A fine Longquan celadon brush washer - Yuan Dynasty

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This washer has deep sloping sides, moulded in the form of petals rising from a recessed foot to a lobed rim of corresponding form. It is covered in a soft and thick olive-green celadon glaze except for a ring-shaped area on the base where the paste is revealed. This particular shape is sometimes referred to as “bamboo” design or “sugar cane” design.

Period: Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368)

Size: Diameter 11.2 cm, height 3.5 cm

Condition: Excellent condition, minor wear and fire impurities, minor crazing

Provenance: From a Swedish private collection.

SKU: 36

References: A Longquan washer of this shape excavated at Shisicang site, Wuqing district, Tianjin, dated to Yuan dynasty, is illustrated in Complete Collection of Ceramic Art unearthed in China - Tianjin Liaoning Jilin Heilongjiang, Zhang Bai, Science Press, Bejing, 2008, Plate 18.

There is a comparable washer in Metropolitan Museum, New York, with an incised lotus design to the interior.

Another similar washer was sold at Sothebys, London, in 2018.

More info: Longquan ware

Brush washers were essential tools used by scholars and artists in East Asia, dating back to the Tang dynasty. These small vessels were designed to hold water for washing brushes during calligraphy and painting sessions.

During the Tang dynasty, brush washers were typically crafted from ceramics. They often featured simple yet elegant designs, reflecting the aesthetic sensibilities of the time.

During the Song and Yuan dynasties, the production of brush washers expanded, with artisans experimenting with various materials such as jade, bronze, and even precious metals like gold and silver. These luxurious versions were often adorned with intricate carvings or elaborate enamel work, serving as prized possessions among scholars.

By the time of the Ming dynasty, ceramic brush washers remained popular, with artisans continuing to refine their craftsmanship. Ming brush washers were renowned for their delicate shapes and vibrant glazes, adding a touch of sophistication to scholars' desks and studio spaces.