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Small bird


Artwork Details

Small bird
earthenware with glaze
1 1/8 in x 1 in x 1 1/4 in (2.8 cm x 2.6 cm x 3.2 cm)
Gift of Toshiko Ogita in memory of Tomoo Ogita

On Display

Not currently on display


The heads of horses, deer, mules, and other animals which represented the status or rank of the owner often decorated knives of the nomadic tribes. Such knives were often exchanged with Chinese traders at the border in the Bronze Age.
Maribeth Graybill, Senior Curator of Asian Art
Exhibited in "Flora and Fauna in Chinese Art," April 6, 2002 - December 1, 2002.

Subject Matter:

An earthenware sancai (三彩), "three color" mingqi  (明器), "bright object," bird from the Tang dynasty (618-906).

Sancai was one of the most brilliant innovations of Tang dynasty potters. Working with the same clay used to produce white wares, potters added iron, copper, and cobalt oxide colorants to create the typical three-color palette of cream, amber, olive green and cobalt blue. Sancai ware can contain any combination of just two to all four colors. Cobalt oxide was a new import from Persia and was a key component in the development of the three-colored glaze palette. Lead flux made it possible for these colored glazes to fuse to the earthenware body at relatively low kiln temperatures. It also allowed glazes to run, which made them very difficult to control, yet aesthetically appealing.
Sancai, flourished from around 680 to 750 under the patronage of the Tang elite for the production of tomb figurines and mingqi—“bright vessels”—or funerary pottery. Since the Qin dynasty (221 - 206 BCE), ceramic figures have been used to replace human sacrifice in burial practices as mingqi (明器), literally "bright objects," or grave goods, as a way to provide for the deceased. A tomb could contain anywhere from a few, to several hundred ceramic mingqi.

Physical Description:

An earthenware figure of a small bird, seated with head raised and resting on its tail, stretched out behind. The figure is covered in amber and green glazes. 

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