The Bodhisattva Collection

A Large and Classic 19th Century Burmese Hsun-ok (#2)

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Southeast Asian: Lacquer: Pre 1900: Item # 1033398
The Bodhisattva Collection
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New Windsor
New York

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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. The negoro effect here is not as pronounced on this piece as it is on our other recently posted hsun-ok (see item # 1033391), but it can be observed in the areas of heaviest wear. In addition, this example has an attractive area at the base of the spire decorated with thayo in green and gold, which provides nice textural and color variation to the cinnabar body.

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 rectangular balusters (see photo 9) that completely encircle the piece and form part of this base tier: Each of these is separately hand-carved. While more difficult to observe from the outside as they have been heavily lacquered over, obscuring their appearance, and while not as elaborately executed as in item # 1033391 as the balusters here are simple rectangles, one advantage here is that you can better appreciate the true age of the piece from this interior view, where the interior wood has not been protected by lacquer.

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.

Size and Condition: 29 1/4 inches tall, 14 inches diameter at widest point. Some general dings and nicks commensurate with age and use, and a chip in the spire as seen in the last photo, but overall fine condition.