Object nr. 906 China, second half 19th Century Height: 20 cm

Private Collection, Belgium

Condition Report available

€ 5,500

This object can be viewed in our gallery.

Additional Information

Parrot  (鹦鹉 Yingwu)

In China, parrots are mainly found in the wild, mainly in the warmer southern provinces. But other birds of the same genus (psittacus), such as macaws, cockatoos, loris and parakeets, were regularly imported from other areas of Asia. These types of birds were certainly kept as a caged bird in China for thousands of years. In the Tang era, exotic birds were brought to the imperial court from Indochina and Indonesia. Emperor Xuanzong adopted a talking parrot as a pet and Emperor Taizong commissioned a rhapsody to be written about his own prized parrot.

During the Kangxi reign parrots, depicted in various colours of porcelain, were popular in the West because of their vibrant and exotic appearance. In the 18th century, the taste for parrots was further encouraged by the fashion for exotic orientalism, when having live parrots was also popular. Models for small parrots were found in the VOC wreck Oosterland  - which sank in 1697.

The Chinese thought that the birds’ talkative nature kept wives faithful, as the parrots were liable to give the game away – as is told in an old folk story from Guangxi. Perhaps from this, this charming bird also became to be a symbol for a loose woman. A parrot with a pearl in its beak. is sometimes also seen accompanying the Buddhist deity Guanyin. The word for parrot in Chinese  is also a homophone for a young girl . In classical Chinese poetry the parrot is often described as being in a gilded cage – far from its homeland, doomed to spend its life in solitude because its beauty and charming chatter are so prized.

Many European collections have examples of parrot figurines, in famille verte as well as enamel on biscuit in green, aubergine or turquoise. Similar figures are in the Dresden Collection, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam and in Drottningholm Castle, Sweden.

Floris van der Ven