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Pilgrim Bottle Vase

Asian Art

The pilgrim flask form was widespread in both time and place and was produced in a variety of media, including Venetian glass, Central Asian leather, and Chinese ceramics. Some have suggested that the round, moon-shaped form originated in the Near East, but no matter what the origin, the various examples bear witness to travel of both people and technologies throughout the diverse cultural landscape of the Silk Route.

This pilgrim bottle vase, boldly decorated with pomegranates, peaches, and other Chinese symbols of prosperity, longevity, and integrity, manifests the development of the once foreign cloisonnee technique during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). The technique, which involves constructing a design in metal and filling it with multicolored enamel, was highly developed in the Byzantine Empire in the tenth and eleventh centuries and traveled eastward during the Mongol period.

MEDIUM Cloisonné enamel on copper alloy
  • Place Made: China
  • DATES early 17th century
    DYNASTY Ming Dynasty
    PERIOD Late Ming Dynasty
    DIMENSIONS 10 1/4 x 6 11/16 in. (26 x 17 cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Samuel P. Avery
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Pilgrim flask with short foot, globular body and tall, narrow neck. Copper carved with cloisonné enamel. The foot and mouth as well as the handle are rimmed in gilt. Turquoise blue ground with decoration of peaches and pomegranates in red, dark blue, green, and yellow enamels. Loop handle on each side of the neck. One of four pieces in the Avery collection to bear a Jingtai mark, here shown in a gilded panel on the neck just below the mouth rim. According to the catalogue of the Avery collection of Ancient Chinese Cloisonné, Brooklyn 1912, the mark-Jingtai, 1450-1456, might be apocryphal, in which case the piece might have been made in the Kangxi period, 1662-1722. Although the form of such flasks is found in ceramics of the 15th and 18th centuries, the technique of enameling with tiny spiral wires scattered on a blue background is peculiar to the 17th century. The decorative motifs, the pomegranate, peach, rock, fungus [sic], orchid and narcissus together symbolize prosperity, longevity, and integrity.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Pilgrim Bottle Vase, early 17th century. Cloisonné enamel on copper alloy, 10 1/4 x 6 11/16 in. (26 x 17 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Samuel P. Avery, 09.657. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 09.657_side1_PS2.jpg)
    IMAGE side, 09.657_side1_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2009
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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