Inventory no.: 3134

Burmese Lacquer Buddha


Seated Gilded Lacquer Buddha Image


19th century

height: 58cm, width: 38cm, depth: 25cm

The Buddha is dressed in monastic robes in this fine, lacquered and gilded image. The Buddha is shown seated on an ornate, tiered platform, in bhumisparshamudra; his left hand rests, palm upward, on his lap, and the right hand rests on his right knee, calling the earth to witness. He has elongated earlobes to demonstrate his princely parentage, and a pleasing face with gently smiling lips.

The image is composed of hollow dry lacquer on a wooden base and is decorated in gold leaf. It is hollow, and despite its significant size, has very little weight. It can easily be lifted by one hand for example.

According to Isaacs & Blurton (2000), the dry lacquer technique of sculpture production appears to have originated in China. It is not clear when the technique first started to be used in Burma, but by the eighteenth century the technique was well established. It had largely been lost by the mid-twentieth century. The method involves a core image being modelled in clay. This is then covered by a wash of fine ash and water on top of which is applied a putty of lacquer sap and teak sawdust. This is further moulded and shaped, thus providing what will become the completed image. Once the outer mould is dry, the inner clay core is removed and the outer image can be sealed, coated with a refined lacquer mixture, polished and gilded. The end result is a fine but very light sculpture.

The British Museum has a Buddha also of gilded dry lacquer which it ascribes to the eighteenth or nineteenth century and which entered the museum’s collection in 1919. The Museum’s example also shows the image dressed in the garments of a Burmese king. It is of similar height. (See Isaacs & Blurton, 2000, p. 75).

This example is in fine condition. There are no obvious losses and no repairs and only a tiny hole towards the base. The gilding is worn here and there as is typical of such venerated images.


Fraser-Lu, S., Burmese Lacquerware, White Orchid Books, 2000.

Isaacs, R., & T.R. Blurton,

Burma and the Art of Lacquer, River Books, 2000.Provenance:

UK art market

Inventory no.: 3134