Inventory no.: 1089

Yatanabon, Burmese artist


‘Maingtha Old Woman, Sinlumkaba, Bhamo Dist.’,

Watercolour by Yatanabon Maung Su (1903-65)


size: 21cm x 35cm

This watercolour signed ‘Yatanabon Mg. Su’ in the bottom left hand corner and with the description in the left corner of ‘Maingtha Old Woman, Sinlumkaba, Bhamo Dist.’ shows an elderly woman of the Maingtha ethnic group from the torso up. She wears a green tunic with yellow finishing, a cream headscarf, earrings and necklaces. The rendering of the woman’s face particularly shows the artist’s great skill: it is both an ethnic study with traditional attire and a careful portrait of a woman with her lined and furrowed face.

Nine paintings in a similar vein as this example are displayed in the collection of the National Museum of Myanmar. Five more similar paintings are held by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Works by the artist are reproduced in Khin Muang Nuynt et al (2006) and Ranard (2009).

Almost all Yatanabon’s known works are of ethnic portraits. They are characterised by careful observation and stern elegance.

Relatively little is known about Yatanabon despite his representation in public collections although interviews with a descendant in Ranard (2009) suggest that Yatanabon was born in Mandalay in 1903 and moved to Rangoon in the early 1920s. He was a composer, singer and musician as well as being a painter. He concentrated on painting after 1930. He is known to have painted duplicate paintings of the same subjects although with small differences. A very similar example of this painting is illustrated in Ranard (2009, p. 69) for example. Possibly he also worked from early photographs. Working from photographs is not unusual and is a practice that continues today with modern Burmese painters.

The condition of this watercolour is fine.


Khin Muang Nuynt et al, Myanmar Painting: From Worship to Self-Imaging, EvoHeritage, 2006; and Ranard, A., Burmese Painting: A Linear and Lateral History, Silkworm Books, 2009.

Inventory no.: 1089