The Bodhisattva Collection

A Large and Classic 19th Century Burmese Hsun-ok (#1)

A Large and Classic 19th Century Burmese Hsun-ok (#1)

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Southeast Asian: Lacquer: Pre 1900: Item # 1033391
The Bodhisattva Collection
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New Windsor
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From our Southeast Asia Collection, a large and classic 19th century Burmese Hsun-ok from Pagan, of well- known and documented form, constructed of wood that is first lacquered in black, and then covered in successive layers of cinnabar-colored lacquer called hinthabada. Over time, through use and handling, the cinnabar lacquer wears off to reveal the black lacquer base underneath as seen on this example, in an effect likened to the negoro effect seen in Japanese lacquerware.

These old, classic, and seemingly simply constructed offering vessels used for carrying food to the monastery, are actually far more labor intensive and complicated to make than one would think. In addition to the wood turning process involved and the time consuming lacquering process (which itself takes several weeks to complete for the successive layers of lacquer to be applied, dried, then reapplied), even areas of the vessel that would pass unnoticed to the uninitiated eye take unusual effort to construct. Specifically, drawing ones' attention to the lower portion of the pedestal base, there is a series of small wooden balusters (see photo 3) that completely encircle the piece and form part of this base tier: Each of these is separately hand-carved and turned....

These old hsun-oks are elegant examples of traditional Burmese woodworking and lacquer wares reflecting Burmese society's devotion to the monastic life, and these days they make for great decorating / accent pieces in the West. Examples like this are well-known and documented throughout the secondary literature. A very similar piece can be found in Visions From the Golden Land, plate # 4, page 73, as shown in our last photo.

Size and Condition: 29 inches tall, 14 1/2 inches diameter at widest point. There are two hairlines to the base that appear to have old mends, one hairline to the cover that is very difficult discern, and various dings and nicks commensurate with age and use. These all look bigger in our closeup photos than they are in actual view.