Today on Museum Bites we’re kicking off the spring season with a celebration of bunnies. Whether he’s outwitting Elmer Fudd, going after the throats of silly medieval knights, or bringing us baskets of sweets, these long-eared hoppers are a furry delight. Join me for a brief look at bunnies who dance, bring luck, serve up soup, and so much more. We begin on the African savanna…
Dancing Bunny: Our first bunny was created by the Bobo people of Burkina Faso and is on display at the Flint Institute of Arts. Handcrafted from wood this bulky mask represents the spirit of the African savanna hare and was worn during harvest ritual dances. Despite its jaunty mohawk comb, the slitted eyes and Hannibal Lecter-like mouthpiece give this mask a creepy vibe. Think less Thumper and more killer rabbit of Holy Grail fame.
Fun Bunny Fact #1: Fleet of foot, the African savanna hare weighs between 3 and 7 lbs., has 7+ inch ears, and can sprint up to 43 miles per hour.
Fun Bobo Fact: The territory of Burkina Faso was colonized by the French in the late 1890s and called Upper Volta. In 1960, the people gained independence and in 1984 renamed their country Burkina Faso, which means Land of Incorruptible People.
Table Bunny: Our next bunny hails from London and is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. This life-sized rabbit tureen made its debut on the London table in the mid-18th century. Among the elite, dinner during this era was theater and included multiple courses, a crew of uniformed servants, and over-the-top tableware all designed to show off one’s wealth and wow guests. This colorful piece was created by the Chelsea Porcelain Manufactury, and is the third among 25 versions of the rabbit tureen. Click on this Museum Bites: Fancy Feast link, if you’d like to sample more quirky table art.
Lucky Bunny: These tiny bunnies date back to the Shang and Western Zhou Dynasties of China and are on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. Barely an inch high, these jade amulets were discovered in ancient tombs, lying directly on the deceased. In many parts of the world, especially Asia, jade is a symbol of purity and longevity, and the rabbit is a much-loved character. In Chinese folklore, the jade rabbit is selfless, trustworthy, hardworking, and he eventually becomes the companion of the moon goddess, Chang’e. Therefore, these jade rabbit amulets once served as an insurance policy for an auspicious afterlife.
Click on this Story of the Jade Rabbit of the Moon video clip courtesy of Off the Great Wall to enjoy a delightful folktale featuring hungry gods, immortality pills, the Jade Emperor, greedy queens, and much more. If you’d like to learn more about the virtues of jade and the ruler who drank jade smoothies, click on this Museum Bites: Jade Fever link.
Fun Bunny Fact#2: The rabbit is 4th in the 12-year cycle of the Sheng Xiao, (Chinese calendar). The next Year of the Rabbit will occur in 2023. We are currently in the Year of the Pig, 12th in the 12-year cycle.
Wall Bunny: We conclude our look at bunnies with an entire wall of bunnies, created by Hunt Slonem (b. 1951) and on display at the Flint Institute of Arts. Born during the year of the rabbit, Slonem’s bunny series is a delightful homage to the furry hopper. From droopy-eared to demon-eyed, aloof to coquettish, 128 multi-colored bunnies hang proudly on this whimsical wall. Slonem has also created a similar series of butterflies and tropical birds. If you’d like to view more of his work, click on this Hunt Slonem Artwork link.
That wraps up our look at bunnies. Next week, I’ll be back with more Museum Bites. In the meantime, have a fun week!
Cover photo courtesy of Pixabay.