AGE: – Early 19th Century possibly older
CONSTRUCTION: – Thayo Lacquer, glass mosaics
CONDITION: – 19th Century Shan Hollow Lacquer Royal King Buddha Statue
HEIGHT: – 76cm
WIDTH: – 41cm
WEIGHT: – 2.2 Kg.
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This early 19th Century Shan Hollow Lacquer Royal King Buddha Statue in this style is becoming harder to find. Many of these older hollow lacquer statues are damaged around the base and the thayo lacquer brittle, as it is in this statue.
We have strengthened the existing cracks (see photos), much of the gilding has been worn away and there are repairs to the tips of the flanges on either side of the head. Green and red glass mosaics decorate the flanges, crown, robe edges. Red glass beads and glass mosaics represent the jewellery around the neck, arms and wrists that are worn by a king.
The crafting of these Hollow Lacquer Buddha statues using the centuries old methods is a dying art in Burma. The “Dry lacquer technique” referred to as man-hpaya was popular in Burma up until the 1920’s. Although hollow lacquer statues are still being made today, they are not being produced in large numbers, and are made using modern methods, often using old glass for inlay decoration as in the case of this more recent hollow lacquer Buddha Statue.
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The hollow Lacquer technique was sometimes constructed with bamboo or wood used as a framework, over which a clay model was fashioned, this acted as a core for which the statue was built over with many layers of cloth from the robe of a monk soaked in a lacquer derived from the sap of the Melanorrhoea usitata tree, a tree native to South-east Asia and mainly found in Thailand and Burma.
The making of these hollow lacquer sculptures was a labour intensive process which took up to three months to complete as each layer had to be completely dry before applying the next layer.
After the final layer of lacquer hardened the cloth layer is cut open, the core is removed and the cloth shell is rejoined by applying another cloth layer alternating with layers of lacquer paste made from lacquer mixed with ash, rice husks, powdered bone, cow dung or sawdust in various combinations, the lacquer is applied until the desired thickness is achieved.
Molded decoration made from thayo lacquer paste is applied and the object is then given a final coat of lacquer which is usually mixed with vermilion or other pigments producing a red or reddish undercoat which has to remain tacky in order for the gilding to stick. The finished product is surprisingly strong and hardy as pieces such as these can testify.
This article written by the renowned Mary Shepherd Slusser discusses the dry-lacquer technique in lengthy detail.