Asian Antiques by Silk Road

Incised Lacquer 19th C Burmese Box


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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Southeast Asian: Lacquer: Pre 1900: Item # 898500

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A late 19th century lacquer betel box from Burma is incised in an intricate pattern called “yok-thei,” with tiny dancers swirling through vegetal scrolling. The small design, primarily red and green, is punctuated with black and green circles that look like launching pads for the flying stylized dancers. (For a betel box with a similar yok-thei pattern, see color plate # 41 in “Burmese Crafts Past and Present,” by Sylvia Fraser-Lu, Oxford University Press, 1994.) This is one of the more inventive and rare designs done with the Burmese lacquer incising technique called “yun” found on betel boxes and other lacquerware items. The cylindrical betel “kun-it” boxes such as this one were used to store betel leaves, areca nut, spices and other ingredients needed for a quid, or chew, of betel. Contents were kept fresh with the deep hatbox-style lid fitted snugly over the high-sided container. Chewing betel, a mild stimulant also said to keep breath fresh, was once a common practice throughout Southeast Asia. In old Burma, the betel box was an important item of hospitality to be offered to guests so they could select their preferred ingredients. This piece is fitted with a lacquer tray that is also covered with yun designs. The lid, container and tray have expected wear and hairline cracking; otherwise the three parts are in good condition. Dimensions: height 8 ½” (21.7 cm), diameter 9” (23 cm). SEE MORE ITEMS IN OUR COLLECTION AT WWW.SILKROAD1.COM