The vessel is finely and evenly potted from high quality, fine-grained, pinkish-white earthenware with a compressed ovoid body surmounted by a flared and everted rim and supported by well-formed cabriole-style legs. The cobalt-blue pigment was applied over a clear glaze in multiple rows of splashed overlapping dots, sometimes blurring to form broad expanses of color. A clear glaze covers the inside thickening to a straw tint.
The cobalt-decorated wares of the Tang were considered to be among the most precious due to the high cost of the mineral. Special attempts were made during the Tang to use the cobalt outside the usual range of sancai decorative schemes perhaps due to the natural tendency of the cobalt pigment to resist the streaming characteristic of other colors in the sancai palette. Although the present ceramic and the sancai group represent a daring leap forward in Chinese aesthetics, the cobalt-decorated wares further presage one of China’s greatest contributions to world ceramics: the underglaze-blue decorated porcelains of the later dynasties. And, again, Tang craftsman were at the forefront of that development. The ceramics they decorated with underglaze cobalt-blue designs have been recovered at Tang-dynasty archaeological sites and are considered actual precursors of “blue-and-white” of subsequent dynasties.
The present vessel was fitted with an openwork silver lid in Japan where it was used as an incense burner.