Large Repoussed Silver Bowl
diameter: 29cm, height: 18cm, weight: 1,784g
This is a larger-than-usual Burmese silver thabeik bowl. It is decorated in high relief repusse work which seems to show one long continuous story – that of an epic battle.
Princely figures on horse and elephant back are shown in battle – possibly this is a battle scene depicting King Anawrahta, the first king of all Burma (reigned 1044-77), who introduced his people to Theravada Buddhism. His capital at Pagan (Bagan) on the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwaddy) River became a prominent city of pagodas and temples. He is often depicted in Burmese artwork on horseback.
Unusually, part of the scene includes four human disembodied heads which are shown in the clouds.
The upper border is raised and decorated in relief with scrollwork. The lower border is wider, follows the contours of the bowl and is chased with repeated leaf motifs.
The base is decorated with a pony or feline-type creature and a line of Burmese script which scrolls around the central motif.
Bowls such as these had no ceremonial or religious use; they are purely decorative. Their shape is supposedly based on Burmese monks’ begging or alms
bowls (one of the eight
parikkharas or possessions allowed a monk). In turn, such bowls are based on a bowl that the Buddha himself is said to have used. But although the shape of such bowls is based on the monk’s begging bowl, ironically, Burmese monks are prohibited from touching gold or silver. Accordingly,
Burmese silversmiths did not use their skills on religious objects unlike silversmiths in other Buddhist lands such as Tibet or Sri Lanka.
The bowl is in fine condition.
Fraser-Lu, S., Silverware of South-East Asia, Oxford University Press, 1989.
Burmese Crafts: Past and Present, Oxford University Press, 1994.
The Silverwork of Burma (with Photographs by P. Klier), The Superintendent, Government Printing, 1902.
Modern Burmese Silverwork (with Photographs by P. Klier), The Superintendent, Government Printing, 1904.
UK art market
Inventory no.: 3709