Collection

Buncheong Turtle-shaped Bottle with Sgraffito Peony Design and Underglaze Iron Brown

  • Culture / Period

    Joseon Dynasty <15th Century>

  • Materials

    Buncheong

  • Dimensions

    H. 9.4cm, (bottom) D. 6.6cm

  • Designation

    National Treasure 260

  • Accession Number

    Deoksu-006231-000

For obvious reasons, flat, rounded bottles like this are often referred to as “turtle-shaped bottles”. They were probably used as portable water and liquor containers, since they could be easily attached to a belt with a piece of rope or string. As objects for everyday use, most of them were made in earthenware rather than buncheong or white porcelain. A few white porcelain turtle-shaped bottles have been found, but it is very rare to encounter one as flat as this, which was made by attaching twin shallow, convex surfaces. The body of the bottle was decorated using a sgraffito technique, scraping away the surface layer of one material to reveal a darker underlayer of another. In this case, the surface of the bottle was first covered with white clay, which was carved with the distinctive peony design, and the excess white clay was scraped away to cause the peony design to stand out in relief. The scraped area around the peonies was then painted with an iron-brown underglaze that turned a very dark brown or black during the firing process to increase the visual contrast and highlight the peony design even further. The bold, vivid design is wonderfully accentuated by the dark underglaze, providing the bottle an unconventionally striking aesthetic effect that is unique among buncheong ware.

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