New to the Ackland: A Chinese Cloisonné Vase

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a blue vase, wide at the bottom and narrow in the middle and at the top, decorated with vines and flowers

This recent acquisition, Bottle in the Shape of a Double Gourd, currently on view in our new installation of the arts of Asia, is an elegant testimony to the skill of late seventeenth-century Chinese craftsmen in the cloisonné technique. This technique involves creating designs on a metal surface with paste of colored glass placed within partitions (cloisons, in French) delineated by metal wires. The vessel is then fired and afterwards polished to a smooth surface. The wires are then gilded.

Delicately faceted, this vase is adorned with multi-colored lotus blossoms on scrolling vines. The striking shape of the double gourd has a long tradition in Chinese art (the Ackland has several examples in ceramics from different periods). As the emblem of one of the eight Buddhist immortals who used such a gourd to carry medicine, the shape has been associated with healing, longevity, and protection against evil. It also has an enduring decorative appeal.

— Peter Nisbet, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs

Image Credit:
Unidentified artist, Chinese, Qing dynasty, Bottle in the Shape of a Double Gourd, 1650-1700, cast bronze with cloisonné enamel decoration, 8 3/8 × 3 7/8 in. (21.3 × 9.8 cm). Spain Purchase Fund, 2022.45.1.