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Rare Ceramic Vessel "Martaban"

Burma, most likely 17th Century

Impres­sive stor­age jar with a dark brown and light glaze from the area of Bur­ma, today’s Myan­mar. The large and heavy ceram­ic Marta­ban is beau­ti­ful­ly glazed in brown with light beige — yel­low­ish dec­o­ra­tions. The bot­tom and the low­er third of the ves­sel are unglazed.

Bright knobbed bands embell­ish the ves­sel ver­ti­cal­ly and hor­i­zon­tal­ly all around. The short neck sits on the ves­sel’s broad shoul­der with four small han­dles. These han­dles were used for fix­ing with ropes for trans­port by land and sea. 

Marta­ban, some­times also pro­nounced Mar­ta­van, were large, heavy stor­age ves­sels used for ship­ping goods from the port of Marta­ban to South­east Asia, India, and the Mid­dle East, among oth­er. These beau­ti­ful and robust stor­age and trans­port ves­sels were named after the port of Marta­ban, today Mot­ta­ma, locat­ed in Mon State. Mot­ta­ma is sit­u­at­ed on the north bank of the Salu­en Riv­er, oppo­site Mawlamyaing, the cap­i­tal of Mon State. This is where Marta­ban Bay is locat­ed, fed by the Irrawad­dy and Salu­en rivers.

In writ­ten records from the 14th cen­tu­ry, more pre­cise­ly 1350, Ibn Batu­ta, who also vis­it­ed the port of Marta­ban on his trav­els, reports: Marta­bans are large ves­sels filled with pep­per, lemon and man­go, all treat­ed with salt for a voy­age” (Gut­man: Burma’s Lost King­doms. The Marta­ban Trade 2001, S. 106 – 112).

Ibn Bat­tuta was from Tang­iers in Moroc­co and a world trav­el­er, adven­tur­er, explor­er, schol­ar, diplo­mat and reporter in the 14th Cen­tu­ry. With his trav­el book Rih­la” (“Jour­ney”) he wrote one of the most impor­tant trav­el­ogues of the Mid­dle Ages. In 1325, a year after Mar­co Polo’s death, the 22-year-old embarked on one of his long jour­neys. With ships, car­riages and camels he explored East Africa, the Per­sian Gulf, Indone­sia, India, Chi­na and Spain. Ibn Bat­tuta is con­sid­ered the Mar­co Polo of the Orient”

The port of Marta­ban was sig­nif­i­cant for the trans­port of Chi­nese goods to the West by ship, espe­cial­ly in the 16th and 17th Cen­tu­ry. The impor­tance of Marta­ban as a pro­duc­tion site for ceram­ics can be traced back to the 7th cen­tu­ry AD.

This Marta­ban is a tru­ly stun­ning object in per­fect con­di­tion and of beau­ti­ful pro­por­tions and pati­na. Today, pieces of this kind can usu­al­ly only be found in muse­ums col­lec­tions, such as the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art New York (The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art. Japan­ese Bam­boo Art: The Abbey Col­lec­tion,” June 13, 2017 – Feb­ru­ary 42018)

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Martaban H: 58 cm, Diameter: c. 59 cm
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