The Pillsbury Owl, a 12th- or 13th-century BCE bronze owl-shaped wine vessel, was at the entrance of the museum’s exhibition “Eternal Offerings: Chinese Ritual Bronzes” when the damage occurred on April 9. Shang-dynasty (ca. 1600–1046 BCE) aristocrats would have used the vessel in rituals offerings to honor their ancestors.
A museum spokesperson confirmed that the vessel has since been removed from the show for further assessment and conservation. The extent of the damage, as well as how long conservation efforts on the artwork will take, however, remains unclear.
No visitors or staff were harmed during the incident. The museum will “continue to monitor and enhance measures to prevent accidents”, according to spokesperson.
In the owl’s place now sits a set of bronze winged dragons from the 4th- or 5th-century BCE, which were already on view and moved from the second gallery of the exhibition.