About this artwork
The Goryeo dynasty was a golden age for Korean ceramic making, and outstanding among the era’s wares are understatedly elegant celadons. Celadon is an iron-based glaze capable of an almost infinite range of colors, depending on the amount of oxygen in the kiln. Although Korean potters initially drew on Chinese models for both vessel shapes and celadon techniques, this maebyeong (plum vase)—with its shallow cuplike lid, swollen shoulders, and constricted waist—is thoroughly Korean. The cool beauty of the vase’s greenish blue glaze represents such perfection of the technique that even the Chinese admired Korean celadons as surpassing their own. A unique Korean contribution to ceramic development is the inlay of delicately rendered designs. In this precise and time-consuming process, designs carved or incised on the body of the vessel were filled in with black or white clay prior to glazing and firing. Here the appealing and often playful designs are auspicious Korean symbols: the motif of cranes flying through drifting clouds, which separates the three double-trefoil frames, symbolizes longevity; the plump children, who chase a butterfly, signify happiness, prosperity, and abundant progeny; and the tiny duck is associated with marital fidelity.
- Vase (Maebyong) with Clouds, Flying Cranes, and Children amid Willows
- Celadon-glazed stoneware with underglaze inlaid decoration of black and white clays
- 33.5 cm (13 1/8 in.)
- Gift of Mr. Russell Tyson