- Museum number
Circular clothes box, 'bi it'. This large clothes box has one internal tray and is made almost entirely of pieces of matting of split bamboo which have been cut to make the parts of the
box and have then been formed into shape using lacquer as an adhesive. The exceptions are the base of the vessel and the point at the lid where there is a break in the outline; these sections are made of coiled split bamboo. The box is decorated both on the outside of the lid and on the outer face of the inner drum with the Chinese 'cloud collar' design in the 'yun' technique, in black and yellow on red. The 'cloud collar' design on the outer face of the drum (i.e. that part which is hidden by the lid) is much brighter than the design on the outer face of the lid, having been protected from the dulling effects of both light and dust. This is a common feature of both 'bi it' and 'kun it'. At the base of the box there is a crudely rolled out section of moulded lacquer putty decoration, 'put lon'. The main field of the underside of the box is decorated in 'yun' with concentric compass-drawn lines in yellow. At the centre is a figure, perhaps set within a group of stylized trees; the details are not now clear.
- Production date
Diameter: 58 centimetres (Box)
Diameter: 52.50 centimetres (Tray)
Height: 33.50 centimetres (Box)
Height: 11 centimetres (Tray)
Weight: 1.80 kilograms (Box)
Weight: 815 grammes (Tray)
- Curator's comments
Isaacs ans Blurton 2000:
Although it is crude in comparison with other examples, the size and bravura of the elements provide a very striking composition. Further, it shares with more refined examples the idea of
filling the clouds with cross-hatching. A similar cloud-collar pattern is depicted in a Burmese painted manuscript of the Life of the Buddha, now in the British Library (Or. 14297, fold 10; see Herbert 1993: 28). The same colours - yellow on red - are used, but for a textile. The manuscript was acquired by Henry Burney during his period as British Resident at the court of Ava between 1830 and 1837, so the pattern was certainly in the repertoire of Burmese artists by that date. In her description of this imposing 'bi it', Sylvia Fraser-Lu says of the Chinese 'cloud collar' design: "This type of decoration has been seen on Burmese 'lon-gyi' in seventeenth and eighteenth century frescoes"; she also describes the vessel as being of Shan manufacture. Boxes such as these are recorded as being used not only in the home for storing clothing, but also for holding the more elaborate costume and cosmetics of travelling players.
Given the trade between Chiang Mai and Kengtung in lacquer ware it is possible that this is in fact from the Shan states. From comments made by Susan Conway on 6th May 2008.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2000 Apr - 2000 Aug, BM, 'Visions from the Golden Land: Burma and the Art of Lacquer.'
- Acquisition date
- Registration number