Lacquered Wooden Buddha
Shan States, Burma
height: 52cm, width: 12.5cm, depth: 12cm
This very pleasing black lacquered Buddha image has been carved from a single piece of light wood. It regains traces of gilding. The image is dressed in monastic robes and sits cross-legged in vajrasana, with the right hand gesturing to the earth in the bhumisparsa mudra position. It is probably the most characteristic form of religious sculpture in Burma (Lowry, 1974). The posture, known as ‘calling the earth to witness’, represents the moment when the Buddha was seated in meditation under the Bodhi tree during the evening before his enlightenment. Mara asked him to name anyone who would give evidence that he had given alms, and the Buddha motioned to the earth with his right hand and said that the earth would bear witness to that – in a previous incarnation when he was known as Vessantara, he had given alms to such an extent that the earth had begun to quake.
The face is particularly delicate and well modelled. The facial features – the slanting eyes, the high eyebrows and the small mouth – are typical of Shan depictions of the Buddha. The head has a tall, conical protuberance or unisha.
The image sits on a high, hour-glass form dais.
See Weigelt (2005, p. 58) for a wooden Shan Buddha image with some similarities in terms of features.
The image here is in excellent condition. A small shallow hold at the back suggests that the image was at one point attached to a column or something similar.
Somkiart Lopetcharat, Myanmar Buddha: The Image and its History, Siam International Books Company, 2007.
Birmas Lackkunst: in Deutschen Museen, Museum fur Lackkunst, 2005.
UK art market
Inventory no.: 3690