VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Bottle
M.1189-1926
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

This bronze bottle inlaid with silver wire is one of the treasures of the V&A’s collection of Korean art. The bottle measures 25cm in height and has a long neck and spreading lip. Its body is ovoid and has a ring foot. The design reflects Koryo craftsmanship at its best in the way in which it covers the surface in a delicate and harmonious fashion. On the neck are cloud scrolls and two cranes with ribbons in their bills. A band with 19 circles separates the cloud and crane motif from the main motif seen on the body of the vessel. Below this band are 27 lotus petals, while an abstract cloud pattern covers the shoulders. The main design consists of four elliptical medallions, each filled with a different image. The one illustrated here shows a small figure, holding a willow branch, standing underneath a willow tree. On its right is a medallion with reeds on a bank with grasses and water. The medallion on its left features a flowering tree and a mandarin duck. On the fourth medallion are a flowering plum tree and a duck among grasses. The foot rim has been decorated with a scroll motif.

History of the Object
The symmetric arrangement and skilful inlaid design suggests that it is dated to the 12th century. To make the inlaid design, a pattern was first incised in the bronze. Silver wire was then hammered into the depression, leaving the surface entirely smooth. With the passage of time the surface has developed an attractive warm bronze patination. The patterns on this bottle are similar to those on other bronze bottles and kundika of the mid-Koryo period. Willow trees, flowering trees and ducks were also popular motifs on Koryo celadons, especially during the 12th century. This emphasises how craftsmen working in different media influenced each other technically and artistically. Inlaid decoration on metal wares also continued to be used during the Choson period, but during this time the decoration appears comparatively less fluent and delicate.

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Type
Decorative Art 
Materials
Bronze with inlaid silver wire 
Measurements
Height 25cm  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Korea 
Geography
Korea 
Time period
AD 12th century ~ AD 14th century 
Creation date
12th Century - 14th Century; 1100-1300 
Function
 
Acquisition
The bottle was donated to the museum in 1926 by the daughter of the American collector, Earnest A. Brooks, from Long Island. The donation included 256 bronzes, mainly Chinese wares of the 12th-18th century. Initially it was believed that this bottle was also Chinese, but it is unlikely that any collector today would fail to recognise it as being Korean. 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Victoria and Albert Museum 
Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum 
Credit line
© V&A Images, Victoria and Albert Museum, London 

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