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

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Spirit house figure of a chicken coop

  • Earthenware
  • 15 x 11.4 cm
  • 16th-19th century, Ayutthaya period or Bangkok period
  • Origin: Chao Phraya River network, Central Thailand
  • Provenance: Ayutthaya or Bangkok, Thailand
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge, and Victor and Takako Hauge
  • S2005.419

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Louise Cort, 24 November 2003) According to Victor Hauge, this object was made in Ayutthaya and acquired by Bud and Gratia in Bangkok.

2. (Louise Cort, 28 January 2005) This object was photographed in the Freer Gallery of Art photo lab in the 1970s; a black-and-white 8x10 print was found in Jo Knapp's files and is now in my file. That suggests that this object was of interest to Charles Nelson Spinks, who published several of the Hauges' earthenwares in an article for the Journal of the Siam Society, vol. 64/2 (1976), "The Ayuddhaya Period Earthenwares."

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.

3. (Louise Cort, 10 February 2005) A group of six objects of similar form, in the Kamratan (Fujiwara) Collection in Kyoto—with pointed tops, applied ornament, and round openings near the base, ranging in height from 9.5 to 18.0 cm—is illustrated in Toyama Satō Bijitsukan ed. 2002, no. 157. They are described as unglazed stoneware; three are light red, one is darker red, and two are dark brown. They are identified as "Sukhothai," but no reason is given.

Toyama Satō Bijutsukan (Sato Memorial Art Museum Toyama), ed. 2002. Tōnan Ajia no kotōji VIII—Tai no yakimono Sunkoroku [Ancient ceramics of Southeast Asia VIII—Sawankhalok ware of Thailand], South-East Asian Ceramics from the Kamratan Collection Toyama: Toyama Satō Bijutsukan.

4. (Louise Cort, 1 April 2005) I believe this belongs to the category of earthenware spirit house figures made in Ayutthaya and represents a chicken coop in the form of a bamboo basket, the sort still used in Thailand today.

5. (Louise Cort, 29 May 2008) Don Hein, in Washington to present the Pope Memorial Lecture, was reminded of a ceramic shape identified as a "cricket box" that was found at Sawankhalok. He thinks this piece must have been made as a habitat for something.

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 said that small figures of this type were probably not made by Mon potters working in villages along the Chao Phraya river, but by Thai. If Mon potters did make them, they could not keep them at home (in household spirit shrines). The figures would have been offered only to the village temple or to the spirit house or holy shrine for the village as a whole, known as san chao (Thai) or hai prachu (Mon).

7. (Louise Cort, 7 April 2014) Viewing storage on 24 Oct 2011, Pariwat Thammapreechakorn identieid this object as made at Sukhothai or Si Satchanalai. He described it as a "bird's nest" but also mentioned a cricket cage or an incense burner. He said that such objects were not found at the kilnsites but that obects of the same kind had been brought to the Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum by antique dealers. Most were earthenware but some were unglazed stoneware. The museum acquired three examples.

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