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Mythical bird-man
Place of Origin: Central Thailand
Date: approx. 1775-1850
Materials: Wood with remnants of lacquer, gilding, and mirrored glass inlay
Style or Ware: Bangkok
Dimensions: H. 49 1/2 in x W. 11 3/4 in x D. 22 1/2 in, H. 125. 7 cm x W. 29.9 cm x D. 57.1 cm
Credit Line: Gift from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation's Southeast Asian Art Collection
Department: Southeast Asian Art
Collection: Sculpture
Object Number: 2006.27.24
On Display: Yes
Location: Gallery 11

Description

Label: Mythical bird-men and bird-women are among the wondrous creatures that inhabit the Eden-like Himavanta Forest of Buddhist legend. They are frequently depicted in Thai sculptures, paintings, and other mediums. Wooden figures of bird-men such as this were used in several sorts of royal ceremonies. One such statue is mentioned in the description of the coronation of King Rama IV in 1851, where it is said to have contained a relic of the Buddha. The custom of using such figures in royal ceremonies most likely went back centuries. Such statues have rarely survived, and only a handful are known. Several are in the National Museum, Bangkok. The spire of this figure's crown was replaced at some point, presumably in the twentieth century.

More Information

Exhibition History: "Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam and Burma" Asian Art Museum, October 23, 2009 - January 10, 2010

"Gorgeous", Asian Art Museum, 6/20/2014 - 9/14/2014
Additional Label:

We humans always seem to have been fascinated by composite creatures, whether frightening ones like minotaurs or beguiling ones like mermaids. Often we fall in ill-fated love with the beguiling ones, as in Swan Lake, Southeast Asian tales of romance between mortal men and bird-women, or nearly any science fiction movie.

Among bird-men, this has got to be the handsomest. Look at the elegant plumage rising along the legs and the superb whiplashing tail feathers. Then the posture: how carefully the sculptor has leaned the torso forward to counterbalance the tail, and shown how strongly the creature pulls his shoulders back and stomach in to hold his upper body vertical. Finally there's his tender, intelligent face.

- FMcG ("Gorgeous" exhibition)


Label: Mythical bird-men and bird-women are among the wondrous creatures that inhabit the Eden-like Himavanta Forest of Buddhist legend. They are frequently depicted in Thai sculptures, paintings, and other mediums. Wooden figures of bird-men such as this were used in several sorts of royal ceremonies. One such statue is mentioned in the description of the coronation of King Rama IV in 1851, where it is said to have contained a relic of the Buddha. The custom of using such figures in royal ceremonies most likely went back centuries. Such statues have rarely survived, and only a handful are known. Several are in the National Museum, Bangkok. The spire of this figure's crown was replaced at some point, presumably in the twentieth century.
Exhibition History: "Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam and Burma" Asian Art Museum, October 23, 2009 - January 10, 2010

"Gorgeous", Asian Art Museum, 6/20/2014 - 9/14/2014
Expanded Label:

We humans always seem to have been fascinated by composite creatures, whether frightening ones like minotaurs or beguiling ones like mermaids. Often we fall in ill-fated love with the beguiling ones, as in Swan Lake, Southeast Asian tales of romance between mortal men and bird-women, or nearly any science fiction movie.

Among bird-men, this has got to be the handsomest. Look at the elegant plumage rising along the legs and the superb whiplashing tail feathers. Then the posture: how carefully the sculptor has leaned the torso forward to counterbalance the tail, and shown how strongly the creature pulls his shoulders back and stomach in to hold his upper body vertical. Finally there's his tender, intelligent face.

- FMcG ("Gorgeous" exhibition)