Vase with Dragonfish Handles

Period: Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279)

Date: 12th–13th century

Culture: China

Medium: Porcelain with relief decoration under celadon glaze (Longquan ware)

Dimensions: H. 6 3/4 in. (17.1 cm)

Classification: Ceramics

Credit Line: Bequest of Mary Stillman Harkness, 1950

Accession Number: 50.145.301


To connoisseurs of Chinese ceramics, the word celadon brings to mind first and foremost the luscious glazes of the porcelaneous stonewares that were produced in the Longquan kilns of Zhejiang Province during the Southern Song period. These wares are the triumphant conclusion of a tradition of high-fired green glazes that began in the Shang dynasty (ca. 1600–1050 B.C.)—glazes that were corrected and improved upon through the centuries as though countless generations of potters were all striving toward the common ultimate goal of a glaze such as this. The form of this mallet-shaped vase has been simplified in the interests of a jadelike glaze that almost begs to be touched. Its streamlined shape is underscored by the contrast of two crisply molded fish that serve as handles.