Vessel in the shape of an owl. Two flanges, one ending just under the beak in front and the other continuing to the top of the head in back, have alternating straight and L-shaped scores, those on the front flange being much the deeper of the two. The tail, with a scored flange border, forms the back support of the vessel. Apart from the realistically-formed feet, the bird is strongly stylized. The body is completely covered by rows of scales except for the shoulder line, expressed by a vigorous spiral, and the wings quills, rendered by bands filled with antithetical spirals. Patina green.

Wine vessel zun in the shape of an owl, 13th-12th century BCE

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Bronzeexpand_more

Bequest of Alfred F. Pillsburyexpand_more  50.46.116

Not on Viewexpand_more

Vessels made in animal form constitute virtually the only bronze sculpture known from the Shang period. Besides this well-known version of an owl, rare examples of quadrupeds including buffalo, boar, rhinoceros, elephant and ram have also survived. The "Pillsbury Owl" is the oldest and most naturalistic of the few remaining owl-shaped zun. Standing near the beginning of the Anyang period (1400-1027 BCE), it represents a charming, though seldom practiced and short-lived tradition of casting ceremonial vessels in the shapes of animals.

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Owl-Shaped Tsun (Ritual Wine Vessel)
Details
Title
Wine vessel zun in the shape of an owl
Role
Artist
Accession Number
50.46.116
Curator Approved

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Vessel in the shape of an owl. Two flanges, one ending just under the beak in front and the other continuing to the top of the head in back, have alternating straight and L-shaped scores, those on the front flange being much the deeper of the two. The tail, with a scored flange border, forms the back support of the vessel. Apart from the realistically-formed feet, the bird is strongly stylized. The body is completely covered by rows of scales except for the shoulder line, expressed by a vigorous spiral, and the wings quills, rendered by bands filled with antithetical spirals. Patina green.