Five stoneware miniatures

Height of pagoda: 2 inches, 5 cm
Width of sancai bowl: 1 1/4 inches, 3.2 cm

Plate 1, 2, 3

Five stoneware miniatures

China, Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), Tang dynasty (618-906),
Song dynasty (960-1279) and Jin/Yuan dynasty, 13th -14th centuries

Five stoneware miniature ceramics comprising a pair of so-called ‘ear cups’, both with flat handles to either side and covered in a crackled cream glaze. A sancai bowl, the deeply potted sides curving slightly inwards and the top half covered in splashed cream, green and brown glazes. A ding-type model of a pagoda, supported on a hexagonal base, with a low aperture and a typical ringed top. A cizhou plate with everted rim and painted with three stylized floral sprays.

These charming Chinese miniature ceramics might have been made to show what a potter was capable of. They are exceedingly rare in Chinese ceramics. The ear-cups date to the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD). The shape is known in all sorts of materials, including metal, jade and lacquer. On full -size examples, the ‘ears’ or handles enabled the user to hold the cup firmly. A miniature pottery ear cup from the collection of Dr Paul Singer, covered in a Yue glaze was exhibited in New York in 1977.[1] The sancai bowl is also a perfect miniature example of a full -size bowl; both the shape and the glazing correspond to what one would see in the original. A similar miniature sancai “alms” bowl is in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery (plate 1).[2] Another example is in the collection of Arthur M. Sackler and was included in the 1977 exhibition in New York.[3] It is recorded that a white pagoda measuring 8 meters in height; was erected at Liaodi Kaiyuan monastery in Hebei province during the Song dynasty (plate 2). It is tempting to speculate that this Song dynasty ding-type miniature example could be a small model of the Liaodi pagoda. Finally, a full-size cizhou bowl with very similar decoration was formerly in the collection of Robert Hatfield Elsworth (plate 3). A miniature cizhou jarlet, painted with a comparable floral design, was included in the 1977 exhibition Early Chinese Miniatures in New York.[4]

Provenance: The collection of Louise Hawley Stone (1904-1997), Toronto, Canada. She was the Royal Ontario Museum’s first volunteer and was also a major donor, fundraiser, Board member and committee chair. The cizhou plate bears her collection label.

  1. Singer, Dr. P. Early Chinese Miniatures, China House Gallery / China Institute in America, New York, 1977, no. 80, p. 42
  3. Singer, Dr. P. op. cit. no. 129, p. 58
  4. Singer, Dr. P. op. cit. no. 210, p. 85