The massive, egg-shaped, grey-stoneware bottle is supported on a thick, sturdy foot with wide flat foot ring, the foot enclosing a deeply recessed base. The broad cylindrical neck flares to a rounded mouth rim and is surrounded by four grooved strap-handles. A chocolate brown glaze coats the lower body, recessed base, and interior of the vessel while a creamy-white slip provides the ground for a robust composition painted in a free and spontaneous style with dark brown slip. Two enormous ogival arches fill the ground, each framing a crane in flight against a sky of whimsical clouds while the roughly triangular spaces between the arches are filled with single blossoms above and multiple wavy lines forming abstract mountain shapes below. Leafy boughs fan out between the strap handles. A clear colorless glaze covers the white-slipped ground and the grey body revealed in the irregular boarder where white slip and brown glaze don’t quite meet and on the wide unglazed foot ring.
Numerous jars like the present were produced during the Yuan dynasty. Extant examples today demonstrate a relative consistency in shape as well as artful compositions combining dark-glazed zones adjacent to white-slip decorated areas. Even if the subject matter in the painted designs varies from piece to piece, the group is nevertheless unified through the spontaneous, expressive and powerful style of painting. The speed in execution suggests a desire to turn out as much product as possible for a public desiring durable yet attractive vessels for holding wine.
Although these handsome stonewares were products of the north, they were popular throughout much of China. The hub in their transport was a harbor in the lower reaches of the Chang River servicing kilns to both the north and south. The Yuan graves in this vicinity have yielded remains of the wares under discussion here and one such excavated example is strikingly similar to the present vessel.
1. See Cizhouyao ciqi yanjiu, Beijing, 2013, fig.1, p. 293.