6322

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Sumatran-Malay Terracotta Stemmed Vase for Drinking Water

Lampung, South Sumatra, Indonesia
circa 1900

height: 16cm, diameter: 20cm, weight: 860g

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Provenance

private collection, southern England.

This stemmed bowl was produced most probably in Lampung, south Sumatra. It is possible that it might also have been produced in Kuala Kangsar, Perak on the Malay Peninsula where there was a vibrant Malay earthenware industry.

It is made of unglazed terracotta most likely by local people and was used locally and exported to elsewhere in Southeast Asia, especially the Malay world, and most particularly to the Malay Peninsula. It was used to hold drinking water – the unglazed nature of the vessel allowed it to be semi-porous so that the water would seep through the sides and evaporate, thereby cooling the contents. (Glazed pottery was seldom produced in Southeast Asia because of the ready availability of such wares that were imported from southern China throughout the centuries.)

It stands on a high, flared foot, and has a flattened, round cushion-shaped body that is ribbed. There is a wide mouth with an everted rim. The form of the ribbed body is in the shape of a gourd or a type of sour fruit known to the Malays as asam gelugur (Garcinia atroviridis), a rain-forest tree fruit native to peninsular Malaysia.

It was designed to hold a small quantity of drinking water that would have been scooped out by a ladle.

This type of pottery is relatively friable – it is fired at low temperatures. Given this and its age, the condition is very good. There are no cracks, chips or repairs.  The colour has developed a darkened hue and patina consistent with its age. It is a particularly decorative piece, and follows a form that has remained unchanged for hundreds of years.

References

Achjadi, J. (ed.), Seni Kriya: The Crafts of Indonesia, Times Editions, 1988.

Jasper, J.E. & Pirngadie, De Inlandsche Kunstnijverheid in Nederlandsch Indie V: de Bewerking van Niet-Edele Metalen, 1930 (reprinted 2009 by Sidestone Press, Leiden).

Khoo, J.E., Kendi: Pouring Vessels in the University of Malaysia Collection, Oxford University Press, 1991.

Lau, A.T. & B. Platzdasch (eds.), Malay Heritage of Singapore, Suntree Media/Malay Heritage Foundation Singapore, 2010.

Sheppard, M., Taman Indera: Malay Decorative Arts and Pastimes, Oxford University Press, 1972.

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