A Dengfeng tiger pattern fish-roe ground pillow

The pillow is of bean-shaped section with almost vertical sides. The upper surface is slightly concave and angled forwards, vigorously carved through a coating of white slip to the grey ground beneath with a powerful tiger striding over rocks. The face of the beast is slightly lowered and turned, framed by a short mane and with tab-like ears. The stripes of the body are executed in paired strokes, with small spots lining the rear edge of the legs and the underside of the long sinuous tail. Small texture spots, applied with the points of a comb, fill the background of the coat. Rocks with simple combed decoration mark the ground, and in the sky is a single cloud with a frilled head and long tail. The space around the tiger is filled with a dense “fish-roe” pattern. The sides are incised with loose petalled peonies. There is an airhole in the centre of the back. The base is unglazed.

Tiger-shaped pillows are found in some numbers among the Cizhou family of wares, but it is rare to find a tiger as the principal decoration rather than the form. It is especially rare to find a tiger as principal decoration on a ‘fish-roe’-ground type of pillow, though for a rectangular example of such a pillow, see 清雅集古珍藏古代瓷枕 “Origin of Dreams. Qing Ya Ji Gu Ceramic Pillows Collection”, no. 22, pp. 96-97. Slightly more common are tigers depicted in painted designs on black and white pillows. For an example of a pillow with a painted tiger, see Sung Ceramic Designs, Pl.47e with discussion on p. 101.

Designs on Dengfeng pillows and other wares appear to have been prepared using some kind of stencil. The technique can clearly be seen on the present pillow, where the eyes of the tiger have been pricked through to mark the starting point of the design.

Dimensions: Length: 25 cm, 9 ¾ inches

Date: Northern Song dynasty (960-1279)

Stock No. 1777

Price: On Request