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Rare Lacquered Copper Kammavaca Set
length: 55cm, width: 10.7cm, thickness: 3cm
This gilded and red and black lacquered kammavaca manuscript set comprises two gilded and lacquered wooden covers, and sixteen lacquered, copper
leaves. Sixteen is the most usual number of pages or leaves in a kammavaca set and suggests that this set is complete.
Leaves or pages cut from copper sheet are unusual. According to Singer (1993), the panels, cut to the desired lengths, were sold by metal merchants in the
Zaygyodaw Bazaar in Mandalay.
The vast majority of kammavaca leaves are cut from fabric which were then lacquered and cut into shape. Kammavaca leaves can also be made from
lacquered palm leaf, ivory and brass sheets.
Each leaf holds six lines of Pali script written in square Burmese script in black magyi zi lacquer made from tamarind seed, between hatched (yazamat)
borders. Being on copper, the lacquerwork is particularly sharp and lustrous.
Kammavaca manuscripts were presented to novice monks and typically contained the rules and instructions of the monastery. Commissioning and presenting
such manuscripts earned the laity merit and often were presented to mark important life cycle events such as an important birthday, marriage or birth.
The condition of this set is typical of extant kammavaca sets of lacquered copper and brass - the lacquer did not usually adhere to the metal particularly
successfully, and over time, extensive chipping to the lacquerwork has occurred. The covers also show much rubbing no doubt from use. The novelty value of
this set comes from its apparent completeness and from the fact that it is a relatively rare lacquered metal set.
Provenance: UK art market
References: Singer, N., 'Kammavaca texts: their covers and binding ribbons', Arts of Asia, May-June 1993.
Inventory no.: 1806
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