Enquiry about object: 8987

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    Fine, Burmese Silver Bowl with Mahajanaka Jataka Scenes

    Burma (Myanmar)
    late 19th-early 20th century

    height: 15cm, diameter: approximately 21cm, weight: 1,161g



    UK art market

    – scroll down to see further images –

    The particularly fine and elaborate silver bowl has been repoussed and chased in high relief. The walls are thick and the bowl is heavy in the hand.

    It shows various scenes from the Mahajanaka Jataka, the story of one the the Buddha’s previous lives. The Buddha is not shown in this bowl because he is yet to be born. But a dispute between the Buddha’s father and uncle over the throne is depicted by a dramatic battle scene involving warriors atop elephants. There is also a scene where the Buddha’s mother learns of the defeat of her husband. She is shown being supported by a female attendant on hearing the news from male messengers. She is then shown in another scene fleeing the palace in an ox cart pulled by two oxen.

    The top of the bowl has a wide, raised border of flowers and spiky foliage. The lower register has an even wider border of spiky acanthus leaves.

    The base is engraved with a peacock motif, which is purely decorative.

    The form of such a bowl is supposedly based on Burmese monks’ begging or alms bowls known as a thabeik (one of the eight parikkharas or possessions allowed a monk). In turn, such bowls are based on a bowl that the Buddha himself is said to have used. But although the shape of such bowls is based on the monk’s begging bowl, 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 bowl is in excellent condition.


    Green, A., Burmese Silver from the Colonial Period, Ad Illisvm, 2022.

    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.

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