Description: Southeast Asia, Burma (Myanmar), ca. 15th century CE. A decorative panel, probably from an architectural feature, depicting a pair of high relief female figures. Each wears a sampot, a long rectangular cloth worn around the lower body that is the 1500 year-old traditional dress of Cambodia; here it is rendered to give the appearance of drapes, folds, and decorations. Each also wears a large necklace that attaches to armlets, earrings, and a headdress topped with a conical form - perhaps their hair is in the style known as bokor, the "hump of the bull", seen on women in much ancient southeast Asian artwork. One woman holds the other's arm, while the other holds what appears to be either the sash of the sampot or a serpent that wraps around their bodies. Size: 4.7" L x 16.5" W x 20.65" H (11.9 cm x 41.9 cm x 52.5 cm)
These women may be nats, human-formed spirits who embody trees, water, and other natural places. Nats continue to be worshiped in Burma to this day, with pilgrimage sites, temples, relic sites, and festivals. The Nats have human characteristics, wants and needs, often portrayed as flawed and having desires that are taboo or immoral in mainstream Buddhism. Artwork that venerates them hints at those characteristics and often shows a greater range of emotion than statues from the same time period depicting the Buddha.
Provenance: ex private San Diego, California, USA collection
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Condition Report: Repaired from three large pieces, with losses along the break lines and small losses elsewhere. One figure has lost the tip of its nose.
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