The Alphabet of Art & Antiques – Y and Z


In Hindu and Buddhist art, yakshis are auspicious female nature spirits, symbolic of fertility and abundance. Yakshis are typically depicted as beautiful and voluptuous, with wide hips, narrow waists, and exaggerated, spherical breasts.

Terracotta Yakshi Holding a Crowned Child with a Visiting Parrot, Shunga period, circa 1st century B.C., India (Bengal). Image via The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


A yataghan is a  long knife or short saber that lacks a guard for the hand at the juncture of blade and hilt and that usually has a double curve to the edge and a nearly straight back.  It was commonly used in Anatolia and the Balkans during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the sultan’s elite corps, or Janissaries, and was carried in the waistband.

Yatagan with Scabbarddated A.H. 1238/A.D. 1822. Image via The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

York flagon

A York flagon is a pewter vessel about 12″ in height. Its base is the shape of an acorn cup and it has a domed acorn-like cover, capped by a finial. It was used for serving wine or ale in Yorkshire in the 18th century, and it also known as an acorn flagon.

English pewter flat-lidded York flagon, circa 1690. Image via Christie’s.

Yorkshire chair

Also called a Derbyshire chair, this is a mid 17th century English type of oak chair with the back in the form of an arcade, or with broad hooped rails. This chair was most common in the north of England.

Two Charles II carved oak Yorkshire chairs, circa 1675. Image via Sotheby’s.


A you or yu is a type of Chinese Bronze-age wine vessel in the form of  a covered “pot-bellied” bucket with a swing handle.

Wine Vessel or You, 10th–9th century B.C., China. Image via The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Popular in Victorian times, a zoetrope is a toy that consists of a revolving cylinder, open at the top and with a series of images on the inside. The images are viewed through slits in the side of the cylinder and appear to be moving when the cylinder is turning rapidly. The zoetrope first appeared in the 1830’s and is also known as the zootrope or the wheel of life.

Zoetrope, with six strips of zoetrope animation. Image via the History of Photography Collection, Smithsonian Institution.


A Zoopraxiscope is a 19th century motion-picture device, designed by Edward Muybridge, in which light is projected through rotating glass disks applied at the rim with a changing sequence of images, creating the illusion of movement.

The zoopraxiscope, image via Kingston Museum and Heritage Service.

Zuber wallpaper

Jean Zuber (1793-1850?) was, along with J. Dufour, the first and arguably the best maker of scenic wallpaper in the first half of the 19th century. His designs depicted scenes of horse-racing in  France, England, and Italy, scenes from the American War of Independence, and views of the Niagara Falls and Boston, Mass.

Zuber et Cie’s “Scenes of North America” design, one of the most famous examples of woodblock-print wallpaper. Courtesy of Creative Commons.


A zwischengoldglas is a glass vessel – mainly beakers or goblets – with hunting, religious or heraldic scenes engraved and decorated with gold on the outside and encased in a sheath of glass. This decorative technique dates to 300 BC but surviving examples date Bohemian glass between 1730 and 1755.

Zwischengoldglas with battle scene. Germany, circa 1870. Image via Hampel Auctions.

By Vera Vandenbosch