Artful Animals | Mingei International Museum

Whether realistic or stylized, beastly or human-like, animal forms have appeared in art since prehistoric times, and continue to be a popular source of inspiration for artistic endeavors worldwide. Sometimes they are shown in their natural habitat, other times they are anthropomorphized, but whether realistic or stylized, artful animals remind us of our connection to our earthly companions.


Wall Hanging - Tenango Embroidery

20th century Mexico, Hidalgo, Otomi People

During a time of severe drought the community of San Nicolas in Hidalgo, Mexico turned to embroidery to revive their economy.

Peacock (Sasano-Bori)

20th century Japan, Yamagata Prefecture, Yonezawa

Farmers in Yonezawa, Japan, spent the cold winter months carving detailed birds such as this charming peacock.

Dog Sculpture

c. 1972 Mexico, Oaxaca, San Antonio Arrazola

This playful dog sculpture was handcrafted by the founder of Oaxaca’s wood-carving tradition, Manuel Jiménez Ramírez (1919-2005).

Goat Figure

1990 Russia, Kirov Oblast, Dymkovo Village

This goat’s flouncy bloomers and cheerful design stem from the imagination of a rural Russian artisan, Elena Ivanova.

Animal Blocks

Late 19th–early 20th century New York, U.S.A.

A century ago, American children delighted in the radiant colors and intricate designs of these animal-themed blocks.

Festival Mask

19th century Japan

This protector would have been brought to life by dancers at Japanese festivals.

Elephant Mask with Tusks

20th century India

The elephant depicted by this ornate mask from India signifies wisdom and strength.


Early 20th century Tibet

Animals in motion—grazing, galloping, attacking—enliven this Tibetan painted cabinet.

Water Buffalo Sculpture

Date unknown Thailand

Through brute force and sheer determination, this sinewy water buffalo makes his way through the mud.

Spotted Goat Figure

20th century India

While living in isolation, Sonabai Rajawar (c. 1930–2007) created this whimsical spotted goat using materials from her home.

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Explore folk art, craft, and design from across cultures and time.