Lot 1269: Chinese Gilt Bird Figure
December 8, 2016
London, United KingdomLive Auction
Description: Han Dynasty, 206 BC-220 AD. A large gilt bronze figure of a seated bird, possibly a phoenix, with crest to top of the head, long tapering neck, squat body and wings together and arching upwards over the back to the head; fine detailing of the feathers to the wings and body. 609 grams, 12cm (4 3/4"). Property of a London collector; by inheritance from his grandfather; acquired during travels in the Far East in the 1920s. In China the phoenix is known as Fenghuang, and is an immortal bird whose rare appearance is said to be an omen foretelling harmony at the ascent to the throne of a new emperor. Like the qilin (a unicorn-like creature), the fenghuang is often considered to signify both male and female elements, a yin-yang harmony. It is mentioned as early as the Shang dynasty in oracle-bone inscriptions, but it is during the Zhou dynasty it acquired its association with political prosperity and harmony. When paired with a dragon it symbolizes marital harmony. During the Han dynasty the phoenix came to be associated with the Imperial house and especially symbolizing the Empress, with the Emperor being represented by the dragon. The imagery of the phoenix and dragon continued in popularity throughout Chinese history and entered into mainstream culture, especially for weddings, where it remains an important and popular image.
Condition Report: Very fine condition.