– scroll down to see further images –
This fine Burmese silver bowl is repoussed with eight separate scenes from a Burmese legend, probably connected to the lives of the Buddha. Each scene shows between two and four figures dressed in traditional Burmese attire.
The scenes are contained within roundels that are separated by interlocking borders embellished with leafy and floral flourishes, all within top and lower registers of flowers and foliage.
The base is plain and unadorned.
Bowls such as these had no ceremonial or religious use; they are purely decorative. Their shape is supposedly based on Burmese monks’ begging or alms thabeik bowls (one of the eight parikkharas or possessions allowed a monk). Such a monk’s bowl was known as a thabeik in Burma. 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.
Overall, this bowl is a fine and pleasing example of a late 19th century Burmese silver bowl. Importantly, it was acquired in the UK and most probably has been in the UK since the colonial era. It is without dents, splits or repairs. There are small holes in the repousse work however. They are typical and are only visible if the bowl is held up to bright light.
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.