No, that isn’t a stock photo at the top of this blog; it is a detail photograph of a 19th century Chinese Kingfisher Headdress. We have four such headdresses at the Hermitage, all of which were loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for an exhibit on Louis Comfort Tiffany in 2006. You can read more about that exhibit here.
Below is the image in its entirety:
A view from the top:
To achieve that otherworldly shade of blue, kingfisher headdresses are inlaid with — you guessed it — kingfisher feathers. Poor dears!
Kingfisher feathers can be found in Chinese ceremonial dress as far back as the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.). To the great relief of kingfishers everywhere, laws protecting the endangered species were passed in the 1930’s and the birds are beginning to make a comeback.
All four pieces are currently on display in our West Gallery and I encourage you to come have a look for yourself. You see, staring at kingfisher feathers is sort of like staring at the sun (yeah, they’re that bright), and these images cannot possibly do the iridescent blue a wit of justice.