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1st century B.C. Late Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – 9 A.D.)
Painted terra cotta
H : 36 cm L : 13.2 cm
M.C. 7372

This painted vessel, an element of funerary furniture, imitates a real vessel, intended to hold fermented beverages. It is in the shape of an owl (maoxingniao). Since the Shang era (approximately 1550 – 1050 B.C.) in Southern China, a few bronze containers have been found presenting the traits of a bird (niaohouzun), but these archaic examples are too old to support a connection with the Han Era. Vadime and Danielle Elisseeff postulate the owl presented here was involved with ancient fertility rites, during which an owl-shaped goatskin, full of blood, was pierced.

During the Han Era, these vessels could have contained medicines. Owl-shaped vessels were common at that time. Generally, the detachable head forms the lid; here, the vessel opening is located above the head. This unusual variety, however, does not implicate a chronological evolution.

By its expressive force, created from a simple play of colours, the Cernuschi Museum’s owl represents one of the ceramic masterpieces of the Han Dynasty.

Auteur de la notice : Gilles Béguin
Collection : Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220)
Mode d'acquisition : Purchase, 1927.
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