Height: 2 1/8 inches, 6 cm


Pottery sancai cup

China, Tang dynasty, 618 - 906

A small pottery deep cup, the rounded sides rising from a neatly cut, tapered foot with concave base, and terminating in a flared rim.  The exterior of the cup is decorated with three bands of concentric, impressed circles, separated by horizontal lines.  Both the inside and the outside of the cup are covered in a carefully applied sancai glaze of green, cream and amber tones, which stops just short of the base of the cup in an uneven line. The base is not glazed and shows the fine, almost white pottery.

The dialogue between pottery and metalwork that is such a feature of Tang dynasty ceramics is evident in this beautiful small cup, not only in its sharply-profiled shape, for which direct parallels in bronze and silver exist, but also in the decoration of the concentric circles, which is reminiscent of the ‘ring-punching’ technique that was used on many contemporary silver pieces.   An amber-glazed pottery cup with ring handle in the collection of the British Museum is similar in shape to the present example and also has three bands of concentric impressed circles around its body.[1]  A pottery cup of closely similar shape with a blue splashed glaze is in the collection of the Oriental Museum at the University of Durham.[2]  Two sancai-glazed cups, each of slightly different shape and both lacking the decoration of concentric circles, are in the Meiyintang collection.[3]

1    Vainker, S.J. Chinese Pottery and Porcelain: From Prehistory to the Present, British Museum Press, London, 1991, no. 58, p. 78 p. 201
2    Watson, W. Tang and Liao Ceramics, Thames & Hudson, London, 1984, no. 169, p. 167
3    Krahl, R, Chinese Ceramics in the Meiyintang Collection, Vol. Three (I), London 2006, nos. 1248 and 1249, p. 234