Art Talk: Color in Chinese Numbered Jun Ware Ceramics

June 3, 2020
Index Magazine

Art Talk: Color in Chinese Numbered Jun Ware Ceramics

Numbered Jun ware are rare, early 15th-century ceramics that are famous for their beautiful blue and purple variegated glazes; they were used in the private quarters of the Forbidden City, the Chinese imperial palace in Beijing. In this talk, conservator Susan Costello discusses the chemical origins of these unique glazes and how she worked to restore the striking glazes on a damaged ceramic during a conservation treatment.

This research was carried out in conjunction with the 2017 exhibition Adorning the Inner Court: Jun Ware for the Chinese Palace, curated by Melissa A. Moy, then the Alan J. Dworsky Associate Curator of Chinese Art at the Harvard Art Museums. To learn more, visit our Numbered Jun Ware digital resource, which introduces this remarkable ceramic ware and explores its many complexities.

This video is part of our Art Talks series, in which our team of curators, conservators, fellows, and graduate students will share short, informal videos that offer an up-close look at works from our collections. 


Susan Costello, Associate Conservator of Objects and Sculpture, Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies

Works Explored:
The numbered Jun ware featured are all from a gift of Ernest B. and Helen Pratt Dane to the Harvard Art Museums.

Flower vase in the form of an archaic bronze zun vessel with flanges, 1942.185.58.

Rectangular flowerpot with four small feet (detail), 1942.185.22.

Lobed flowerpot with bracketed foliate rim, 1942.185.51.

Lobed basin with bracketed foliate rim and three-cloud scroll feet, 1942.185.5.

Gazing into a Mirror, from Twelve Beauties at Leisure Painted for Prince Yinzhen, the Future Yongzheng Emperor, Qing dynasty, late Kangxi period, 1709–23. One of a set of 12 screen paintings; ink and color on silk. Courtesy of the Palace Museum, Beijing.

Zhadou-shaped flowerpot with globular body and flaring mouth, 1942.185.38.

Circular dish, 1942.185.74.

Circular flat dish with everted lip and purple splashes, 1942.185.72.

Circular basin with drum-nail decor and three-cloud scroll feet, 1942.185.46.

Rectangular flowerpot with four small feet, 1942.185.26.

Lobed flowerpot with foliate rim, 1942.185.16.

Small circular wine bowl with purple splashes, 1942.185.63.

Lobed flowerpot with bracketed foliate rim, 1942.185.6.

Lobed flowerpot with bracketed foliate rim, 1942.185.4.

Lobed quatrefoil flowerpot and basin with four-cloud scroll feet, 1942.185.56.1–2.


Harvard Art Museums: All our colleagues in the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Yan Yang, Digital Imaging and Visual Resources, Collections Management; Harvard Ceramics Program: Kathy King; Harvard Center for Nanoscale Systems: Arthur McClelland, Stephan Kraemer, and Jules Gardener; Northwestern University-ACCESS: Marc Walton, Emeline Pouyet, and Amy Marquardt; Field Museum: Laure Dussubieux; Cranfield University, England: Andrew Shortland; Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Spain: Trinitat Pradell; KU Leuven, Belgium: Patrick Degryse.