Mei Ping Vase with Cover

Unknown artist, China

Gallery 204

This artwork was created as a vase to hold a single flowering plum branch. It is tall, with a small foot, swelling shoulder, and narrow mouth. This balance of proportions creates a visually pleasing form and the small base lends it a sense of lightness and elevation.

Visual interest is created by adding color or sculpting the surface. Here, the low relief design was created by pressing a mould against the wet clay before firing.

This vessel was made with molds. Using molds in the production process allowed an artist to create many of the same kind of vessels and ensure consistent appearance and quality.

“Lute” is a term used when more than one piece made separately is joined together with a slip (thin clay). In this Mei Ping Vase, the undecorated mid-section of the vase along its shoulder is the section where the two decorated sections were joined.

Clay is a mixture of fine mineral particles and water. Soft and wet, it becomes hard and durable when subjected to high temperatures. The “clay body” refers to the clay from which a ceramic object is made - of which there are many types, all occurring naturally. The body of this vessel is porcelain, a type of white clay made of very fine particles that is fired at extremely high temperatures.

The shiny, colored surface found on many ceramics is called the glaze. The color comes from minerals, while the smooth, glassy texture is actual glass, which melts onto the surface when the vessel is fired. Glaze is applied as a liquid: the minerals and glass are powdered and suspended in water.