Asian Decor: Buddha Statues, Burmese Antiques & Textiles

December 4th, 2013

We recently acquired some wonderful Asian antiques now listed in the gallery including Buddha statues, lacquerware, bronze bells, ceramics and textiles, mostly from Burma. Sometimes it’s difficult to fully appreciate pieces offered in the gallery without the opportunity of seeing them in a home setting so we are displaying them here to provide a sense of context.

Asian Home Decor with Antique Buddha Statue, Monk & Lacquerware

Displayed here are an antique wood carving statue of the Buddha and a monk as well as an antique lacquerware vessel know in Burma as kun-it. Burmese artisans are well known for their expertise in wood carving. The tradition of lacquerware is centuries old in Burma and a great variety of vessels exist. They can be made from bamboo, rattan, or  jackfruit wood which are then applied with several layers of natural and pigmented lacquer which is then decorated with an iron stylus using various motifs.

Asian Home Decor: Buddha Statue, Bronze Bell, Lacquerware Box

This entry incorporates both European and Asian influences without a conflict in aesthetics. With a little experimentation, Asian and European decor can complement and contrast one another beautifully.

Asian Decor: Dining Room Decorated with Burmese & Thai Antiques

This exotic dining room incorporates a cane dining setting decorated with a silk runner and 15thC Swanakhalok shipwreck jar. In the background are a decorated Burmese lacquered panel and sideboard upon which sits an antique bronze elephant bell, antique Burmese ox cart ornament and antique monk wood carving. And most precious of all, Lilly the voluptuous cat getting her beauty sleep.

Buddhist Art from Burma

Mirrors bring light and depth into rooms, reflecting colour and art work , and creating shifting visual effects. Featured in this photo is a rare Shan Buddha statue carved from wood, lacquered and then gilded. Beside the Buddha are a monk and lacquer-ware box. On the wall hangs a painting by a Laotian artist and reflected in the mirror is an antique Lisu hill tribe silver necklace.

Oriental Interior Design

This photo shows a wider view of the dining room with the addition of a pink orchid. Orchids are surely one of the most exquisite members of the botanical world and lend themselves to creating a relaxing Eastern ambiance.

Asian Decor: Living Room Decorated with Asian Antiques and Etching by Thai Artist

This living room features a collection of Burmese antiques and an etching by Thai artist, Vorakorn Metmanorom. The timber, furnishings and lighting used help create a warm atmosphere.

Asian Interiors

Another shot of the dining room with the concertina doors opened. Decorative pieces include a Burmese Chin runner, Burmese lacquer-ware, Buddha statue with attendant monks and Chinese overhanging gilded frame.

The decor items featured in these photos are available at the time of posting and represent just a small selection of the Asian antiques, art, silk and tribal textiles, as well as collectibles available in the gallery.

 

Antiques, Artifacts & Tribal Textiles from Burma

May 2nd, 2013

The diversity and beauty of Burmese arts, crafts and architecture was immediately apparent to early visitors of this ethnically rich region, and today, as the doors of tourism open wider, more people are discovering the wonderful artistic traditions of Burma which began over 2,000 years ago.

Shwedagon Pagoda by Night in Yangon, Burma

Distinctive works of art to be found in Burma include remarkable feats of architecture (notably the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda and the temples of Bagan), bronze work, wood carving, lacquerware, jewellery, ceramics, and textiles. These artistic traditions are largely the legacy of two great influences. Firstly, there are 135 officially recognized ethnic groups in Burma, divided into eight main groups, each with their own unique culture, customs and artistic traditions. Secondly, over the centuries, animism and Buddhism have provided a major source of inspiration for artisans. Evidence of this is apparent at every turn in Burma, from pagodas, images of the Buddha in wood and bronze to Nat spirit sculptures believed to act as guardians and which fulfill an important role in the ‘supernatural’ aspect of life for the peoples of Burma.

Pagodas of Bagan in Rainy Season

Temple at Inle Lake

Burmese art forms are often highly imaginative and robust, with an emphasis on surface decoration. Unlike the perception of art in the west, the Burmese make no distinctions between so called ‘fine arts’ such as painting and sculpture and ‘applied arts’ such as the making of lacquerware, bronze bells and wood carvings. Objects of beauty were made for the purpose of furnishing Buddhist temples, royal courts as well as providing common people with well crafted, attractive objects for everyday use. Objet d’art includes highly decorated lacquered bamboo containers used for storing food, bronze zoomorphic weights once used in the market place, bronze bells worn by livestock, and even skillfully carved images made to adorn the facade of simple ox carts. The use of gold and precious stones was generally reserved for works of art found in temples and the royal court.

Featured below and now available in the gallery are some of the artifacts from Burma referred to above. We’ve also included a few photos of these artifacts in a home décor setting and additional Asian home décor photographs can be viewed in the Photo Gallery.

Burmese Antiques: Shan Pipe, Opium Weight, Buffalo Bell

Burmese Antiques: Naga Sculpture, Lacquerware Box, Spirit Wood Carving

Burmese Antiques: Collection of Burmese antiques from the gallery.

 

Asian Home Decor: Hsun-Ok Lacquerware, pre-16thC Sukothai Cermic Bowl

 

Antique Bronze Bell, Antique Buddha Robe Fragment, Antique Naga Carving

 

Naga Tribal Sofa Throw, Bronze Buddha, Naga, Silk Runner, Sukhothai Pottery

We recently supplied a selection of tribal textiles from the Naga living in north-west Burma for an upcoming exhibition at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City and have since added several excellent new examples of Naga weaving resplendent with ancient tribal motifs to our Naga Collection.

Asian Antiques

January 29th, 2012

Asian Antiques

We recently added a few interesting Asian antiques to the gallery after a brief trip to Burma that I would like to feature in this blog including an early 20thC lacquer ware container, an antique Burmese sculpture in the form of a Royal Court dancer and three rare opium weights, one dating back to the 1500s. I’ve written about several of the artistic traditions of Burma including opium weights and bronze bells but thought I would provide some background on what is one of the most important crafts in Burma, that of lacquer ware.

Burmese Lacquerware

The lacquer containers featured below echo a tradition that dates back some 3,000 years. Though it appears that the Burmese originally learned the craft from neighbouring states, Burma (or Myanmar) quickly became the exemplar of this important craft. One of the oldest existing examples of a lacquer object has been dated to 1284AD and was exhibited in Rangoon in 1918. It is said that the art of lacquer making did not reach its zenith until the Kon-baung Dynasty (1752-1885) when a wide variety of lacquer vessels were in production in the city of Bagan, also spelled Pagan. To this day the best specimens of lacquer ware are said to come from Bagan.

Lacquer ware is known as yun in Burma and the process is remarkably demanding both in terms of the skill and the investment of time required to complete a single piece. Lacquerware begins with the construction of the basic object either in bamboo or soft wood; often jackfruit wood.  Once the base is made the object is sealed with a layer of paste made from sawdust mixed with lacquer and left in an underground brick cellar to dry and harden for up to 10 days. The object is then polished on a primitive lathe using the dried leaf of the dahat tree, which has an emery-paper like surface. A second layer of sifted sawdust and lacquer is then applied and the object is returned to the cellar. This process is repeated several times with progressively finer coats of lacquer and sawdust, eventually  replaced with ash to be mixed with the lacquer until a final coat of the highest quality lacquer is applied offering a deep black lustrous surface.

Lacquer,  called thit-si in Burma is a sap from the Melanorrhoea Usitata, a tree that grows wild in Burma, mostly in the Shan States. Naturally black, other colours are achieved using additional pigments such as cinnabar (red) from China, orpiment (yellow) from the Shan states and green by combining the two. Blue comes from Indigo, usually obtained from India. The art of achieving just the right colour, particularly red/orange is a closely guarded secret by those with expert knowledge on the subject and it is said that the secret of the composition is passed down only from father to his most trusted son.

The surface embellishment of lacquer ware turns an everyday object into an artwork and the method used by the Burmese became renowned. The surface of the lacquer is engraved using a sharp iron stylus and the incisions filled with coloured pigment (first red/orange) to begin a design of which there are many.

The object is again left to dry in the cellar and any excess material is removed using paddy husks and water. The engraving is then sealed with resin and the second colour, usually green is added and so on. A complex piece will often have 3-4 colours as seen here and requires a great deal of time to complete, especially when traditional motifs cover the entire object.

Lacquerware takes an incredible variety of forms from simple everyday objects of utility to artworks of religious significance and provides a deep insight into Burmese social life and culture. One of the most ubiquitous items is known as kun-it, a cylindrical box consisting of several shallow trays for holding the ingredients to make a quid of betel to be chewed, which provides a mildly intoxicating effect. Two lovely examples of kun-it offered in the gallery are featured above.

A less common form of lacquer ware is the pyi-daung, a large vessel without trays that is used for carrying rice to the Buddhist temple where monks reside in their quest for enlightenment. This vessel would have taken several months to complete and features decoration referred to as let-taik-let-kya, which typically includes buildings alternating with human and animal figures, in this case dancers and forest dwelling deer.

The tradition of lacquerware making continues in Burma today and Bagan remains the most important centre for this craft. While quality pieces continue to be produced in Burma, there is a certain charisma that emanates from antique lacquerware that harks back to a different time and bears the marks of use in the context of Burmese society. We hope to add further antique lacquerware pieces to the gallery over the coming months of the year.

Hsun-ok & other Antique Lacquer ware Vessels

Antique Opium Weights from Burma

We would also like to the feature three fine opium weights still available from a handful that we recently returned with from Burma. There are noticeably fewer genuine opium weights being offered on each subsequent trip to Burma, especially the rarer styles. The oldest is a 10 tical beast weight also known as to-naya and is dated mid-late 16thC. It is in very good condition. I personally find this styling very charming. The second is another style of weight that is becoming exceedingly difficult to locate and is referred to as a ‘Mon Duck’ or ‘Sleeping Duck’ and is dated early 18thC. The third weight in the series is often referred to as a ‘Golden Hamsa’ and is dated late 17thC by Hartmut Mollat in his essay, ‘A Model Chronology of the Animal Weights of Burma’.

 

Antique Burmese Woodcarving – Royal Court Dancer

This sculpture of a dancer from Burma was a lovely find and exudes a jubilant mood. In Burma, sculptors using teak wood command a great deal of respect as artisans and this is a fine example of their work. It has been spared any damage – the fingers which are vulnerable have often been broken at the tips with older pieces. There are expected cracks in the paint in places but otherwise the image is in excellent condition and without repairs. It stands 23 inches tall and lends a joyous ambiance to a room.

Asian Antiques from Burma and Thailand

February 23rd, 2011

It’s no secret that authentic Asian antiques are becoming increasingly difficult to locate. Older antique dealers in Thailand often reminisce about times long gone by when you could buy Burmese opium weights in kilo bags for a song and old Burmese lacquerware was stacked up to the ceiling in their shops. The popularity of Asian antiques in America and Europe over the past few decades has led to a steady decline in supply in the region. Rare styles of opium weights, antique bronze bells, larger antique bronze sculptures and artefacts in general are all requiring a little more time and effort to track down. That being said, we recently returned from a trip during which we acquired several impressive new items from Burma and Thailand that we would like to feature.

Antique Burmese Lacquerware

Featured here are two large Burmese lacquerware vessels known as pyi-daung that were once used to carry offerings of rice to Buddhist temples and in the middle, a rare antique gold gilded Buddhist manuscript known as kammavaca that was presented to the Buddhist temple when a young monk ordained. View our Lacquerware Collection

Burmese Opium Weights

Here are three rare forms of Burmese ‘opium weights’ dating back to the 1600s. These bronze zoomorphic figurines were used to weigh a variety of materials including precious metals, spices and medicines. They have become popular collectibles and represent a bygone era in Burmese history with production ceasing during the 1800s while under British rule. View our Opium Weight Collection

Antique Bronze Bells

Three antique bells from the 19th century- the spherical bell is an elephant bell while the other two are pastoral bells, once used to help locate grazing livestock. Like virtually all Burmese utilitarian objects, they were created with mindfulness towards aesthetics. View our Bronze Bell Collection

Antique Bronze Buddha Statues

The three Buddha statues seen here are from Thailand and all are seated in the ‘earth witnessing posture’ representing the moment of the Buddha’s enlightenment when he touched the ground to bear witness to his awakening to Absolute Reality. The first two statues are in the Chiang Saen style of northern Siam while the third is in the Sukhothai style, characterized by the flame-like halo. View our Buddhist Art Collection

 

Antique Thai Ceramics

The antique ceramic pieces here are from Thailand – the blue glaze pieces are in La Na style (former northern kingdom) while the celadon plate is from 16th century Sukhothai, which was a major hub of ceramic production at the time. View our Unique Objects Collection

 

Antique Buddhist Manuscript Box

 

Antique Elephant Bell, Burmese Kinnara, Monk Wood Carving

 

Antique Buddhist Gilded Wood Carving

Please click on the photos to be redirected to the listing with further details. The items featured in this blog represent just a few of the antiques from Burma and Thailand listed in our gallery so   browse our collections and if there is anything of particular interest to you please email us at info@sabaidesignsgallery.com