Service with Decoration of Flowers and Birds

Period: Southern Song (1127–1278)–Yuan (1271–1368) dynasty

Date: late 13th–early 14th century

Culture: China

Medium: Silver with gilding

Dimensions: Diam. from 4 3/8 in. (11.1 cm) to 7 1/2 in. (19 cm)

Classification: Metalwork

Credit Line: Purchase, The Vincent Astor Foundation Gift, 1997

Accession Number: 1997.33.1–.6


Silver service, Song dynasty (960–1279), 11th–13th century
Silver with gilding; Diam. from 4 3/8 in. (11.1 cm) to 7 1/2 in. (19 cm)
Purchase, The Vincent Astor Foundation Gift, 1997 (1997.33.1-6)

Prior to the Tang dynasty (618–907), bronze, jade, and lacquer were the most highly prized materials, and silver and gold were used only sporadically, primarily for inlay. Close ties among China, Persia, and the regions northwest of India developed during the fifth and sixth centuries and led to the introduction of vessels and utensils of gold and of silver that were frequently emulated in the seventh and eighth centuries. Silver vessels produced during the Song period (960–1279) were used mainly for formal entertaining. This set of two plates, two small bowls, and a large bowl with a stand is likely to have been made in one of the cities along the lower reaches of the Yangzi River. These prosperous cities had become centers for the manufacture of luxury goods at the beginning of the dynasty. The Museum's vessels share common shapes with Song pieces in porcelain and lacquer. The flower-and-bird decoration, in chased and punched work, was executed in a pure Chinese manner. Particularly noteworthy is the prominence of bamboo in the ornament, as this plant became a popular motif in the decorative arts only in the late eleventh century. The single trace of an earlier tradition, going back to the Tang dynasty, is the use of gilding over the areas of the designs.