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Bowl, moulded and glazed stoneware, Yaozhou ware, China, Northern Song dynasty, 1000-1127. Diameter: 18.5 cm. C.66-1931. Victoria & Albert Museum. © V&A Images

This bowl is an example of the Yaozhou wares typical of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127). While the wares produced at the Yaozhou kiln complex enjoyed popularity from the end of the Tang dynasty (618-906) through to the beginning of the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), this bowl exhibits the olive green glaze and dense floral designs common to the Yaozhou wares of the Northern Song period.

Surface patterns of Yaozhou wares were either carved or moulded onto the body before firing. Carved pieces began with a smooth body, partially dried (or ‘leather hard’). Using an angled tool, the floral pattern was carved out of the surface in sloping grooves. Moulds were often used to avoid the time consumption and labour intensity of this process, as is demonstrated by this bowl. A master dish would have been carved and fired, from which convex ‘hump-mould’ was taken. This mould then acted as the template for multiple dishes to be formed. The glaze was then applied, pooling in the crevices and laying thinly on raised areas. Through firing, the pooled areas grew darker in colour and the thinly glazed areas more transparent, thus creating illusion of light and shadows in the surface design.

Bibliographic References: Kerr, Rose. Song Dynasty Ceramics. London: V&A Publications, 2004. p. 54, nos. 49 and 49a.