Monumental, Repoussed Silver Table Centrepiece
height: 60.5cm, weight: 3,893g
This magnificent table centrepiece was made by Burmese craftsmen for a colonial dining table. A larger, related example is on display in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. The V&A piece illustrated in Lowry (1974) is attributed to ‘probably the late 19th century,’ and no doubt is based on comparable local examples made in Britain at that time. As Lowry says, ‘Although much of the market for these pieces was among the European community, and therefore, there was an understandable tendency for craftsmen to produce Europeanized design, many traditional shapes and decoration were kept.’ The bowl which forms the main element of the centrepiece is based on the Burmese monk’s begging bowl, for example.
The centrepiece comprises a stand that sits on four solid-cast Burmese mythical
to-naya figures. The stand, with an open-work, foliate fringe, is repoussed with various scenes from Burmese folklore, all against a finely tooled background. The stand rises to a bulbous collar very finely decorated with acanthus leaves, and then another two collars of fine, sinewy openwork. The platform for the central bowl is attached to this. The platform has an open-work fringe with a repeated petal border.
The bowl sits in the stand and is secured with a bayonet fitting. It is very finely repoussed, chased and engraved with further scenes from Burmese folklore, the scenes being separated by leafy borders of the highest quality. A cover sits over the bowl. This is domed and repoussed and chased with a chain of seven panels each decorated with a figure in Burmese dress, and with the panels separated by luxuriant foliage and floral motifs.
The cover is surmounted by an open-work flattened sphere decorated with animals amid scrolling foliage, and this is surmounted by a solid-cast
nat figure, in traditional Burmese costume, and wielding a knife or some other attribute.
The piece is stable and sits evenly. It is a monumental and complex example of the extravagant heights attained by Burmese colonial silverware both in terms of its motifs and composition.
Lowry, J., Burmese Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1974.
private collection, France
Inventory no.: 1829
centrepiece currently displayed in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.