Asian Antiques by Silk Road

Buddhist Monastery Architectural Carved Wood Panels

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Directory: Archives: Regional Art: Pre 1920: Item # 777103

Please refer to our stock # 64-29 when inquiring.
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Two triangular teakwood panels that formed an altar rail in a Buddhist monastery in Burma are carved with kinnara and kinnari, important mythical figures in the iconography of many countries in Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. This early 20th century carving bordered a raised sacred area in the monastery and was likely just one of several other pairs surrounding such spaces. (See a photo of a similar altar rail in "Burmese Crafts Past and Present" by Sylvia Fraser-Lu, Oxford University Press, 1994, p 91.) The figures in this piece are Arakan in style, with the elaborate crowns and long, hanging ear decorations found on Burmese Arakan Buddha images. The female kinnari and the male kinnara have human faces and torsos attached to the legs and wings of a large bird. The male wears a "salwe," a chest decoration of royalty often found on Arakan figures. The long feathered bird tail and wings of the pair form the outside edges of the triangles. Although the torsos face front, the big bird legs and feet are turned to the side. Kinnari and kinnara are among the eight classes of various fantastic mythical creatures, including garuda, naga, demons and deva, who were believed to have roamed the Himalayas and to have listened to Buddha's teaching. In Arakan in Western Burma, kinnara and kinnari forms were uncovered among sandstone relics from as early as 400 AD. These triangular carvings are gilded overall, unlike a similar pair we sold that were colored green and possibly came from the same monastery. Like the other pair, this one shows a slight difference in color tone between the left and right side, probably because one side of the altar faced outside and hence weathered a bit more. These two pieces are dramatic when displayed as wall art, either as one large piece or with a separation between the two triangles. Both pieces are in good and solid condition, with the kinnari piece showing more fading. Dimensions of the pieces together: height 24" (61 cm), width 47" (120 cm), depth 1-1/2" (4 cm).