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Hanging

  • Place of origin:

    Burma (made)

  • Date:

    late 19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Velvet with appliqué in cotton, and silver wire embroidery, sequins

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Miss L. M. Eyre

  • Museum number:

    IS.364-1961

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This fine small Burmese pictorial textile hanging known as a kalaga is made of black velvet with an appliqué design of the zodiac sign Danu (the archer) in the centre surrounded by foliate and figurative borders. The dimensions of this example suggest that it was intended to be used as a table cover.

It is said by the donor to have been made during the reign of King Thibaw (1878-1885). Peacocks (the national emblem of the Burmese Kings) do suggest a royal connection and the artist who created the preliminary drawings and decorations may well have been a court painter as the work is so refined and elegant. However, designs and materials which had been reserved for royalty, and the artists of the palace workshops, became available to everyone after the final annexation of Burma by the British in 1885, and artists were in need of a wider clientele after the exile of the royal family. Kalagas, of all sizes and types became increasingly popular from the mid 19th century among both Europeans and Burmese.

Physical description

Small hanging or kalaga of black velvet with an applique design of the zodiac sign Danu (the archer) amidst foliate and figurative borders. Created with coloured cloth, silver threads and sequins.

The designs are on a black ground. The central medallion depicts the zodiac sign for Danu, the Archer (Sagittarius) set against a plain ground. Double square borders surround this central design. The inner border is decorated with four-fan tailed peacocks at each corner and four oval medallions from which flow delicate meandering foliate designs. The outer border is decorated with a chain of green and pink lotus flowers from which emanate silver tendrils of leafy design. Amidst the swirling motifs are figures representing a scene from an unidentified play or Jataka story popular at the time the kalaga was made. The characters which are repeated along each side show a nat-thar (angel, the depiction of which has clearly been influenced by a European model), a man with his lower garment tucked around his loins, a nat-gadaw (spirit medium) identifiable by her distinctive headdress (unusually for a lady, she is shown wearing a male pahso lower garment and this indicates that she is about to be possessed by a male spirit), and finally, a male nat (spirit) in full regalia. The figures are dressed in the costumes of the Mandalay Court ca. 1870-1885.

Place of Origin

Burma (made)

Date

late 19th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Velvet with appliqué in cotton, and silver wire embroidery, sequins

Dimensions

Length: 91.5 cm, Width: 89 cm, Length: 36 in, Width: 35 in

Object history note

Said by the donor to have been made during the reign of King Thibaw (1878-1885) - but probably later, see photocopies from F. Beato catalogue c. 1900.

See IS 134-1964 Large Kalaga bequeathed by Miss Eyre. See Donor File E. Probably same Lucy Margaret Eyre who donated Burmese material to the Pitt Rivers, Oxford.

This kalaga is said by the donor to have been made during the reign of King Thibaw (1878-1885). The artist who created these drawings and decorations may well have been a court painter as the work is so refined and elegant and if not working for the court may have been commissioned after Burma's annexation by the British in 1885 by such late 19th century entrepreneurs as F. Beato who sold primarily to the European market. (Opinion of Noel F. Singer, June 2002)

Descriptive line

Hanging or kalaga of velvet, Burma, late 19th century.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

F. Beato Catalogue c. 1900; Nos. 50 and 51

Materials

Velvet; Cotton; Silver thread; Silver sequins

Techniques

Weaving; Applique; Embroidery; Metal-working

Subjects depicted

Astrology; Peacock; Sagittarius

Categories

Textiles; Wall coverings; Embroidery

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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