The Bodhisattva Collection

A Fine and Massive Vintage Burmese Kalaga, Framed


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Directory: Vintage Arts: Regional Art: Asian: Southeast Asian: Textiles: Pre 1980: Item # 1084043
The Bodhisattva Collection
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New Windsor
New York


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From our Southeast Asia Collection, a fine and massive vintage Burmese Kalaga, intricately and painstakingly constructed of literally thousands of small metallic disks, colored threads, beads, and fabric swatches, all woven and assembled into a massive tapestry illustrating scenes from the life of the Buddha. This piece is very similar in overall design, palette, size, and age as item 984258 and was acquired around the same time, except that this example has since been framed under plexiglass with a hardwood frame.

Burmese kalagas are often misidentified as being Thai in origin since they are routinely acquired across the border in Thailand where tourist travel is far more common than in Burma itself, but they are in fact Burmese. That said, much of what is available nowadays are the smaller, shoddily constructed pieces sold as tourist souvenirs which frankly, to our taste, are more kitsch than fine art. But these older, massive, elaborate constructions are indeed amazing works of art. Pieces of this size and intricacy would have taken many weeks to complete. To best appreciate the effort involved in creating something of this scale and detail, look at the closeups: Every single colored thread, every single metallic disk, every single bead, has to have its application mapped out in advance and be applied individually one by one. It’s an extraordinary and almost mind-boggling endeavor of devotion and meticulousness fast on its way to becoming a lost art.

Size and Condition: 110 inches wide (slightly over 9 feet), 60 inches high (5 feet). Some thread pulls, random bead and disk loss here and there, but overall excellent condition. Some nicks to the frame from handling, but all very minor.