This good-sized, Burmese thabeik silver bowl is repoussed with intricate scenes from the Vessantara Jataka – a past life of the Buddha. Figures are seen along with a prominent elephant interspersed with tall, leafy trees.
The bowl shows Vessantara giving away his kingdom’s rain-bringing elephant, his going into exile with his family, Jujaka’s asking for Vessantara’s children, Jujaka’s leading them away and threatening them with a switch, and then the gods, in the form of fierce beasts, preventing Vessantara’s wife from arriving home in time to prevent the children’s being given away. (F. McGill, pers. comm.)
The upper border comprises a chased band of fine foliage scrollwork.
The lower border comprises a wider vegetal border.
The base is flat and of plain, hammered silver.
The shape of such bowls is based on the monk’s begging bowl, although ironically, Burmese monks are prohibited from touching gold or silver. Accordingly, Burmese silversmiths did not use their skills on religious objects unlike silversmiths in other Buddhist lands such as Tibet or Sri Lanka.
The bow is in excellent condition with little wear from polishing. One minor hole to the repousse work, as is often the case with these bowls.
Overall, this bowl is an unusual and fine example of a colonial Burmese bowl. It was acquired in the UK and most probably has been in the UK since the colonial era.
Fraser-Lu, S., Silverware of South-East Asia, Oxford University Press, 1989.
Fraser-Lu, S., Burmese Crafts: Past and Present, Oxford University Press, 1994.
Tilly, H.L., The Silverwork of Burma (with Photographs by P. Klier), The Superintendent, Government Printing, 1902.
Tilly, H.L., Modern Burmese Silverwork (with Photographs by P. Klier), The Superintendent, Government Printing, 1904.