This elongated octagonal form was a popular one among pillows from the Cizhou kilns. The Palace Museum, Beijing, has several Song dynasty Cizhou pillows of this shape decorated in a variety of styles. Some combine sgraffiato decoration with sancai-type glazing, for example the pillow illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 32 - Porcelains of the Song Dynasty (I), Hong Kong, 1996, p. 215, no. 194, and others with low relief panels, ibid., p. 214, no. 193. Another is decorated with an incised peony spray against a pearl-matting ground, ibid., p. 199, no. 180. These examples have no overhanging flange to the upper surface, as seen on the current example. However, the Palace Museum Collection also includes pillows of this form with an overhanging edge, decorated in dark brown slip on a pale ground, which bear the impressed mark of the Zhang Family workshop, ibid., pp. 171-3, nos. 155-6. Most significantly the Palace Museum has in its collection an elongated octagonal pillow, not only with overhanging edges, but also with vertical bamboo-style decorative appliques on the corners, similar to those on the current pillow. The Palace Museum pillow, illustrated ibid., p. 174, no. 157, is also decorated with a single peony spray similar to the pair of peony sprays on the upper surface of the current pillow.
A comparable single peony spray, painted in dark slip with details incised through to the white slip beneath, can be seen on a Cizhou truncated meiping in the Kyusei Kaone Art Museum, on a similar vase in the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery - Atkins Museum of Fine Arts, Kansas City, and on a fluted-mouth vase in the collection of the Buffalo Museum of Science, all illustrated by Yutaka Mino, Freedom of Clay and Brush through Seven Centuries in Northern China: Tz'u-chou Type Wares, 960-1600 A.D., Bloomington, Indiana, 1981, pp. 198-9, pl. 87; pp. 200-1, pl. 88; and pp. 204-5, pl. 90, respectively. Mino also illustrates a further Zhang Family-marked pillow of similar shape to the current example, with painted decoration of bird and bamboo, pp. 116-7, pl. 46.
The result of Oxford Authentication Ltd. thermoluminescence test no. P198a67 is consistent with the dating of this lot.