These are among the finest early 20th century Pegu bronzes we have seen. Each comprises a finely cast figure of a mother, in traditional Burmese dress and hairstyle, and her baby. Each is attached to its original wooden stand. Each mother clearly takes much joy in her child; the universality of such joy as expressed in each bronze is a delight.
One has the words ‘MG. HPO. HLA PEGU’ stamped to its base plate. This is the mark for Maung Hpo Hla, arguably the finest bronze caster working in Pegu in the 1920s and 30s. Given the matching themes and quality of the other two, it seems likely that all three are by Hla or at least were produced in his workshop.
Figurines such as these were bought by British administrators and their families in Burma as souvenirs and gifts for friends on their return home. As Fraser Lu (1994, p. 143) says, some examples barely rise above tourist kitsch but others, such as the three shown here, with their sense of proportion, realism and attention to detail are minor masterpieces of bronze casting. They are testament to the ingenuity and flexibility of Burma’s master craftsmen during the colonial era who were able to produce high quality items for local as well as expatriate consumption.
The three are in excellent condition.
Fraser-Lu, S., Burmese Crafts: Past and Present, Oxford University Press, 1994.