Rhyton Horned Bird Protome 17.78cm

Two of the images of this Horned Bird with Grasping Talons show the ‘white nephrite’ of the rhyton compared with the ‘Lychee White’ of an actual Lychee fruit placed on a base of pure white, all against a background of Kodak gray.  ‘Lychee White’ in Chinese literature is whiter and more desirable even than ‘Mutton Fat’ white, which is more gray in hue.

This ‘Sinicized’ vessel still retains the funnel shape of its pre historic drinking horn antecedents,  but the mythical bird protome is like the Achaemenid and Hellenistic Central Asian relatives with animal head and forequarters termini or protome.  See articles below in link: Ancient Rhytons by B.M. Soper immediately after 360 deg. video of our Horned Bird with Grasping Talons.

Please scroll down to view this 360 deg. video.  Click on the video bar icons to start, pause, and enlarge to full window size.  Mouse cursor controls video bar’s appearance and disappearance from viewing screen.  And following video is link to a highly informative article on ancient rhytons (rhyta) by Barbara M. Soper.

Rhyton with Bird having Grasping Talons and Long Curving Horns

The following document gives an overview of the long and widespread history of the rhyton from the Hellenistic to the Persian cultures.  The protome of a creature’s head and forequarters is quite common, but a horned bird with grasping talons, hooked beak and wings that sweep back on both sides of the horn shaped body is rare, if not unique; although this creature fits the Griffin type bird style of ancient Persia well and points to Central Asia more than the Mediterranean.  And it is but a short distance from there to neighboring China, the influence of which is seen on the decorative relief carving of scrolls, stylized Phoenix, and Tao-tieh mask.  Altogether, reflecting a coming together of East and West.  The hybridized elements of style are unmistakable and identifiable, but the question of whether it was done in Central Asia by Central Asians for Chinese taste and possible tribute, in Central Asia by imported Chinese artisans for the same purpose, or done in China by imported Central Asian artisans, who blended their rhyton form with Chinese decor.

The following document and image are from the Metropolitan Museum, NYC, and are an example of original Hellenistic rhyta with pouring spout in the animal protome.  Note the similarity in style of the claws of the Wildcat protome with the talons of the horned bird, although the Wildcat legs are more extended and the claws less knuckled and grasping than the bird’s legs and talons.

True rhyton Met descript


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