Vases and Urns
By Karen Parr-Moody
Feb. 2, 2017
When decorating in a traditional vein, placing a large vase or urn in a room's corner or in an entryway imparts some necessary scale. An orchid, stems of dogwood, or pussy willows are all romantic choices with which to fill a container of this sort. Of course, one might opt to leave a stunning vase empty; so many speak for themselves. And GasLamp has a dizzying array of these beautiful containers.
These rare and beautiful Chinese ginger jars topped with foo dog finials, photo right, originally belonged to Nashville music publishing legend Buddy Killen. Beyond their dreamy mint-blue base color, they feature beautiful paintings of the Canton Factories, a neighborhood that existed along the Pearl River, in Guangzhou (which Westerners called Canton), from about 1684 to 1856, as the sea trade of the West was cemented with China ($1,850 for the pair at GasLamp Too Booth T-384).
Such views of Canton were popular paintings that were once acquired by captains and merchants and documented important locations in trade. In the paintings on these ginger jars, one can see a variety of flags from countries that had outposts in Canton, including those of Great Britain, Holland, Finland and America (see detail photo). The paintings also appear to depict the nine-storied Flowery Pagoda and the Zenhai Tower, also known as the Five-Storied Pagoda, which was initially built in 1380.
In China, ginger jars were used for hundreds of years in the same way that canisters are used in modern society: to hold foodstuffs, such as ginger, spices, salt and oils. Their popularity hit its peak during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Some jars included ornamentation, such as brass locks meant to deter pilfering fingers.
This gorgeous Chinese bronze urn, left, features a lid topped with a carved dragon finial that looks rather ferocious. On the handles are stylized elephant masks with incredibly realistic-looking ears, topping an urn that is covered in motifs typical of the Chinese art forms: vines, flower buds and birds. What an unusual piece, replete with detail. Located at Booth T-360 for $350.
This gorgeous Chinese bronze urn, right, dates to the early 20th century and inspires one with its archaic decoration that is so different from that of other cultures. It is heavy and lidded and features incised designs all over the body and lid. On the handles are stylized elephant masks whose large ears seem to flap in some ancient breeze. On the lid there is a figural finial that depicts an elephant with a carpet over its back.
Then there are the beautiful characters of the written Chinese language that act as a “base design” for the vase. Just gorgeous. The lid is marked one the underside with an incised, four-character mark whose meaning is unknown. The urn reaches a height of 20-and-one-fourth inches and is $2,750 at GasLamp Too Booth T-360.
Any home decorator could always use a classic urn for the outdoors or indoors, such as this one in the photo at left ($245 at Booth T-360). This urn could be used as it is, to hold moss or a plant arrangement indoors or on a porch (it is suitable for outdoor or indoor use). Or it could be used as a fountain, as it includes a channel for a water tube. (Who doesn’t love the sound of bubbling water?) It is your choice!
Oversized urns and vases are a great way to add weight to the décor of a space. Once spring trickles in, beautiful plants and flowers will be ripe to place in a stylish urn, while a classic bronze or porcelain vase is perfect year-round.