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Crouching Tiger, Sore Neck

Posted on by Minneapolis Institute of Arts

China, Tiger pillow, 12th century, Tz’u-chou ware, Gift of Ruth and Bruce Dayton

Fancy a catnap? Slumberers of ancient China would have been lucky to curl up with this ceramic pillow, modeled in the form of a crouching tiger, with head upturned and fangs bared. A central painted medallion encircles a butterfly hovering above an orchid and lotus leaf, no doubt to usher users to the land of nod. Tiger-form pillows date from the Chin dynasty (1115–1234); their artists were likely inspired by a popular theme of ferocious felines in paintings. Exceptionally well preserved, this marvelous example offers a delight to the eyes—though, one suspects, a pain in the neck.

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