The globular jar rises from a flat base, swelling to full rounded shoulders surmounted by a short neck with thick rounded mouth rim. A short tubular spout is attached between two loop handles of round section sitting high on the vessel’s shoulder. The translucent glaze, applied in two thin layers on the exterior, drapes down the sides of the vessel, terminating in sweeping lines well short of the base. The interior is fully coated with a thin layer of translucent glaze. Minutely crazed throughout, the glaze pealed or flaked off in limited areas. The body is a dense, very light greyish-white, finely textured stoneware visible on the lower body and flat unglazed base.
The present jar is the result of a marriage between a commanding iconic Tang-period (A.D. 618-907) shape and that era’s most elegant and reserved category of ceramics, the white wares of the north. So satisfying and right was the form—buoyant, full, supple, mature—that potters at numerous kilns in the north replicated the shape over and over to produce extensive families of earthenwares with brilliantly-colored glazes and stonewares with somber monochromatic black and teadust-colored glazes, and, of course, divine white stonewares, such as the present example.
White stoneware jars, full-bodied like the present, do not appear to exist in great number today and those with spouts and handles are extremely rare. A handsome example with spout but without handles was excavated at a site in Xi’an, Shaanxi province (fig. 1) and one with different proportions also in Xi’an (fig. 2). An interesting example with four handles and spout, reminiscent of the Yue jar in the present catalogue (cat. 48), is now in the Palace Museum in Taiwan (fig. 3) while a cobalt-blue earthenware jar from the Eumorfopoulos collection has, like the present, both spout and handles (fig. 4).
One of the most important centers of white ware production was in southern Hebei province. Towards the end of the 6th century A.D., potters began taking advantage of the white clays there and began a journey in technology and creativity that would lead ultimately to one of the greatest ceramic products of China and the world, the Ding wares of the Song dynasty. The producers of white wares in Hebei, and at kilns following suit in Henan province, had provided from the outset important accoutrement for Buddhist religious services, exquisite ware for the use of the discriminating Tang court, and furthermore exports, to Japan, to Egypt, to Mesopotamia, and to India.
The former owner of the present piece, the eccentric and elusive (except when one wanted to elude him) Walter Hochstadter, made reference to another example almost identical to this jar, with spout and handles, that he had sold to a New York collector. Thus far, to our knowledge, none other of this type has been published.
1. Also see an example with spout in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Meiyingtang Collection, vol. 3 (II), London, 2006, pl. 1389, p. 388 and another in Sekai Tōji Zenshū (Sui and Tang Dynasties), Tokyo, 1976, pl. 115.
Fig. 1: White stoneware jar with spout, Tang dynasty, excavated from a Tang-dynasty tomb at Wangcun, Xi’an, Shaanxi province, after Zhang Bai, Zhongguo qutu ciqi quanji, vol. 15 (Shaanxi), Beijing, 2008, pl. 59, p. 59.
Fig. 2: White stoneware jar with spout, excavated from a Tang-dynasty tomb in Hongqing, Xi’an, Shaanxi province, attributed to the Quyang kiln in Hebei province, after Zhang Bai, Zhongguo qutu ciqi quanji, vol. 15 (Shaanxi), Beijing, 2008, pl. 58, p. 58.
Fig. 3: White stoneware jar with spout and four handles, Tang dynasty, after The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum (Gugong, Taipei), Porcelain of the Jin and Tang Dynasties, Hong Kong, 1996, pl. 160, p. 174.
Fig. 4: Blue-glazed earthenware jar with spout and two handles, Tang dynasty, British Museum, Eumorphopolous collection, London, after R. L. Hobson, The Catalogue of the George Eumorfopoulos Collection of Chinese, Corean and Persian Pottery and Porcelain, vol. 1, London, 1925, pl. LVII, fig. 374.