Hand-painted phoenix, floral, butterflies and exotic birds decorated “tôle peinte” (*) tray.
(*)Name for small objects of hand-painted tin-plate such as boxes, trays and coffee mills. The technique originated in France c.1740. Toleware was mass-produced in the 19th century in Birmingham and elsewhere in Britain.
Examples of antique tolewares
Gallery – Phoenix in Art
17th century – Sainte Marie Magdeleine – France
The legendary phoenix bird
- Herodotus – Histories, vol. 2
“There is another holy bird, called the Phoenix, which I have never seen but in pictures. He rarely appears in Egypt – only once in every 500 years, so they say, in Heliopolis- and he is supposed to come when his (male) father dies. If the painter describes him truly, his plumage is part golden and part red, and he is very like an eagle in shape and size. They say that this bird comes from Arabia, bringing the body of his father embalmed in myrrh to the temple of the sun, and there he buries him. First he molds an egg of myrrh; then he puts his father in the middle of it. Lastly, he covers up the body with myrrh. This is what they say this bird does. But I do not believe them.”
- Publius Ovidius Naso – Metamorphoses
“There is one living thing, a bird, which reproduces and regenerates itself, without any outside aid. The Assyrians call it the phoenix. It lives, not on corn or grasses, but on the gum of incense, and the sap of balsam. When it has completed five centuries of life, it straightway builds a nest for itself, working with unsullied beak and claw, in the topmost branches of some swaying palm. Then, when it has laid a foundation of cassia, and smooth spikes of nard, chips of cinnamon bark and yellow myrrh, it places itself on top, and ends its life amid the perfumes. Then, they say, a little phoenix is born anew from the father’s body, fated to live a like number of years”.
- Job -The Bible
“In my nest I shall die and like the phoenix extend my days.”
- St. Clement – The Epistles
“Let us consider the wonderful sign that happeneth in the region of the cast, even about Arabia. There is a bird which is called the phoenix. This, being the only one of its kind, liveth for five hundred years. And when the time of its death draweth near, it maketh for itself a nest of frankincense and myrrh and the others perfumes, into which, when its time is fulfilled, it entereth, and then dieth. But as its flesh rotteth, a certain worm is produced, which being nourished by the moisture of the dead animal, putteth forth feathers. Then, when it hath become strong, it taketh the nest wherein are the bones of its ancestor, and bearing them, it flieth from the region of Arabia to that of Egypt, to the city which is called Heliopolis; there, in day-time, in the sight of all, it flieth up, and placeth them upon the altar of the sun, and having done so, returneth back. The priests, therefore, look into the registers of the times, and find that it has come at the completion of the five-hundredth year.”
- The Exeter Book – The Phoenix
“85 That wood a bird inhabits, wonderfully handsome, strong of wings, which is called Phoenix. There this creature unparalleled keeps his dwelling and, courageous of heart, his way of life; never shall death harm him in that pleasant plateau while the world remains. He is accustomed to observe the sun’s course and to address himself towards God’s candle, the brilliant gem, and eagerly to watch for when the noblest of stars comes up over the billowy sea, gleaming from the east, the ancient work of the Father ornately glinting, God’s radiant token. The stars are hidden, gone below the ocean in the western regions, obscured in the dawning, and the dark gloomy night departs. Then the bird, powerful in flight, exultant in his wings, gazes eagerly upon the main beneath the sky, across the water, until the lamp of the firmament comes gliding up from the east above the broad sea. As the noble bird, unchangingly handsome, frequents the welling streams at the fountain-head, there the glory-blessed creature laves himself in the brook twelve times before the advent of the beacon, the candle of the firmament, and ever as often at each laving sips water cold as the sea from the pleasant well-springs. Then after splashing in the water, exalted in mood he betakes himself up into a tall tree from where he may most easily observe the journey on the eastern paths, when the taper of the firmament, a lamp of light, brightly glints over the tossing of the deep. The land is embellished, the world beautified, when across the expanse of the ocean the gem of heaven, of stars the most glorious, illumines the earth throughout the world”.
- Jean-Pierre Vernant – “Introduction” to Marcel Detienne Les jardins d’Adonis
“The incandescent life of the phoenix follows a circular course, increasing and decreasing, with birth, death and rebirth following a cycle that passes from an aromatic bird closer to the sun than the eagle flying at great heights, to the state of a worm in rotting matter, more chthonian(*) than the snake or the bat. From the bird’s ashes, consumed at the end of its long existence in a blazing aromatic nest, is born a small earth-worm, nourished by humidity, which shall in turn become a phoenix”.
(*)A chthonian is a fictional character in the Cthulhu Mythos.
- Hans Christian Andersen – The Phoenix Bird
“In the Garden of Paradise, beneath the Tree of Knowledge, bloomed a rose bush. Here, in the first rose, a bird was born. His flight was like the flashing of light, his plumage was beauteous, and his song ravishing. But when Eve plucked the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, when she and Adam were driven from Paradise, there fell from the flaming sword of the cherub a spark into the nest of the bird, which blazed up forthwith. The bird perished in the flames; but from the red egg in the nest there fluttered aloft a new one—the one solitary Phoenix bird. The fable tells that he dwells in Arabia, and that every hundred years, he burns himself to death in his nest; but each time a new Phoenix, the only one in the world, rises up from the red egg.
The bird flutters round us, swift as light, beauteous in color, charming in song. When a mother sits by her infant’s cradle, he stands on the pillow, and, with his wings, forms a glory around the infant’s head. He flies through the chamber of content, and brings sunshine into it, and the violets on the humble table smell doubly sweet.
But the Phoenix is not the bird of Arabia alone. He wings his way in the glimmer of the Northern Lights over the plains of Lapland, and hops among the yellow flowers in the short Greenland summer. Beneath the copper mountains of Fablun, and England’s coal mines, he flies, in the shape of a dusty moth, over the hymnbook that rests on the knees of the pious miner. On a lotus leaf he floats down the sacred waters of the Ganges, and the eye of the Hindoo maid gleams bright when she beholds him.
The Phoenix bird, dost thou not know him? The Bird of Paradise, the holy swan of song! On the car of Thespis he sat in the guise of a chattering raven, and flapped his black wings, smeared with the lees of wine; over the sounding harp of Iceland swept the swan’s red beak; on Shakspeare’s shoulder he sat in the guise of Odin’s raven, and whispered in the poet’s ear “Immortality!” and at the minstrels’ feast he fluttered through the halls of the Wartburg.
The Phoenix bird, dost thou not know him? He sang to thee the Marseillaise, and thou kissedst the pen that fell from his wing; he came in the radiance of Paradise, and perchance thou didst turn away from him towards the sparrow who sat with tinsel on his wings.
The Bird of Paradise—renewed each century—born in flame, ending in flame! Thy picture, in a golden frame, hangs in the halls of the rich, but thou thyself often fliest around, lonely and disregarded, a myth—“The Phoenix of Arabia.”
In Paradise, when thou wert born in the first rose, beneath the Tree of Knowledge, thou receivedst a kiss, and thy right name was given thee—thy name, Poetry”.
Arms of Johann Martin Bauer von Eüsenech, Anatomia Auri, Mylius in Musaeum Hermeticum, 1625