Bird Tree

Artist/maker unknown, American, Pennsylvania German

Made in Pennsylvania, United States, North and Central America


Pine, painted decoration, wire, iron

17 3/8 x 12 5/8 inches (44.1 x 32 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

* Gallery 115, American Art, first floor (Johnson Gallery)

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Bequest of Lisa Norris Elkins, 1950

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Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    A long and rich tradition of decorative wood carving was brought to North America by the Germanic populations that settled in southeastern Pennsylvania. Carved motifs adorned many households, and whimsical creations, such as this colorful bird tree, were often presented as a part of the ritual of courtship or as other tokens of affection or esteem. Nature served as a powerful source of inspiration and reassurance among the predominantly agrarian Pennsylvania Germans. Depicted with great realism or with characteristic humor and wit, animals frequently served as decorative motifs while maintaining their strong spiritual or symbolic connotations within the community. Among the Pennsylvania Germans birds were a symbol of rebirth and renewal, and carvings such as this were often given to acknowledge the arrival of a child or the coming of spring. Jack L. Lindsey, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 278.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.