Vessel in the form of an Elephant with Rider

Date: 14th–mid-16th century

Culture: Thailand

Medium: Earthenware with underglaze iron-brown decoration (Sawankhalok ware)

Dimensions: H. 5 1/4 in. (13.5 cm)

Classification: Ceramics

Credit Line: Purchase, Gifts of friends of Jim Thompson, in his memory, 1989

Accession Number: 1989.238.41


Established as a major center in the Khmer period, Sukothai, in central Thailand, became an independent kingdom after the fall of the Cambodian empire. Concentrated to the north of Wat Phra and Phai Luang, the Sukothai kilns produced an extraordinary range of ceramic vessels and figures, including architectural decoration. Sukothai wares are characterized by a coarse body, which fires a dark brown and is sprinkled with white particles. Iron-brown decoration is painted both under the glaze and over a white slip.

Raised on a low ring, this vessel in the shape of an elephant has a rider squatting on its rear haunch. The rider's hands are held in a prayerlike gesture connoting adoration. The head and trunk of the elephant are raised as if trumpeting and a spout issues forth from its mouth. The legs of the elephant are drawn up against its globular body. A harness made of applied strips of clay is painted with iron brown. Some features of both the elephant and rider are picked out in the same medium, and the whole was covered with a thin coat of cream white glaze.