Ewer with Phoenixes

Period: Northern Song dynasty (960–1127)

Date: 11th–12th century

Culture: China

Medium: Stoneware with incised and carved decoration under celadon glaze (Yaozhou ware)

Dimensions: H. 8 1/4 in. (21 cm); Diam. 6 in. (15.2 cm)

Classification: Ceramics

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Samuel T. Peters, 1926

Accession Number: 26.292.73


In accordance with the prevailing taste of the Song dynasty, the shape and glaze of this fine vessel are the dominant qualities, taking precedence over ornamentation. This is one of the finest examples of a ceramic type known as northern celadon ware. The swelling body, the important but subtle glaze, and the complex design that covers the surface of this elegant ewer complement one another. The glaze, which derives its color from iron, collects in thicker pools, where more clay has been hollowed out to create the carved patterns, thus accenting the design. The ewer stands on three scowling-mask legs that terminate in paws. The handle is a serpent-leg dragon whose head forms the spout and is straddled by a diminutive rider.