The Bodhisattva Collection

A Fine Burmese Hsun-ok, Late 19th-Early 20th Cent

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Southeast Asian: Lacquer: Pre 1920: Item # 959584
The Bodhisattva Collection
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New Windsor
New York

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From our Southeast Asia Collection, a very fine gilded Burmese hsun-ok or offering vessel, late 19th to early 20th century. Gilded offering vessels such as this present example would have been owned by wealthy Burmese families, and used exclusively for bringing food gifts to the monastery. They are constructed of bamboo and turned wood bodies, and decorated with scrolling floral designs called "chupan." Crafting the chupan design is actually a deceptively meticulous and laborious process, one that involves cutting many thin strips of thayo (a concoction of lacquer mixed with sawdust and other binders) and then hand-applying these little thayo strips one by one to achieve the desired design. When finished, the vessel is then re-lacquered and covered entirely in gold leaf.

Unlike the more commonly encountered, long-spired, red-lacquer offering vessels from Pagan, this shape is distinctively Shan State in origin, characterized by its compressed flat-top body, and much shorter spire. A nearly identical example graces the cover of "Visions from the Golden Land" by Isaacs and Burton, and is featured on pages 146-147 of their book.

Size and Condition: 17 inches tall, 10 1/2 inches wide. Overall fine condition, but there is some expected rubbing to the gilt and some nicks here and there commensurate with age and use. There are two areas where minor splits are developing in the wood, but these remain stable at present and do not warrant repair. It appears that the interior compartment and tray have been re-lacquered at some point in this piece's history, which is not uncommon given that these objects were actually put to great use despite the ceremonial nature of their appearance and their appeal to Westerners as art objects. An added bonus here is that the interior tray still remains: Many times these are separated from the piece at some point and lost to history.