Southeast Asia, Burma, Konbaung Dynasty, ca. 19th century CE. A striking ensemble of four rectangular Kammavaca panels, two of wood and two of lacquer with a textile interior, adorned with a lustrous gilding and painted with rich hues of crimson and black. The two wooden panels, which function as the covers, feature beveled borders of gold surrounding several registers of intricately painted animals and dancing humans or divinities. Each of their versos is adorned in vibrant red paint with a central golden embellishment of two horizontal lines of Pali script in the magyi-zi (tamarind seed) style of writing. Alternatively, the other two lacquer and cloth panels are similar on both sides. The front and back of each lacquer panel are both painted red with six lines of black Pali script in magyi-zi style enveloped in a gorgeous spiraling pattern of arabesque motif. Size of largest: 23.25" W x 5.625" H (59.1 cm x 14.3 cm)
By far the most ornate of Burmese paper and palm leaf manuscripts, the Kammavaca is a monastic ceremony or higher ordination text. A volume of the Kammavaca, such as this example, consists of one, seven, or all nine of the khandakas, which are excerpts from the Pali Vinaya-pitaka, the monastic code of discipline used by Theravada Buddhists. These manuscripts are traditionally commissioned by a Burmese family and presented to the presiding monk upon their son's obligatory entrance to monkhood through a ceremony known as the upasampada.
Similar examples can be found at the British Museum in London under museum number 2004,0628.18, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art under object number 2017.31.3.1-18, Yale University Art Gallery under 2007.145.15, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art under M.2017.121.1.
Provenance: private Los Angeles, California, USA collection, 1980s to 2000s
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Three chips to peripheries of thinner pieces. Some lightly abraded areas on surface of thicker wood pieces. Char mark to one thick wood panel. Otherwise, very nice with liberal remains of gilding.