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Ming Dynasty Sancai Glazed Pillow of a Recumbent Lion

Ming Dynasty Sancai Glazed Pillow of a Recumbent Lion

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Directory: Hidden: Viewable: Pre 1700: Item # 1195843

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Ming Dynasty Sancai Glazed Pillow of a Recumbent Lion. Amber and green glazed pillow, China (1368 - 1644 CE) Lion well molded with head turned to one side with pleasing expression. Headrest sloping downward for comfortable sleeping position. 5" high x 10" wide x 6 1/2 deep. In excellent condition. Ex: Wong collection, Taipei, Taiwan. T.L. tested for authenticity. For similar see Sotheby's NY 7/12/06 lot 30, realized price $19,200 GBP or $38,400 USD. According to the Victoria & Albert Museum, first manufactured in the Tang dynasty (618-907), ceramic pillows became a familiar and popular domestic item for the middle to upper classes of Chinese society by the Ming dynasty. Despite this, relatively little is known about their function within this society and they have been curiously neglected by historians. A lack of primary sources connected to this type of object has led to varied speculation about their original use. While these forms of evidence cannot be said to be representative of Ming dynasty society at large, they can be used to tentatively place a ceramic pillow in context. As an object used during sleep, the pillow’s mere functionality associates it with the bedroom. This space was separated from the domestic environment at large by its function, the material culture which furnished it and the people who used it. Pillows made from fahua-type wares are relatively unusual. The vast majority of surviving pillows are made of cizhouware, several of which are used as comparative examples in this essay. This was a type of sturdy stoneware produced in various kilns throughout the northern provinces of Hebei, Henan and Shaanxi, largely in the Song dynasty (960-1276), but continued into the early Ming dyansty. In physical qualities, a Chinese ceramic pillow is certainly dissimilar to its equivalent in the West. Perhaps they were used to encourage a better sleeping position for the body, or to maintain the highly complex hairstyles worn by women during the Ming dynasty. Contemporary literature certainly suggests that these objects had a function beyond that of the simply supportive. Guides to elegant living were popularly printed in the latter part of the Ming dynasty and provide an insight into which objects were thought necessary for an upper-class lifestyle. GaoLian was the author of one such guide, the Zun sheng bajian (Eight Discourses on the Art of Elegant Living), which was published in 1591. In it, he stated that, ‘porcelain may be used to make pillows… It has power to brighten the eyes and benefit the pupils’. In this case, the material qualities of ceramics were thought to have health benefits for the sleeper.