Jar with Plum and Bamboo, White porcelain painted in underglaze iron-brown
Ceramics - White Porcelain
Food - Tableware - Storage Carriage - Jar
H. 41.3cm, D. 37.9cm
National Treasure 166
- Accession Number
Buncheong Ware and White Porcelain Gallery
Along with buncheong ware, the other type of ceramics typical of the Joseon Dynasty is white porcelain. While the apex of buncheong ware was rather brief, white porcelain was produced and well-loved throughout the period. Members of the ruling class of Joseon, including the nobility and literati elites, were charmed by the simple, refined forms of white porcelain complemented by the pure white surface; they felt it to be a perfect symbol for the clean, austere Neo-Confucian life that they revered. They were so deeply attracted to pottery that the royal family and the government of Joseon operated their own kilns (Gwanyo, meaning “official kiln”) in today’s Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do Province, and in some other areas as well. These kilns were closely supervised by a dedicated government agency, the Saongwon. Renowned for its magnificent shape and design, this jar is a leading example of 16th-century white porcelain with iron-brown underglaze. The surface features a highly realistic rendering of bamboo and plum trees. The bamboo was depicted in such a way as to maximize the effect of light and shade, and the straight, slender leaves and canes show that the artist clearly wished to capture the integrity and spirit of this iconic plant. In addition, the plum tree has a gnarled, curved trunk, but small straight branches emerge all around to create a noble, poetic mood. The elegance and refinement of the design indicate that it must have been executed by an official court painter. Records show that government officials in charge of ceramics regularly brought court painters to the kilns to paint designs.