Tureen, painted porcelain, Chelsea Porcelain Factory, England, about 1755. Museum no.C.75 to B-1946
Chelsea Porcelain Factory
Museum no.C.75 to B-1946
This tureen was described in 1755 as 'a most beautiful tureen in the shape of a hen and chickens, big as the life in a curious dish adorn'd with sunflowers'. Although apparently based on a print by the English artist Francis Barlow, the basic idea derives from the naturalistically modelled tablewares made during the 1740's at the great Meissen porcelain factory in Germany. The Meissen type is here translated into the English soft-paste material in which the sharpness of detailing characteristic of Meissen is muted, an effect much appreciated by connoisseurs of early English porcelain.
Fukusa, gift cover, Japan, 1830-1850. Museum no. 361-1880.
Museum no. 361-1880
This textile cover is called a ‘fukusa’. Traditionally in Japan, gifts were placed in a box on a tray, over which a fukusa was draped. The choice of a fukusa appropriate to the occasion was an important part of the gift-giving ritual. The richness of the decoration was an indication of the donor’s wealth, while the quality of the design was evidence of his or her taste and sensibility. The motif of a cock, hen and three chicks symbolises a family living in harmony. The design has been executed in an unusual and complex technique called tapestry-velvet, a technique used in Europe too, which involves passing the yarn around knife-ended wires that cut the loops of the warp.
'Cockerel, Hen and Basket', woodblock print, Utagawa Hiroshige, Japan, about 1840-1842. Museum no. E.4834-1919. Webb Bequest
'Cockerel, Hen and Basket'
Museum no. E.4834-1919
This uchiwa-e, or rigid fan print, designed by Hiroshige is one of an untitled series of four in the collection of the V&A. The ribmarks visible on its surface are evidence that it was salvaged from a made-up fan. The significance of chickens was talismanic in that their cries were believed to bring protection against the evil forces of darkness. The pink body and black breast and tail feathers of this particular cockerel are typical of the 'jidori', a primitive breed of chicken indigenous to Japan.
Netsuke, Shuosai, Japan, about 1800-1850. Museum no. A.63-1915
Museum no. A.63-1915
The netsuke is a toggle. Japanese men used netsuke to suspend various pouches and containers from their sashes by a silk cord. Netsuke were made in a variety of forms, the most widely appreciated is the katabori (shape carving), a three-dimensional carving, such as this one in the form of a cock. Netsuke were first and foremost functional and had to comply with certain basic requirements that also imposed practical limitations on them. They had to be small and not too heavy, yet bulky enough to do the job, while also being strong and hardwearing. Above all they had to have the means of attaching to a cord. Netsuke also needed to be reasonably compact, with no sharp protrusions that might snag on the fabric of the clothing. By depicting a cock pecking at a radish, the artist has skilfully ensured that the tail feathers curl round and do not stick out. This has resulted in a rounded netsuke of as near perfect a form as possible.
Mechanical chickens, lithographed tinplate, China, manufactured 1975-1979. Museum no. B.146-1996
Museum no. B.146-1996
This colourful toy is hand held and is operated by squeezing the metal loop below the birds. When the metal loop shaped handle is squeezed, the chickens peck in turn at the bowl between them. One end of the loop is attached to the bar on which the chickens sit and the other to an inner bar which slides back and forth when the loop is squeezed.
Papercut, China, 1965. Museum no. FE.309-1992
Museum no. FE.309-1992
This Chinese papercut shows a rooster. The papercut is an example of Chinese folk art. They are traditionally placed in the windows of homes during festivals and the subject matter is chosen to celebrate the festival or to protect the home such as warding off evil spirits. The designs are often intricate and the forms are rarely realistic, but instead an artist's interpretation of a particular folk tale or religious story. The Chinese New Year is one of the festivals for which papercuts are created and the animal representing the new year is often included in the designs.