‘Maingtha Old Man, 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 Man, Sinlumkaba, Bhamo Dist.’ shows an elderly moustached man of the Maingtha ethnic group from the torso up. He wears a green tunic with orange edging, a green headscarf and prominent earrings. The rendering of the man’s face particularly shows the artist’s great skill: it is both an ethnic study and a careful portrait of a man – he looks out of the painting at the viewer with his bothered frown.
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. 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 other than for some water staining to its lower fifth.
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.: 1087