaze.

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