Canary cage


Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, ca. 1853 and no later than 1881
Wood (zitan (rosewood), burlwood) porcelain, gold-colored wires, celluloid, bronze hooks inlaid with silver
H x W (overall): 34 x 27.5 cm (13 3/8 x 10 13/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Mr. Robert H. Ellsworth in memory of Isabelle Ingram Mayer
Robert Hatfield Ellsworth collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Furniture and Furnishing


bird, China, porcelain, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), Robert Hatfield Ellsworth collection, WWII-era provenance

Isabelle Ingram Mayer, Peking [1]

To 1986
Robert Hatfield Ellsworth (born 1929), New York, to 1986

From 1986
Freer Gallery of Art, given by Robert Hatfield Ellsworth in 1986


[1] Isabelle Ingram Mayer returned in 1947 or 1948 from living in Peking, where she was born (see Curatorial Note 8 in object record). However, see also the June 7, 1998 letter from Robert H. Ellsworth in the object file, which lists Isabelle Ingram Mayer's date of return from China as 1946 (according to Curatorial Note 8 in the object record).

Previous Owner(s)

Robert Hatfield Ellsworth 1929-2014
Isabelle Ingram Mayer


The Chinese fondness for pet songbirds finds expression in lavish bird cages. Here gold wires inlay the word "longevity" (shou) on the perches and also inscribe sections of a poem on two feeders and an ornamental cage slide. Ironically, the text is from "Inscription for My Lowly Abode," by Liu Yuxi (772-842): "Though a mountain be not high, if an immortal dwells there, it is famous; though a river be not deep, if a dragon lives there, it is holy. Thus it is with my lowly abode; only my virtue makes it fragrant."

Published References
  • Stephen Markbreiter. Anatomy of the Chinese Birdcage. Hong Kong, May-June 1985. .
  • Gloria Lannom. Chinese Bird Cages. Hong Kong, October 1989. .
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum