Monumental Repoussed Silver Bowl
Maker: Maung Shwe Yon, Rangoon, Burma
diameter: 45cm (17 inches), height: 25cm, weight: approximately 6,000g
This is the largest Burmese silver bowl that we have had. Importantly, not only is it large but there has been no compromise when it comes to the quality of the repousse decoration that envelops it. The repousse work is in high but varying relief, and shows a continuous series of figures in Burmese courtly and other dress, including ogres, all amid forest scenes, which most probably draws on Burmese legend.
A wide border around the lower section of the bowl comprises repeated, prominent leaf motifs. A thinner border nearer the top features scrolling leaf forms interspersed with the twelve animals of the Burmese zodiac.
The bowl is heavy, as can be expected, but in actual fact, it is unexpectedly heavy even given its large size. Partly this is due to the silversmith having in-filled the interior repousse cavities with molten silver that was then cooled and hammered flat, strengthening the sides and filling in any small holes that might have occurred as an almost inevitable part of the repousse process.
The base is engraved with a sun-burst in which the maker’s name – ‘MG SWE YON’ and ‘RANGOON’ are engraved. Maung Shwe Yon (‘MG’ is the usual Burmese abbreviation for ‘Maung’, a common Burmese name). Maung Shwe Yon was the name of a Rangoon-based silversmith whose signature is associated with some of the finest works of Burmese silver. He died in 1889 shortly after completing a ‘splendid’ trophy for the Mess of the Corps of Royal Engineers at Chatham (Tilly, 1902, p. 18-19). He was succeeded by his sons who used the same name (Wilkinson, 1999. p. 36.)
The bowl is in excellent condition. The work has remained crisp and has not suffered from excessive polishing over the years.
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.
Indian Silver 1858-1947, 1999.
Private collection, South Africa.
Inventory no.: 1798