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Between and Mortarboard


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Small bird

Accession Number
1987/1.289

Title
Small bird

Artist(s)
Chinese

Artist Nationality
Chinese (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
618-906

Medium & Support
earthenware with glaze

Dimensions
1 1/8 in x 1 in x 1 1/4 in (2.8 cm x 2.6 cm x 3.2 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Toshiko Ogita in memory of Tomoo Ogita

Label copy
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. 

Primary Object Classification
Ceramic

Primary Object Type
funerary sculpture

Additional Object Classification(s)
Ceramic

Collection Area
Asian

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
Sancai (Chinese ceramics style)
birds (motifs)
ceramic (material)
earthenware
figures (representations)
grave goods
lead glaze
three-color ware (Chinese ware)

& Author Notes

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