Bird-men of Siam

Among the most intriguing figures in the upcoming (October 23, 2009–January 10, 2010) Emerald Cities show are these mythical bird-men.  These creatures inhabit an Eden-like forest of Buddhist legend. At the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok sculptures of bird-men and bird-women surround one of the major buildings.

These figures are made of wood, and it is remarkable that they have remained as well preserved as they have; still, each has suffered significant damage that has called for intensive repair work by the museum’s conservators. Similar wooden figures were used over several centuries in various sorts of ceremonies. In the late nineteenth century, under Rama V, such statues were placed high on poles and lamposts along the boulevards of the city.

In addition to these bird-men, the exhibition will also have a bird-woman on display. Another view of the image on left is used on the cover of the exhibition catalogue.


Left: Mythical bird-man, approx. 1775-1850. Central Thailand, wood with remnants of lacquer, gilding, and mirrored glass inlay. H. 125.7 x W. 29.8 cm. Gift from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Southeast Asian Art Collection, 2006.27.24.

Right: Mythical bird-man, approx. 1775-1850. Central Thailand, wood with remnants of lacquer, gilding, and mirrored glass inlay. H. 128.3 x W. 27.9 cm. Gift from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Southeast Asian Art Collection, 2006.27.23.

3 Responses to “Bird-men of Siam”

  1. nico  on August 19th, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    I was lucky enough to run into one of these handsome avian gentlemen in the basement a couple weeks ago. Looking forward to seeing them installed in October!

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