Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Find Me a Bat

Don't miss the gorgeous, recently opened jewelry exhibition at the MFA, "Jewels, Gems, and Treasures: Ancient to Modern" (through November 25, 2012). The MFA is unusual in having both a gallery dedicated to jewelry and a full-time jewelry curator to care for its 11,000-item collection. We're lucky.

This is my favorite object in the show: a Chinese headdress from around 1900, worn by either a bride or a noblewoman at the imperial court. It's ornamented with brilliant blue kingfisher feathers and a heck of a lot of other fancy stuff, if you'll excuse my highbrow museum parlance. You can easily spot flowers made of pearls and tourmalines and a couple of phoenix birds with pearl strands on their wings. They bounce on springs to liven things up.

But can you find me a bat?

Lots going on, but no bats.

I spent most of stormy Sunday afternoon scrutinizing my photos to find the bats that are allegedly on this thing. It began asa tiny part of my writing assignment and progressed to an obsession.

Bats are good-luck symbols in China, and they can be very stylized in appearance, but they still look like bats with, you know, tiny bodies and batwings. Some look like cartoon bats, Batman bats. But I see nothing on this baby that looks anything like a bat. Go and examine it for yourself. If you can tell me where the bats are, I'll buy you a cupcake.

By the way, Possum was no use to me. He couldn't get past the kingfisher feathers. "Birds should be eaten, not worn," says Possy. I explained that kingfishers became extinct in China because their feathers were used for jewelry. "Entirely the wrong reason," he said. "I'm sure they were tasty. Blueberry-flavored feathers. What a waste!" I should mention that he has been more helpful on other jewelry topics. I have no idea where he picks up his information, unless he's been reading my library books, which I find on the floor....

More photos:

Right side: A bat-free zone.

Left side: Nary a bat.


  1. Stunning...I would love to see a photo of someone wearing it. Yes, anything with feathers would be 'fair game' for the cats here too. And I didn't know that about Kingfishers in China...

  2. PB: Yesterday, I saw no bats. Today, without my even trying, they leapt out. On photo 1, under the big pink flower with the green stone center, there is a "cutout" at 7 pm, and another at 5 pm, that look like batman-type bats. And, in the right side photo, the same cutout appears around the middle of the photo, but is upside down. Do I get the cupcake?

  3. Hi 4catstoo!

    Wow, thank you for scrutinizing! I owe you a cupcake just for making the effort, and you may well have found some bats, but I still can't see where they are. Are they right under that flower? One thing about these bats: they're perfectly symmetrical. They may have a lot of curlicues forming their wings, but both wings look identical, just reversed.

    I think I owe you a second cupcake because you may have led me to another bat! If you look at the left photo, above the bead fringe, there's an ornament with two orange beads and green leaves. Above that, there seems to be a Batman-type bat. the right wing wraps around one of the orange beads. What do you think? Is that the one you found? The curator has been away and I haven't wanted to email her about this, but I'll see her next week and I'm sure she'll know. Thanks again! How do you want to receive your cupcake(s)?

  4. I see what you mean about the thing over the orange bead in the left photo, which does look like a bat, but it's hard to see - I wish now I could see the actual piece. The two bats in the first photo are right below that big flower, at around 5 and 7 o'clock. They are symmetrical, but they are made by the negative space left from the cutout. That's what jumped out at me today. I think there are "positive" bats too, such as the one maybe over that orange bead. I like bats, and a challenge, which is why I was trying to find them, I guess.

    Re:cupcakes. I am in Massachusetts part of the time, Boston occasionally. I could let you know when I am next in-state (likely in the next 2-4 weeks), but since all that is a pain, you could just send me a cupcake coupon. No big deal, really, although I suspect you do know the best cupcake shops! I would like to know where the curator thinks the bats are, too.

  5. Aha, I instantly saw what you meant when you said "negative space." They leapt out at me, but I'm not sure they "count," since they are supposed to be applied. Those might just be kingfisher waves or clouds or whatever. I'll talk to the curator next week and will let you know what she says.

    Re the cupcakes: I'm sorry it's so complicated but I hope I can repay you someday, somehow. I was silly to assume almost all of my readers are in town, and that it would be simple to meet up at Modern Pastry, the South End Buttery, or Lyndell's...

  6. PB: I used to work in Back Bay, in my corporate life. I'll let you know next time I'll be in Boston. It would be great to meet up and cash in on my cupcake raincheck. South End Buttery certainly sounds yummy!


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