Headrest with Three Lions

Headrest with Three Lions

916-1125

Glazed earthenware, sancai (three-color ware)

Overall: 13.4 x 37.9 x 18.2 cm (5 1/4 x 14 15/16 x 7 3/16 in.)

Gift of Donna and James Reid 2017.15

Fun Fact

Headrests are not just decorative—they would also be slept on as pillows.

Description

Three lions—two ferocious adults and one playful cub—form the base of this Chinese headrest. Often found at burial sites, headrests probably had multiple uses for their owners, but their exact origins are unknown. As ceramic pillows, headrests were cooling on hot summer nights. As decorative objects, their form and ornamentation conveyed symbolic meaning for their owners. Lions are used as decoration on headrests because of their association with protection, as fierce beasts with the strength to ward off evil spirits while one sleeps.

While headrests made of hard materials may seem unusual now, their use crosses time periods and cultures.

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