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Lot 6: BIRD PHOENIX ON A TORTOISE
19 November 2016
Vienna, Vienna, AustriaLive Auction
Terracotta with painting. China, Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220), TL-tested age
This large sculpture, exceptionally unusual in its form and thus particularly rare is displaying a very erect, standing phoenix feng, with big legs on the shell of a tortoise, the tail resting on it. The head of the phoenix expresses the creature’s noble character, proud and full of dignity – it is worth noting here that this feature was successfully delivered by using only simple means. The neck of the tortoise gui displays a backwards arching movement, which gives the impression that the tortoise is attempting to repel the phoenix, but could possibly also be a gesture of adoration. In China, the back of the tortoise and its flat plastron parallel the ancient belief of a flat earth and domed sky. The animal is also a symbol of marital stability as well as longevity, and – together with the snake – also believed to be the ruler of the North and in this context, a divinity. The phoenix or "cinnabar bird", on the other hand, embodies the South.
This heavy grey clay terracotta was coated with a white base tone and then cold-painted. Remnants of this paint are still present, particularly in the design on the shell, but also in the form of red and black pigments. There are two firing holes as well as deposits of soil on the bottom. This piece was a burial object and tested for age by Oxford Authentication using TL-analysis. According to the certificate all of the four samples taken yielded the same result, indicating an age of 1400 to 2200 years. A minor flaw on one back leg of the tortoise, otherwise in rarely found good condition and complete.
HEIGHT 54,3 CM
From a North German collection
The certificate of Oxford Authentication No. C115a95 of 24 February 2015 is available.