This fine, interesting textile panel shows a large representation of the Buddha’s footprint done on a cotton ground with embroidery, couched metallic thread and sewn with small glass beads and metal sequins. The rendering is similar to kalaga work, although kalaga embroidery and couching more typically is on a velvet ground.
The footprint is decorated with 108 auspicious panels, each in its own field. Umbrellas, elephants, kinnara and kinnari, peacocks, and water lilies are among the auspicious symbols.
It is bordered by a pair of impressive serpents or nagas whose bodies wrap around the foot. Their heads rise above the top of the footprint and are separated by a delicately-rendered lotus bloom.
The rest of the panel comprises leafy and floral borders and corner decorations.
The panel almost certainly would have been intended as a wall hanging.
Often such panels were commissioned as Buddhistic acts of merit. Such ‘footprints’ became early symbols of the Buddha and came to be worshipped in their own right. According to Fraser-Lu (1994, p. 61), traditionally Burmese children were taught to say a prayer in honour of Buddha’s footprint before going to bed each night.
The example here is possibly based on an 11th century Buddha’s footprint carved into stone in Pagan’s Loka-nanda Pagoda (see Fraser-Lu, 1994, p. 62).
See Schafer et al (2014, p. 120) for a similar diagram painted on textile and attributed to 19th century Burma.
The textile is framed (not under glass). It is in fine condition, with some minor age-related fading, but no losses and no repairs.
The final image shows a gilded, cast metal version of the Buddha’s footprint currently in the Prasart Museum in Bangkok.
Fraser-Lu, S., Burmese Crafts: Past and Present, Oxford University Press, 1994.
Schafer, D., et al., Myanmar: von Pagoden, Longyis und Nat-Geistern, Museum Funf Kontinente, 2014.