Ceramic vase made of celadon-glazed sandstone
24 x 39 cm
Date of entry at UNESCO
Country of origin Rep. Korea
Donation made to UNESCO by the Republic of Korea
© Photo : UNESCO/ D. Matar
All rights reserved

This “Celadon Vase” from Korea decorated with floral motifs probably dates from the 10th or 11th century. It is also known as the Maebyong vase, the name of which is the Korean transcription of the famous Chinese term “meiping” (“plum-shaped vase”). Already prized by the Chinese Northern Song (960-1127 AD), this type of work is considered a veritable achievement by potters under the Koryo dynasty (918-1392), whose fame is universal.

The Celadon is a type of sandstone covered with a monochromatic glaze ranging from light green hues to more or less bluish, greyish or olive-colored ones and fired at high temperatures (1200-1280° C); this craft reached its height during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The Western term for these ceramics resulted from the analogy made with the green ribbons worn by Celadon, the shepherd of Astraea, in the 17th century novel by Honoré d'Urfe. The principal Celadon categories come from the Yaozhou kilns, in the provinces of Shaanxi, Henan or Yue, and in the city of Longquan.

This piece is decorated with a flower motif, delicately executed under a celadon glaze with a blue-green sheen. At the base of the vase, a wreath of lotus flowers elegantly and finely follows the shape of the piece. This Maebyong, with its perfect balance and harmonious line, is typical of the golden age of the Koryo potters production. Its decoration is very close to Chinese aesthetics and the model developed by the Northern Song. Nevertheless, the slightly blue tint is specifically Korean. The floral motifs express a certain naturalism and a penchant for geometry and smooth lines. The simplicity of this vase bears witness to the craftsmen’s taste for monochromatic decoration and an almost bare surface. It is clear when looking at this piece that the focus is essentially on the material itself and the search for the perfect hue. Curves and solid volume are particularly popular characteristics in Koryo ceramics, and are echoed in contemporary bronze works.

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