prancing bird with wings outstretched; long tailfeathers; facing L

Phoenix Bird Form Plaque, one of a pair, 1st century BCE -1st century CE

Unknown artist, expand_more

Gilt bronzeexpand_more

Gift of Ruth and Bruce Daytonexpand_more  2002.11.3.1

These two gilt birds, probably intended to depict a male and female phoenix, display their wings in a lively dancing pose and hold pearls in their beaks. The body and wings are covered with finely detailed feather markings under traces of green corrosion. Considered to be auspicious symbols, phoenixes like these have appeared in Chinese art since the late Shang dynasty (c. 13th century BCE – 1046 BCE). During the mid-Western Zhou dynasty in the 10th century BCE, the phoenix was even praised and likened to the Zhou King himself. While these mythical beings continued to appear in tomb paintings and other art forms during the Han dynasty, gilt bronze examples like this are quite rare. The three fangs cast into the back of each plaque suggest that they were affixed to a larger object and might have served as architectural embellishments.

Phoenix Bird Form Plaque, one of a pair
Accession Number
Curator Approved

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prancing bird with wings outstretched; long tailfeathers; facing L