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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Two Birds on a Rectangular Base
Work Type
sculpture, statuette
second half 8th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Thessaly
Geometric period, Late
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Cast, lost-wax process
4.9 x 3.5 x 2.8 cm (1 15/16 x 1 3/8 x 1 1/8 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 92.42; Sn, 6.98; Pb, 0.39; Zn, 0.024; Fe, 0.02; Ni, 0.04; Ag, 0.06; Sb, 0.05; As, less than 0.10; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, 0.012; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Technical Observations: 1952.41 has been stripped of corrosion products, and the surface is now slightly oxidized bright metal and very pitted, with black material in the pitted areas. The right rear leg is broken and dislocated at the knee. The other stamps (1920.44.224, 1966.108, and 1987.33) are mostly green with areas of red. 1966.108 is mostly mineralized and the surface has been cleaned, leaving scrape marks in many areas. The tail is lost. 1920.44.224 has most of its rough corrosion products intact. The tip of the beak is lost. 1987.33 is broken and crudely repaired at the post under the left bird and the strut between their necks. Portions of both birds’ tails are lost.

All of the stamps appear to have been modeled directly in wax prior to casting. No evidence of metal joins is visible. The large horse’s (1952.41) base appears to have been constructed from strips of wax rather than pierced from a wax sheet. The strut between the bird pair (1987.33) projects through the neck on the right bird and was probably set into holes in the necks in the wax model.

Henry Lie (submitted 2001)


Recorded Ownership History
Eric de Kolb, New York (by 1987). [Royal Athena Gallery, New York, (1987)] and Sol Rabin, Beverly Hills, CA (1987), gift; to The Harvard University Art Museums.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Dr. Jerome M. Eisenberg and Sol Rabin in honor of David Gordon Mitten
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
Two bronze birds stand side by side on a thin, rectangular base; the object is solid cast in one piece. The tail on one bird is partially missing, and the tail on the other is completely missing. The patina is dark green; the surface shows corrosion in places. The virtually identical birds are joined at their upper necks by a flat, horizontal strut. Both heads and bodies are featureless and free of any surface decoration.

Each bird balances on a single, rounded, post-like leg that rises from the rectangular base. Plain on its upper surface, the underside of the base bears a relief band around the periphery and an irregularly executed zigzag that crosses the rectangle lengthwise.

While the species of bird is indeterminate, their spoon-shaped bills and indications of widened tails are reminiscent of bronze representations of ducks in the Greek Geometric period. Their elongated, post-like supports, however, are more consistent with the appearance of storks, herons, and other long-legged waterfowl. Accordingly, we might see this pair as water birds standing in their element, where the raised zigzag on the underside of the base, seen from below, might stand for the water itself.

I. Kilian-Dirlmeier has noted the frequency of doubling among bird and animal figurines and pendants in the Geometric period. She believes that the function of the cross-strut linking such twin creatures was for suspending them and should not be interpreted literally as a yoke (1).

The rectangular base of the Harvard piece is unusual (2). Pairs of birds with cross-struts and round bases are known from Pherai and Olympia (3). This group may well be attributed to a Thessalian workshop active in the second half of the eighth century BCE.


1. On pairs of birds on round bases and the doubling principle in Geometric period pendants, see I. Kilian-Dirlmeier, Anhänger in Griechenland von der mykenischen bis zur spätgeometrischen Zeit, Prähistorische Bronzefunde 11.2 (Munich, 1979) 182-83, nos. 1105-108, pl. 58.

2. For single birds on square or rectangular bases, see J. Bouzek, “Die griechisch-geometrischen Bronzevögel,” Eirene 6 (1967): 115-39, esp. 121, fig. 3.

3. On water birds in Greek art, see E. Bevan, “Water-Birds and the Olympian Gods,” Annual of the British School at Athens 84 (1989): 163-69; and J.-L. Zimmermann, “Oiseaux géométrique de Grèce central et septentrionale,” Numismatica e Antichità Classiche (Quaderni Ticinesi) 17 (1988): 37-53.

Tamsey Andrews and David G. Mitten

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Verification Level

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