Pillow with Carved Floral Motif
Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) / Jin dynasty (1115-1234)
Cizhou ware (stoneware with white slip)
4.75 x 9.75 x 8.5
A delicately raised image of a white peony took shape as an artist carefully scraped away from around its petals and leaves the white slip that initially covered the entire surface of this elegantly shaped stoneware mortuary pillow. The lovingly portrayed flower conveys information about the person whose head rested here. The peony is known as the "Queen of Flowers" and symbolizes wealth and beauty. In particular, a white peony is symbolic of young girls. Therefore, the deceased was most likely a girl of the aristocracy who died young.
Although many say these pillows were strictly for mortuary use, others argue that they were used by women of the period whose hair was complexly coiffed. This type of pillow would have protected their hairstyling when they lay down. The hole on the side of the pillow is simply a technical necessity for the ceramist; it allows heat and air to escape from the hollow form during firing.
Eberhard, pp. 231-232
Eskenazi, Song Chinese Ceramics, p. 56
--K. Johnson Bowles, 2006, Reflecting Centuries of Beauty: The Rowe Collection of Chinese Art