Two Birds on a Wintry Tree, Song dynasty (960–1279), 13th century
Formerly Attributed to Lidi (Chinese, ca. 1110–after 1197)
Fan mounted as an album leaf; ink and color on silk; 9 3/8 x 9 1/2 in. (23.8 x 24.1 cm)
Bequest of John M. Crawford Jr., 1988 (1989.363.15)
Two magpies, their feathers fluffed up against the cold, represent a warm reminder of the inevitability of spring. Such pictures of paired birds were often given as birthday gifts to elderly couples. The white heads of the birds and their long tail feathers are symbols of longevity, as is the ancient tree upon which they perch, for despite being covered with snow, the tree has already sprouted new growth—a sign of its enduring vigor.