Stoneware with inlaid decoration of chrysanthemums under celadon glaze; H. 13 5/8 in. (34.6 cm)
Fletcher Fund, 1927 (27.119.6)
This bottle, made during the height of celadon ware manufacture in Korea, attests to the technological and aesthetic achievements of Goryeo potters in the production of elegantly formed and decorated vessels, as well as the Korean preference for themes from nature. Inlaid chrysanthemum blossoms are aligned along the bottle's gently curved sides, which have been formed into lobes.
The time-consuming technique of inlay in celadon ware (sanggam) involves incising or carving the design into the unbaked, leather-hard clay with a needle or wooden tool and filling in the resulting depressions with a white or black substance. The piece is given a biscuit or first firing, then coated with a celadon glaze and fired again at a higher temperature. Although inlaid decoration was used in Chinese ceramics during the Tang (618906) and Northern Song (9601127) dynasties, it was not widespread and its application to celadon ware was never fully exploited. Among makers of Goryeo celadon, however, it became a favored decorative technique, establishing a distinct and important category of Korean ceramics.
Inlaid celadon vessels such as this example epitomize the refined sensibilities of the Goryeo aristocracy. While ordinary people used simple, undecorated stoneware, royalty and the aristocracy created a demand for large quantities of celadon-glazed objects. The finest vessels were made in official kilns, which worked to government specifications and were supervised by court officials. The fondness for detail and exquisite materials is also evidenced in Goryeo inlaid lacquerware and Buddhist painting.