Twenty-Leaf Watercolour Folio – Mandalay Palace Stories
width when folded out double: 34cm, height: 22cm (each single page is 17cmx22cm)
This splendid 24-page watercolour portfolio shows a series of scenes, most probably part of a narrative, which relate to stories about King Mindon’s Mandalay Palace. Finely rendered pages show musicians, acrobats, the king with courtiers, wrestlers, monks receiving arms, and several scenes of barges in the moat that surrounded the palace. Trees and banana groves are beautifully rendered as are the clothes of the figures and the details of the palace walls and barges. The presence of monks and senior monks in the pictures should not be surprising. The king and his court lived within the palace walls with a large community of monks. The king presided over festivals and rituals and otherwise was entertained by dancers, musicians, and other performers.
The pages are held between pink silk covers that have been illustrated with an elephant and its keeper. There is no text in the folio; there are images only. The non-parabaik form of this folio is unusual.
King Mindon relocated from Amarapura to Mandalay in 1856. Mindon ruled until his death in 1878 when King Thibaw ascended the throne. Thibaw’s relationship with the British rapidly deteriorated when he had some eighty of his relatives executed in 1879, and in 1885, he was exiled by the British to India, thus ending the dynasty. Assuming this folio is contemporaneous with the presence of a king in the Mandalay Palace, then this would date it to between 1856 and 1885.
The pages sit loosely in the folio are without tears.
Falconer, J. et al, Myanmar Style: Art, Architecture and Design of Burma, Thames & Hudson, 1998.
UK art market
Inventory no.: 1236