Two Birds on a Wintry Tree

Artist: Unidentified Artist

Artist: Formerly Attributed to Lidi (Chinese, ca. 1110– after 1197)

Period: Song dynasty (960–1279)

Date: 13th century

Culture: China

Medium: Fan mounted as an album leaf; ink and color on silk

Dimensions: 9 3/8 x 9 1/2 in. (23.8 x 24.1 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Bequest of John M. Crawford Jr., 1988

Accession Number: 1989.363.15


Two magpies, their feathers fluffed up against the cold, represent a warm reminder of the inevitability of spring. Such pictures of paired birds were often given as birthday gifts to elderly couples. The white heads of the birds and their long tail feathers are symbols of longevity, as is the ancient tree upon which they perch, for despite being covered with snow, the tree has already sprouted new growth—a sign of its enduring vigor.