Majang ware urn

Urn, with globular body, tall neck with everted mouth, and flat base. One strap handle, overlaid with a narrower strip of clay, longitudinally oriented, at the juncture of neck and shoulder; two-thirds down the urn on the other side is one small projection in the form of a vestigal handle, latitudinally oriented.
Clay: buff earthenware; surface has many scratch marks and small holes.
Glaze: none.
Decoration: geometric design painted in black and dark reddish brown. The main zone, which occupies the upper three-quarters of the exterior, is defined by two horizontal bands, one running around the shoulder and the other one-quarter of the way around the base. The decoration of this zone consists of four large circles with identical decoration, separated by a supplementary motif of one pair of bifurcated curved lines at the bottom. The circles are filled with a design which consists of a cross whose four arms are traversed by six trellised bands; the spaces left within each circle are filled with four [drawing]-shaped motifs. Around the neck are two rows of tapering vertical lines. Around the interior of the neck are three rows of the saw-tooth motif, each of which increases in height.

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Historical period(s)
Neolithic period, ca. 2000 BCE
Medium
Earthenware with painted decoration
Style
Gansu ware
Dimensions
H x W x D: 24.5 x 21.2 x 21.2 cm (9 5/8 x 8 3/8 x 8 3/8 in)
Geography
China, Gansu province
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. Anna C. Chennault
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1973.18
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Ceramic, Vessel
Type

Urn

Keywords
China, earthenware, Gansu ware, Neolithic period (ca. 7000 - ca. 1700 BCE)
Provenance
Provenance research underway.
Description

Urn, with globular body, tall neck with everted mouth, and flat base. One strap handle, overlaid with a narrower strip of clay, longitudinally oriented, at the juncture of neck and shoulder; two-thirds down the urn on the other side is one small projection in the form of a vestigal handle, latitudinally oriented.
Clay: buff earthenware; surface has many scratch marks and small holes.
Glaze: none.
Decoration: geometric design painted in black and dark reddish brown. The main zone, which occupies the upper three-quarters of the exterior, is defined by two horizontal bands, one running around the shoulder and the other one-quarter of the way around the base. The decoration of this zone consists of four large circles with identical decoration, separated by a supplementary motif of one pair of bifurcated curved lines at the bottom. The circles are filled with a design which consists of a cross whose four arms are traversed by six trellised bands; the spaces left within each circle are filled with four [drawing]-shaped motifs. Around the neck are two rows of tapering vertical lines. Around the interior of the neck are three rows of the saw-tooth motif, each of which increases in height.

Label

By the time this earthenware vessel was made, Chinese potters had been shaping and firing clays for nearly two thousand years, a long-standing expertise reflected in the object's confident shapes and matching dynamic designs.  Burnished surfaces, like that on the storage urn, indicate special treatment and may reveal the unusual status of their owners.  As many as one hundred such earthenwares have been found in a single tomb, suggesting that Neolithic vessels shared similar functions and status as bronze vessels during the ensuing Bronze Age.

Published References
  • Oriental Ceramics: The World's Great Collections. 12 vols., Tokyo. vol. 10, pl. 2.
  • Julia Murray. A Decade of Discovery: Selected Acquisitions 1970-1980. Exh. cat. Washington, 1979. cat. 18, p. 28.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 61.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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