The magpie is the bird of happiness, who carries good news. It is also the harbinger of spring. As Fang Jing Pei notes in Symbols and Rebuses in Chinese Art, Berkeley/Toronto, 2004, pp.120-1, the chatter of a magpie is an omen of success to the scholar about to take his Civil Service Examination, and "a dream of the magpie before one's examination is a prediction of achievement". Because of a legend regarding the founding of the Manchus the magpie had great significance to the Manchus and therefore was a frequent subject in paintings and other decorative arts in the Qing dynasty.
An identical example is in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, illustrated in Sir H. Garner, Chinese and Japanese Cloisonné Enamels, London 1962, pl.59.
Another model of magpie dated from the same period but with the wings held close is illustrated by M. Beurdeley, L'Amateur Chinois des Han au XXème siècle, Fribourg 1966, p.251, Cat.164.
A pair of magpies with the wings closed were offered in our Hong Kong Rooms, 30 May 2006, lot 1574.