Headrests and neck pillows have been used since ancient times to keep the head elevated while sleeping and hold the body in a comfortable position. Whether functional or purely decorative, such headrests were crafted from a variety of materials and were often decorated with elaborate patterns or symbolic motifs.
Soon after its development in the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368 AD), blue-and-white underglaze porcelain became a favorite of the imperial court. Its broad appeal rapidly extended beyond China’s borders, becoming a lucrative export commodity highly sought after in Europe, the Middle East, and beyond.
Using cobalt imported from Western Asia, ceramic artists ground the mineral into a vibrant blue pigment that was then painted directly on a porcelain base, coated with clear glaze, and fired. This underglaze technique brought with it a shift in focus from the overall shape of a vessel to the skill and artistry traceable in its painted decoration.
Transcending time and taste, blue-and-white porcelain continues to be appreciated around the world for the intricate brushwork and brilliant blue color.