Unknown Artist

Brushholder, 18th century

Brushholder, 18th century

Porcelain with celadon glaze 5 in. x 4 3/4 in. (12.7 cm x 12.07 cm)

Crocker Art Museum, gift of James R. Osborne


  • During the Goryeo Period (918–1392), Buddhism thrived as the state religion in Korea, but with the establishment of the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910), Confucianism became dominant. Public displays of Buddhist faith were prohibited, though the religion was practiced in private, and fewer Bud- dhist metal and ceramic ritual objects were produced. How- ever, secular art flourished, as did the production of wares associated with Confucian ritual. Meanwhile, respect for scholarship and the rise of the sonbi (scholars without offi- cial positions) provided another arena for the production of ceramics such as this one.
    Historians divide the Joseon into early (1393–1592) and late periods. Porcelain and buncheong (a distinctive type of stone- ware) dominate the ceramics of the earlier period. A desire for white porcelains replaced the taste for celadon glaze as white symbolized purity and simplicity in Neo-Confucian beliefs of the time.
    This brushholder from the late Joseon Period is evidence, however, of the continued use of celadons in the pale blue- green glaze favored by the Koreans. Its slab production and openwork seem to imitate metal fabrication. A brushholder of this type would have been used on a scholar’s table, along with the other paraphernalia necessary to the literati. The crane is a symbol of immortality, but it was also a reality, as the migrat- ing Manchurian crane, standing five feet tall, was a common sight in Korea.

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