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Our Aberdeen: Ox-some objects for Chinese New Year

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The Chinese or Lunar New Year which began last Friday and continues for 15 days is welcoming the Year of the Ox.

The Chinese zodiac (or shengxiao – meaning “born resembling”) is a continuous cycle of 12 years, with each year represented by an animal. The 12 Chinese horoscope animals are (in order): Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

The Ox is a valued animal in Chinese culture and many positive characteristics are attributed to it. People born under the sign of the Ox are considered to be strong, reliable, fair and conscientious (even a little boring, it has been suggested). They inspire confidence in others and can make great leaders. Although they say very little, they can be very opinionated! They believe strongly in themselves and hate to fail. Does this description remind you of anyone you know?

Pair of Oxen with Yellow Yoke, Joan Eardley


These don’t look like any animals the artist might have spotted in the fields around Catterline. In 1948, Eardley was awarded a travelling scholarship from Glasgow School of Art, which took her to France and Italy. In Italy, she was drawn to the simplicity of peasant life. This pair of oxen are also beautiful in their simplicity. The big bulk of their bodies contrasts with the vibrant detail in their hooves and in their beautifully drawn faces. Looking at them, I can just about imagine myself transported to the heat of the Italian countryside.

Silver mounted horn jug


This tall horn and silver claret jug was made by the Aberdeen horn and comb manufacturers SR Stewart & Co. It can be dated between 1883 and 1884 from the London hallmarks stamped on the silver mounts. The gilt, bone and mother-of-pearl decoration of beautifully crafted birds and insects also helps to date the jug – semi-precious materials, the elegant shape and the oriental subject matter are all typical of the Art Nouveau movement of the late 19th Century.

Double-sided nit comb


The sight of this comb may send a shiver down your spine, dear reader! Comb production, using horn, was a big industry in 19th Century Aberdeen, employing thousands of people. It wasn’t just nit combs Aberdeen made, you’ll be glad to hear – the company also produced spoons, tumblers and snuff boxes, all made from horn.

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This article originally appeared on the Evening Express website. For more information, read about our new combined website.

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