Published: October 31, 2000
The Hague Gifts on View at Sackler
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Eighty-four diverse and visually striking ceramic vessels from ancient and Islamic Iran and the Khmer Empire (802-1431) are on view at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (1050 Independence Avenue S.W.) through April 22, 2001 in “Asian : The Hauge Gifts.”
Given to the Sackler between 1996 and 1998 by private collectors Osborne and Gratia Hauge and Victor and Takako Hauge, these objects provide the focus for a detailed comparison of the ceramic traditions of ancient and Islamic Iran and the Khmer Empire. The exhibit explores the distinctive regional characteristics, including firing and glazing technologies employed by potters working in these different areas.
“The Hauges formed the major portion of these collections during the 1960s and early 1970s – a fortunate period, since Iran and Cambodia became almost completely inaccessible to scholars and travelers from the United States until the gradual reopening of these regions during the past few years,” says Milo Beach, director of the Sackler Gallery and the neighboring Freer Gallery of Art.
Included in the Hauge gift is an array of domestic and utilitarian objects including jars, jugs, ewers, bowls, bottles, boxes, basins, vases, sieves, cups and mortars. Ranging in dates from the fifth millennium BC to the early Twentieth Century, many of the works, like the beautiful burnished beak-spouted jar featured on the cover of the exhibition catalog, resemble contemporary works of art.
Objects on view from ancient Iran include a painted ceramic jar from the fifth to fourth millennium BC and a small earthenware cup dated 800-600 BC that bears a striking resemblance to a modern day mug. Jars painted with geometric decoration from the late Bronze Age (2400-1350 BC) represent important styles from western and southwestern Iran.
A turquoise, gilded Fourteenth Century eight-pointed tile from Iran – known to have formed a part of a larger architectural frieze in the northwestern palace at Takht-i-Sulayman – and a Nineth to Tenth Century glazed earthenware painted bowl – prominently featuring the potter’s signature in a central cobalt blue inscription – are two objects that “reflect the human impulse to add color to objects used within a largely arid environment,” says curator Massumeh Farhad. “This overwhelming impulse to color and decorate surfaces is one of the distinguishing features of ceramics from the Islamic world and has remained its most enduring and recognizable characteristic.” Both ancient Iranian and later Islamic ceramics drew inspiration from metalwork, often translating their form and metallic sheen onto the medium of clay.
An array of glazed stoneware ceramics produced for the elite stratum of society of the Khmer Empire (Eighth to Fourteenth Centuries) centered in Angkor in the area that is now northwest Cambodia completes the exhibition. Included are examples of the baluster-form jars, ash-glazed covered boxes and anthropomorphic bottles that are associated with this culture. Several whimsically attractive, palm-sized zoomorphic lime paste jars are also on view. Shaped in the form of a lion, bird, front or rabbit, these Khmer jars were used to store an ingredient for a digestive stimulant and correspond to uniquely Khmer forms in precious metals or bronze.
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