Jar, White Porcelain with Underglaze Iron-painted Dragon Design

  • Korea
  • Korea, Yi dynasty
  • 17c
  • White Porcelain with Underglaze Iron
  • H-26 D-32
Catalogue Entry

Yi dynasty was the Korean dynasty that Yi Song-gye established by banishing the king of Koryo in 1392. This was a dynasty which survived for 518 years, until 1910. In this dynasty, Confucianism was adopted as a state philosophy to live by and took the place of Buddhism. Ceramics in the Yi dynasty period are markedly different from those in the Koryo dynasty era. In the Koryo era, celadon was quite popular, and a unique type of celadon known as jade-colored celadon, was created. In the early Yi dynasty period, Punch'ong ware, which descended from the jade-colored celadon, was extremely valued, but it slowly gave way to white porcelain. A diverse range of artistic styles are found at this time. To wit, in the middle period, for about 100 years (from the mid-17th to the mid-18th century), artisans produced not only white porcelain, but also white porcelain with a design painted on underglaze cobalt blue and white procelain with designs in underglaze iron brown, to name a few. Dragon designs, which were some of the most fashionable designs of the time, can be grouped into two major types those executed in precise brushwork, and those done in the abstract with humor. The latter type, as is this jar, is more often seen in the middle period. The present jar has a wide, round mouth, a small foot, and a round, prominent body with an overall shape of a bead on an abacus. It is covered with bluish glaze. On its lower body, red motley spots and a large area of reddish coloration are noted. Inside the foot, the glaze appears wrinkled. Its glaze style is suggestive of Koryo tea bowls. Although the dragon on this jar is by no means skillful, the iron underglaze took color very well. The shape of this jar is quite powerful; it is free and, at the same time, simple.