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Brush Washer

Early 12th century

China, Henan Province

Stoneware with glaze (Jun ware)

H. 2 3/4 x Diam. 6 3/4 in. (5.7 x 17.1 cm)

Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, 1979.138

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This small brush washer with a ring handle exemplifies the court taste that developed in the early 12th century under the patronage of the Song emperor Huizong (ruled 1101-1125). Innovations that occurred under his reign had a long-lasting effect on Chinese art. These changes include the production of ceramics that rely on the beauty of their elegant shapes and fabulous glazes, as opposed to earlier wares that were decorated with incised or impressed motifs. This brush washer is an example of Jun ware, named for Jun Prefecture in Henan Province. Its subtle, bold shape has an understated elegance that is enhanced by the unctuousness of the very thick pale blue-gray glaze. The fine lines that are found in the glaze, known as "crazing" or "crackle," are the result of the shrinking of the glaze in the kiln. Although Jun is one of the five great wares of China, whether or not they were used at the court remains an issue of debate.