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

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Pot with stamped decoration

  • Earthenware with red pigment
  • 17.1 x 20.3 cm
  • 17th-19th century, Ayutthaya period or Bangkok period
  • Origin: Ayutthaya, Pathum Thani, or Nonthaburi province, Chao Phraya River network, Central Thailand
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge, and Victor and Takako Hauge
  • S2005.361

Description

Pot of compressed globular form with round bottom, cylindrcial neck and flanged mouth.
Clay: red earthenware.
Glaze: none.
Decoration: a row of spiky leaf-shaped designs is stamped on the shoulder. Series of horizontal lines painted in red pigment surround the mouth, neck, shoulder and the body.

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Louise Cort, 24 January 2003). This vessel had been kept with a collection of earthenware cooking pots in Bud and Gratia's house.

2. (Candy Chan, Research Assistant, 13 March 2003) Spinks refers this type of earthenware pots with characteristic stamped Thai-type pendant-designs as ‘moh khao’-type pot (rice-cooking-type pot), made at kilns along the Maenam Chao Phraya river in Ayutthaya during the Ayutthaya period (AD 1350–1763). Yet, no exact kiln site has been reported (Spinks 1976, 188–189, pl. 7).

A similar pot is in the James and Elaine Connell Collection in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco dated 16th–18th century (Asian Art Museum of San Francisco 1993, 156, pl. 134).

Spinks, Charles N. 1976. "The Ayuddhaya Period Earthenwares, some Contemporary Thai Kilns, their Wares and Potting methods." The Journal of the Siam Society 64(2): 188–201.

Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, ed. 1993. Thai Ceramics: The James and Elaine Connell Collection. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press.

3. (Louise Cort, 21 August 2003) The Hauges acquired most of their earthenware vessels in Ayutthaya and were under the impression that they dated to the Ayutthaya period and had been pulled out of the river. In fact, however, earthenware cooking pots are still made in the vicinity of Ayutthaya, as in many other communities, and it is very difficult to date such surviving wares.

In 1922 W. R. Graham wrote: "In the museum at Ayuthia where, under the fostering care of H. E. Phraya Boran Rajdhanindr, one of the most learned archaeologists of Siam, a very valuable collection of old pottery has been got together, there are many specimens of common earthenware of variable quality and design, that have been found amongst the ruins of that city and in the neighborhood, and that are all at least 150 years old. Some are very rough in texture and workmanship, and others are of fine clay, carefully executed and of graceful design. None of the articles are quite similar to the earthenware pots of today through the differences are in many instances small." (Rooney ed. 1986, 20)

Graham, W. A. 1986. "Thai Pottery and Ceramics: collected articles from the Journal of the Siam Society, 1922–1980". Pp. 11–37 in Thai Pottery and Ceramics, edited by Dawn F. Rooney. Bangkok: The Siam Society. Original edition, Journal of the Siam Society. 16(1): 1–27.

4. (Louise Cort, 27 March 2008) A pot of this type is in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.74.32.5), where it is said to come from Ayutthaya and dated 15th–17th century. It appears to show no traces of red pigment.

5. (Louise Cort, 17 April 2008) All of the earthenware jars in the Hauge collection with small-scale and precise stamped decoration made with repeat impressions of individual stamps bear a visual and technical relationship to metal vessels of the region. One example of a Southeast Asian (possibly Thai) bronze vessel survives in Japan, where it has been used as a water jar for the tea ceremony. It is in the Nomura Art Museum collection in Kyoto (Hayashiya 1985, no. 216).

The vessel was raised (hammer marks are still visible) and then ornamented with strikes of various metal stamps. The body shape is a compressed sphere, with a wide neck that tapers toward a mouth with horizontal everted rim. (The shape is similar to S2005.353–366.) The vessel rests on three short feet. Large pendant motifs of two alternating leaflike designs are spaced around the upper half of the body, below a narrow band of heart-shaped motifs on the shoulder. Two smaller motifs alternate around the neck. The flat rim also bears a band of ornamentation. The elaborate lid has radiating raised lotus-petals around a central calyx-shaped knob.

The vessel is dated 16th century, although the description mentions that it has been passed down as a Higashiyama gyobutsu—a possession of the military ruler Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1435–1490). It is said to have belonged later to the tea masters Sen no Rikyu (1522–1591) and Yabunouchi Kenshin (1536–1627) and subsequently to the Kyoto temple Nishi Honganji. 

Hayashiya Seizo, ed. 1985. Cha no dogu (3)—kame, kogo, mizusashi [Tea utensils (3)—kettles, incense containers, and water jars]. Vol. 12, Chado Shukin. Tokyo: Shogakukan.

6. (Louise Cort, 18 February 2009) In a meeting at the Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, Pakkret, Nonthaburi, where he is collaborating in a study of pottery production in Nonthaburi province, Mon ceramic specialist Pisarn Boonpoog stated that pots with stamped and painted decoration were made to hold water, whereas pots for cooking were made in the same shape but with simpler or no decoration.

Many pots of this type have been recovered from the Chao Phraya river in Pathum Thani province, near the former Mon potter-making village of Sam Khok (now defunct) and possibly although not definitely related to that site. They probably were lost when a boat transporting them turned over.

7. (Louise Cort, 10 July 2012) Evidence for Burmese "roots" for this type of pot with leaf-shaped stamp-impressed decor in a single band around the neck is offered by the glazed earthenware round-bottomed pot kept in the Historical Museum, Pagan, and illustrated, among other places, in Guy 1989, 9, fig. 9. The repeated motif on the shoulder appears to be divided into two segments of different patterns impressed by separate stamps. Guy describes it as an "impressed leaf pattern" "recorded on Twante pottery of the early Pagan period" (ibid., 8). Another glazed earthenware pot of this type (h. 34 cm) is said to have been found in Java (ibid, 8 and pl. 1). The decor is composed of an elongated leaf-shaped stamp touching the angle of the neck, above a hemispherical form. Guy suggests that the date for both pots is "possibly fourteenth to fifteenth century," the period of active trade contact between Java and Lower Burma (ibid., 9).

An unglazed earthenware round-bottomed pot that had been used as a burial urn is now kept at the Hpaya Gyi Museum, Tavoy (Moore 2009, 127, fig. 8). It appears to bear repeat stamps of pendant pointed (bodhi?) leaves in a single row around the shoulder, as does the adjacent fragment of a pot neck and shoulder. Moore presents this pot in the context of a discussion of the diversity concealed within the "Pyu culture" ascribed to Upper Burma in the first millennium C.E. Of the illustrated pot, Moore comments simply that "the cemetery [from which the pot came] is immediately southeast of the walled site" (ibid., 114). Moore describes but does not illustrate a pot recorded as Vessel 11 from Tagaung, a site yielding "Pyu" finds" during excavations in 1998-2004, that bears repeated stamps of "a four-armed crowned, possibly ancestral figure, with a large face and prominent eyes, flexed knees and flanked by an elephant and bull" (ibid., 114 and 127, fig. 11).

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

Moore, Elizabeth. "Place and Space in Early Burma: A New Look at 'Pyu Culture'." 2009. Journal of the Siam Society vol. 27:101-128.


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