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What brown can do

No 3, Vol.9 , August  - September 2015

Vietnam Heritage has been publishing a series based on ‘2,000 Years of Vietnamese Ceramics’ by Nguyen Dinh Chien and Pham Quoc Quan, published by Vietnam National Museum of History, Hanoi, 2005.
This month the topic is brown patterned ceramics.

This group of wares is considered the most distinctive of Vietnamese ceramics. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, at the beginning, wares were produced with an unique technique; patterns are scraped or incised, then brown-painted on a white ivory glazed body.

Ly examples are mostly in a smaller size, including animal figurines, stem-cups in the parrot shape and ewers in the form of Kinnara or Kinnari (Indian celestial musicians, half bird-half human). There are also spittoons in the shape of a flower basket, decorated with floral sprays and four and six petal apricot flowers.

Tran examples are numerous, comprising covered jars with moulded lotus petal collars on the neck and shoulder, cylindrical lobed bodies, and flat bases or pieced pedestal feet. Decorative motifs are much more varied and realistic, especially hunting and fighting scenes, long-legged and long-tailed birds, tigers and elephants.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, this group of ceramics was decorated with underglaze painting, a technique common for blue and white wares. Typical examples are the vases and lamp stands in the National Museum of Vietnamese History.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, this type of ceramics totally disappeared. However, brown glaze was still used for highlights on lamp stands of Le-Mac period.

Some scholars believe that Thanh Hoa Province is the homeland of this type of ceramics. I share this opinion. Besides, it should be stressed that, in the 15th to 17th century, kiln centres of blue and white ceramics were also those for manufacturing brown wares with underglaze painting. The specimens decorated with cobalt blue combined with brown glaze can prove this view.n

Vietnam National Museum of History
1 Trang Tien St, Hanoi
216 Tran Quang Khai St, Hanoi
Tel: (04) 3824-1384, www.baotanglichsu.vn
Open: 8 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.
Closed every first Monday of months

Photos provided by Nguyen Dinh Chien
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