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Gilded Lacquered Round Platter or Tray

early 20th century

diameter: 46cm



from the estate of Arthur Morris, and thence by descent. Morris (1880-1944) trained as an engineer and spent nineteen years working in Burma for the colonial administration in the Public Works Department. During this time, he developed a strong interest in Burmese arts and crafts, particularly in Burmese lacquer. He was appointed Provincial Art Officer in 1914 for which he organised an annual arts and crafts exhibition of 'native' craftsmen in Rangoon. He was also a member of the Board of Studies in Fine Arts at Rangoon University, and was chairman of the sub-committee which was formed in Rangoon to collect material for the Arts and Crafts Section of the Burma Pavilion at the British Empire Exhibition that was held in Wembley, London, in 1924.

This large platter is decorated in gold leaf and black lacquer, a technique known as shwei-zawa, over what is likely to be a woven bamboo substrate. This style of lacquer work was done in Prome, near Rangoon.

The platter is round with a raised rim with a grooved edge. The edge and rim are decorated with flower motifs.

The base of the platter is decorated with a complex scene based on the Vessantara Jataka, and shows fourteen male and female figures attired in traditional Burmese dress and variously sitting, hiding and otherwise frolicking amongst rich tropical foliage. Gods who have taken the form of a striped tiger and a hinthe also are shown.

The reverse of the platter is unadorned and coated in glossy black lacquer.

Than Htun (2103, p. 59) illustrates a similar platter ascribing it to ‘probably’ Saya Phar, a master lacquer worker who worked in the early 1900s. The author comments that, such items ‘are almost impossible to find now. Not many survived the attrition of age.’

The condition here is very good given the material used. There is a small area of repair to the rim where the gold and lacquer has been rubbed. There is also very minor rubbing to the lacquer here and there. Few platters or trays in this style and of this size have survived in such good condition.


Fraser-Lu, S., ‘Sadaik: Burmese manuscript chests’, in Arts of Asia, May-June 1984.

Fraser-Lu, S., Burmese Lacquerware, White Orchid Books, 2000.

Isaacs, R., & T.R. Blurton, Burma and the Art of Lacquer, River Books, 2000.

‘Obituary: Arthur Percy Morris’, in Journal of the Junior Institution of Engineers, January, 1945

Than Htun (Dedaye), Lacquerware Journeys: The Untold Story of Burmese Lacquer, River Books, 2013.

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