Flask-shaped bottle with peony decoration

Period: Joseon dynasty (1392–1910)

Date: late 15th century

Culture: Korea

Medium: Buncheong ware with incised and sgraffito design

Dimensions: H. 8 1/4 in. (21 cm); Diam. 7 in. (17.8 cm)

Classification: Ceramics

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1986

Accession Number: 1986.305


In the early years of the Chosōn dynasty, Korean potters, working with new energy and confidence, attempted to revitalize what remained of the Koryō dynasty (918–1392) celadon tradition. The result of these efforts was punch’ōng ware. The term is a contraction of punjang hoech'ōng sagi—literally, "ceramic ware of a grayish green clay body covered with white slip and a clear greenish glaze"—and was first used in the twentieth century (the original name of this ware remains unknown). Punch’ōng was manufactured only in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. During this short time, the industry flourished and potters produced objects in a variety of shapes and decorated with several methods. Thought of as utilitarian objects in Korea and used by all classes, punch’ōng wares were widely appreciated for their aesthetic appeal in Muromachi (1392–1573) Japan, where the great tea master Sen no Rikyū (1522–1591) helped to create a taste for their bold rustic forms and vigorous designs.

Punch’ōng represents an important development in the Korean ceramic tradition. Its indebtedness to Koryō celadons can be seen in the grayish green glaze, although, because they contain less iron oxide, punch’ōng glazes are not as green in tone as celadon glazes. In addition, the simplified decorative technique of stamped designs used in celadons of the late Koryō period, in the second half of the thirteenth to the fourteenth century, was adopted by Chosōn potters in the decoration of early punch’ōng wares.

This fifteenth-century bottle was decorated on both sides with a floral design using the sgraffito technique. In this method, white slip is applied to the surface of the clay body, and a design is incised into it. The slip is then scraped away in the areas surrounding the design to expose the grayish blue body beneath. After the piece is coated with a transparent glaze and fired, the white-slip design stands out clearly against the dark background. In this example, the boldly rendered floral decoration complements the thickly potted vessel. The glaze has pooled in places on the surface, producing subtle tonal variations.