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    Rare Burmese Carved Wooden Depictions of Adam & Eve

    Burma (Myanmar)
    late 19th century

    height: approximately 48.2cm, combined weight: 2,932g



    UK art market

    This fine and very-well carved pair of wooden images appear to be of Adam and Eve. The product of a highly talented Burmese wood carver. The realistic depiction of the contours of the male and then the female body is remarkable. The details and the differences are well observed. Each also has been carved with late Konbaung Dynasty hair styles which much attention paid to the detail of the manner in which the hair is combed and gathered into buns. (The Konbaung Dynasty rule ended in 1885.)

    A fig leaf covers the male figure’s modesty; there is no such covering for the female. Both stand on a wooden plinth. Each has been coloured with European skin tones, despite the overt Burmese hairstyling. (Pale skin in any event was preferred colouring of upper class Burmese – it showed that they were not exposed to the sun as would be required with outdoors, manual labour.)

    It is possible that they might have been commissioned for a Christian church in Burma, or were a standalone commission from a British administrator or similar whilst serving in Burma.

    Christianity did not make big inroads into the Burmese population generally. Where it was more successful was among the Karen and other hill tribe groups, but they were poor and less likely to have commissioned such statues. Also,they were conservative and so also less likely to commission works that showed such overt nudity. So if the pair of statues were intended for a church in Burma then it would have been one with a more European congregation.

    The two images are in excellent condition.


    Fraser-Lu, S., Burmese Crafts: Past and Present, Oxford University Press, 1994.

    Rittinaphakorn, T., (Ake), pers. comm.

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