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Each of these dramatic and magnificent four images of disciple-monks, of descending heights, has been carved from a single piece of wood. Each has then been lacquered and gilded. They are beautifully carved and each has a unique face, seemingly betraying a personality. One appears serious and serene, another seems playful, and seems to have a wise or knowing countenance for example.
Each has been carved with the robes of a monk or novice, with both shoulders covered. They have short-cropped hair, and each carries the black lacquered alms or ‘begging’ bowl that monks in Burma carry as they go about their early-morning walks for alms-receiving. The images stand on lotus petal platforms, and these have been mounted on later, quality black display stands.
There are four images in the group. Four seems to be the usual number when such groups are depicted. Falconer (1998, p. 122) shows three groups of four monks all in descending heights, cast in metal and attributed to the 18th century.
It is possible that this group was used in conjunction with a large standing Buddha image shown as the Buddha Dipankara, the first to the 24 Buddhas who were precursors of the historical Buddha Gautama.
The group is in excellent condition, other than the usual wear and minor flaking that can be expected. The stands are robust and the four are ready to be displayed.
The style of carving suggests the four were made in Mandalay, in Burma’s north. It is believed that they came to the UK in the early 20th century.
Falconer, J. et al, Myanmar Style: Art, Architecture and Design of Burma, Thames & Hudson, 1998.
Karow, O., Burmese Buddhist Sculpture: The Johan Moger Collection, White Lotus, 1991.
Somkiart Lopetcharat, Myanmar Buddha: The Image and its History, Siam International Books Company, 2007.