Large Bird with Foliage
6.25 x 6.38 x 2.5 inches
Probably from Egypt 200-500 CE
Picker Art Gallery
Colgate University, Hamilton, NY

This unusually shaped relief depicts a large bird facing to the right with one large plant sprawled out in a vine-like fashion surrounding it. The bird’s neck appears long and lean compared to its particularly small beak. The placement of the eye is noticeably low on its head, perhaps suggesting the bird may be some type of duck. The bird’s body is shown in profile, and thus, only one of the bird’s legs is visible. The tail, with its deeply-grooved, parallel lines, is similar to that of the ibis in 1980.53. Differences in the anatomy of the two birds, however, such as the lengths of their respective beaks and tail feathers, suggest that they are not meant to be the same species.

The plant that encircles the bird draws the viewer's eye from the bottom left up to the top left corner and then to the bird’s head. Remarkably, the detail with which the plant has been carved is equal to that of the bird. Also noteworthy is the fact that the spatial relationship between the plant and the bird is somewhat ambiguous. Although the plant is apparently located behind the bird, insofar as it disappears behind the bird's head, elsewhere in the relief is appears to be as close to the foreground as the bird.

The block of stone is shaped such that it is straight on two sides and curved on two sides. This odd shape makes it difficult to discern what the original context of the relief was. It is also interesting to note that this relief has a large break running through the back of it.

Caroline Lee '13 is a Sociology Major and Art History Minor at Colgate University.