Three Disciples of Buddha in Gilded, Lacquered Wood
approximate heights: 67-75cm each, depth: 72cm, width: 42-49cm
Images of the Buddha’s two chief disciples, Sariputta and Moggallana, often are found in Burmese artwork. Carved wooden and lacquered images were used in temples and monasteries where they were placed before images of the Buddha as part of a shrine (hpaya khan). This set is unusual for its size, quality of craftsmanship, and for the addition of a third disciple whose identity is unknown. Usually, Sariputta and Moggallana are shown together and as a twosome. This is the first time that we have seen a third disciple who is clearly part of the set.
The size of each is almost life-size – perhaps that of an older child. The proportions are naturalistic as well, as are the heads and facial expressions which are sweet and serene.
Sariputta (left, in the above image) sits in a position of eager listening with his arms resting on his upper legs. Moggallana (middle) sits with his hands pressed together in adulation. The third disciple has his arms extended before him in veneration. All three sit in the way of a Buddhist worshipper with their feet pointing behind them and away from the focus of veneration. Their feet rest over the ends of their robes which trail behind them.
The images have been carved from several pieces of wood, joined, lacquered with a black lacquer and then gilded. Much of the gilding has worn away over the years leaving the three with superb patinas and obvious age.
The robes of each are highlighted with bands of with moulded lacquer relief work (known as
thayo) in a variety of motifs including the dha-zin-gwe (orchid scrolling motif.)
thayo on the robes and heads of each disciple is inset with glass roundels backed with green and silver foil (known as hman-zi- shwei-cha).
The three are in very good condition for their age. There are relatively minor losses here and there but these are in keeping with their age. Importantly none of the slender fingers have been lost, broken or repaired. They are extremely sculptural and expressive. As a trio, the differing postures of each suggest movement and liveliness.
The three were acquired in the UK and almost certainly have been in the UK since colonial times. This accounts for their relatively fine condition despite their obvious age.
Burmese Crafts: Past and Present, Oxford University Press, 1994.
Isaacs, R., & T.R. Blurton,
Burma and the Art of Lacquer, River Books, 2000.
Burmese Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1974.
Inventory no.: 1584