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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)


Photo: Paul Macapia


ca. 1750

These figures, recorded at the Bow factory as herons, are actually depictions of the mythical phoenix. Emblematically, these two birds were intertwined in many cultures. According to Herodotus and Plutarch, the phoenix, which originated in Ethiopia, was burned on an altar, then rose again from its own ashes. An ancient emblem of rebirth and immortality, the phoenix symbolized Christ’s resurrection in the early church and throughout the Middle Ages in Europe. This pair of lively porcelain phoenixes arose victorious from the fire of the Bow manufactory kilns. As the only known pair, they are extremely rare.
Soft paste porcelain
6 3/4 in. (17.2 cm), height
4 7/16 in. (11.2 cm), depth
6 1/16 in. (15.4 cm), length
Gift of Martha and Henry Isaacson
Provenance: Formerly in the collection of the Hon. Graham Charles Kinnaird (Note: Isaacson file: List of donated items (A.A.40 & 41), December 28, 1969); collection of Mr and Mrs Henry and Martha Isaacson, unknown purchase date until December 1969; gift from Mr and Mrs Henry and Martha Isaacson to Seattle Art Museum, Washington, 1969
Photo: Paul Macapia
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


Image Coming Soon
SAM's Porcelain Room


Exhibition HistorySeattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, "Porcelain Stories: From China to Europe", February 17, 2000-May 7, 2000 (2/17/2000 - 5/7/2000)
Published ReferencesEmerson, Julie, Jennifer Chen, & Mimi Gardner Gates, "Porcelain Stories, From China to Europe", Seattle Art Museum, 2000, pg. 224

Collins, Jeffrey, review. "Porcelain Stories: From China to Europe," in Eighteenth-Century Studies, Vol. 34, No. 1, Poetry and Poetics (Fall 2000), Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 116-120, p. 119

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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