This fine Burmese bowl (thabeik) is both published and from an important private collection. Its shape is less rounded than most extant bowls and has an applied ring foot which is unusual. The rim is also stepped. These aspects seems to point to an earlier dating compared with most known bowls which tend to have no foot and are more rounded in form.
It is repoussed with scenes and characters from Burmese folktales or similar, separated by flowers and scrollwork all in relatively high relief. Among the vignettes are an elephant fighting a cobra and a man in courtly dress astride a horse.
The bowl is surprisingly heavy for its size.
The base is decorated with concentric circles of petals and inscribed in Burmese script which translates as: ‘This is Ma Pwa’s bowl’.
Burmese ownership inscriptions on silver bowls that seem to be earlier are unusual because the bowls typically are thought to have been created initially for the colonial market, and so Burmese ownership inscriptions seem to be associated with later bowls. In some respects this bowl seems to suggest that indigenous interest in, or ownership of, such repoussed silver bowls might have existed earlier than previously assumed.
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 bowls (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 themselves generally are prohibited from touching gold or silver.
The bowl is in fine condition.
Illustrated: This actual bowl is illustrated in Wilkinson (1999, p. 46).
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.
Wilkinson, W.R.T., Indian Silver 1858-1947, 1999.