Unknown artist, Burmese, Myanmar; Burma
Manuscript chest, ca. 1800-1885
Gilded and lacquered wood with colored glass and mirror insets
62.2 x 96.5 x 61 cm (24 1/2 x 38 x 24 inches)
Gift of Doris Duke’s Southeast Asian Art Collection 2004.12.4
This manuscript chest was intended for the storage of palm-leaf manuscripts in a Buddhist monastery. Chests of this type were usually constructed with footed bases to discourage dampness and insects, but this example has lost its base. The back is finished only in red lacquer, indicating that it was originally placed against a wall. The battle scene on the upper surface remains unidentified, but overall the sculpted relief on the top and sides is finely executed. In the Burmese technique, relief decoration was modeled in lacquer paste made from sap mixed with cow-dung ash or finely pounded cow bone. Mirror insets and pieces of colored glass backed with foil were then integrated into the design, and the surface was lacquered and finished with gold leaf.