Two important works of Asian art—an 11th- to 12th-century bronze vase and a 12th-century ceramic ewer—have joined the growing Korean collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The bronze was the generous gift of Dr. Brian Salzberg, a member of the Museum's Korean Heritage Group (founded in 1997 by members of the Korean community and other interested individuals to support the Museum's Korean collections) and chair of the Collectors Circle. The exquisite celadon wine ewer was given to the Museum by Colonel Stephen McCormick, who previously donated a significant group of bronzes and ceramics to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Both pieces date to the Koryo dynasty (918-1392), and will be on view in the Museum's ongoing installation, The Spirit of Korea (Gallery 238, second floor).
With its pear-shaped body, long neck and slightly everted mouth, the form of the bronze vase is closely related to that of Koryo dynasty ceramics vases. Probably once used to hold wine, the vase is similar in shape to a type of vessel often held by images of Kwanseum, Bodhisattva of Mercy. The elegantly balanced 13" high form sits on an approximately half-inch high foot. The vase is subtly decorated on the exterior with alternating thin, incised double bands and slightly thicker bands in relief. Thin, incised bands also decorate the interior of the vase's mouth.
Korean bronze has a high zinc content, and is therefore more akin to brass rather than bronze. Originally, the vase would have appeared brass-colored, smooth and shiny, but today the surface of the vase is covered by a striking blue-green patina reminiscent of the color of a Koryo period celadon. An outstanding example of its type, the vase joins three other Koryo period bronzes—a bowl and two kundika (double-spouted water vessels)—in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of art.
Korean celadons, such as the ewer given by Colonel McCormick, have long been admired by collectors around the world, and have been described as having "the radiance of jade and the crystal clarity of water." The much-esteemed grayish green color of the piece derives from iron used in its glaze and reduced oxygen in the kiln. Shards dating to the Koryo dynasty and excavated in the North Cholla and Kyonggi provinces indicate that this particular ware was produced in large quantities. While relatively few examples survive, the National Museum of Korea has a similar lobed, celadon ewer, matched with a warming bowl. The Philadelphia Museum of Art's new acquisition, too, may once have been paired with a bowl.
The ewer's melon- or gourd-like shape was common among Korean celadons made in the form of plants, animals and figures. 6¼" in height, the ewer was used to serve wine, and was modeled after an eight-lobed melon. It features a handle resembling the curling stem of a melon plant, and a round lid crowned with a twelve-petaled flower in relief. Seven spurs mark the underside of this particularly fine Korean ceramic.