Skip to Page Content

19 May 2011

Next Meeting Tuesday, 7 June

Kangxi seal-paste box
Freer Gallery Collection

The subject of the next meeting of the Washington Oriental Ceramic Group will be official Qing dynasty (1644-1911 C.E.) porcelain of the 17th and early 18th centuries. This will take place on Tuesday, June 7 starting at 3 pm in the Freer Gallery of Art’s storage area. There we will view and handle Kangxi (1662-1722) monochrome wares. Then we will proceed to the National Gallery of Art to view the NGA’s wonderful Qing porcelain collection. After the NGA those interested will dine on raw oysters (or whatever else appeals) at Old Ebbitt Grill across from the Treasury on 15th Street. The image is a seal-paste box with "peach bloom" copper-red glaze, Kangxi reign mark and period in the Freer Gallery collection.

Because of Freer storage security and space constraints only 15 members can participate. First come first served! RSVP to David Rehfuss by replying to this email, or 703 503 3195 or to Indicate whether you will go to Old Ebbitt Grill when you reply. Plan to assemble inside the Freer foyer on the National Mall side no later than 2:50 pm. The walk to the NGA takes an easy 20-25 minutes. Some could taxi. The nearest Metro stop to the NGA West Building is Archives/Navy on the Green Line. The porcelain rooms are in Gallery G20, on the ground floor just inside the NGA’s west entrance, located in the “old “ building, across from the NGA’s sculpture garden. The address of Old Ebbitt Grill is 675 15th Street, NW. The closest subway stop to Old Ebbitt Grill is Metro Center on the Red, Orange and Blue Lines.

Save this date

On Saturday, June 25, 2011, 2 pm, the Pope Memorial Lecture at the Freer Gallery, Meyer Auditorium. Title: Two Great American Collectors of Chinese Ceramics: Morgan and Freer. Chinese ceramics specialist and dealer par excellence James J. Lally compares the aesthetic philosophies and acquisition practices of two great American collectors: J. P. Morgan, the so-called king of Wall Street, and Charles Lang Freer, founder of the Freer Gallery of Art. Morgan and Freer were close contemporaries, and despite very different origins, their biographies present many parallels. A century ago both were successful businessmen and voracious art collectors, and both acquired large holdings of Chinese ceramics – yet, their methods and resulting collections diverged in the extreme.

Synopsis of the May 7th presentation

Louise Cort and Leedom Lefferts for several decades have been studying how present day traditional pottery is made in mainland Southeast Asia. They have visited 200 contemporary pottery production sites in Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, and Yunnan in China. Charlotte Reith has done parallel studies in Burma/Myanmar. While the production of both stoneware and earthenware was researched, the focus of their work has been on village-based production of low-fired earthenware, which is almost entirely made by women. The naturally porous earthenware cools water well and is a good cooking vessel.

Stoneware pottery is the domain of men, except in Vietnam where women make a better product, they were told. Stoneware jars are used to store various liquids. Their bases are always flat, in contrast to the rounded bottoms of earthenware. Both are threatened by plastic and metal containers and refrigerators. Pottery is usually a sideline to rice farming and made in the off-season when the weather is dry. Typically, open-air bonfires finish the earthenware. Some bonfires last only 30 minutes!

They discovered that in different places different ethnic/linguistic potters make same vessel type – round-bottomed earthenware pots – differently. Pottery making is not homogenous. They identified seven distinctive variations of how pots were formed, i.e., nature of the clay and temper, formation of the initial form and the paddling that completes it. For example, some use an upturned pot, other groups use a wooden post or a pottery wheel on which the potting takes place. Production is passed down from older generations. The predisposition of a particular ethnic group associated with a certain technology, have facilitated the perpetuation of locally produced earthenware.

Back to Top