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Mandalay Buddha statues

mandalay period buddha statues

Mandalay was considered the center of the Buddhist universe in Myanmar and thus Burmese Art prospered and developed in this era. The styles of Mandalay Buddha Images and Buddha statues were many since King Mandon. A devout Buddhist, had filled Mandalay with them and through the years Mandalay art became established as the pure art of Myanmar. The techniques used in image making were advanced for their time and iconography employed, very sophisticated. Thai designs of adorned Buddha statues were readily applied, especially the use of crossed breast chains (passing from both shoulders and with a bejeweled medallion) and the patterns used on the robe and on the head-dress around the edge of the crown. Carving patterns of many thai designs were employed, for example, the Pracham Yam pattern cvarved on the rhombus, the Krau Petch (Thai chest armour) pattern, the rattan and fish scale patterns carved on the robe and the Ayutthaya-Ban Phlu Luang style Plog Wong Waen rak Roi (ring shaped wristband with lotus petals) pattern carved on the head-dress. All these patterns were mixed with the Myanmar styles and resulted in a whole range of images each having their own distinctive features, such as:

  • No halo above the head. (Arakan style influenced)
  • Flat temples.
  • An Oval-shaped face with a thick rim.
  • Human-like facial features, except the ears which were elongated to the shoulders.
  • A slender body (Ramayana influenced)
  • An image seated in the crossed-legged position with a wide lap and the upper parts of the legs and knees touching the pedestal base.
  • Adorned images were decorated with a full range of ornamentation but the crown was optional. (This style cannot be found in any other school of art).
  • Most images were lacquered, painted with Chad (red colour), gilded and finally decorated with inlaid glass. The borders of the face and the robe were embossed with inlaid glass decorations.
  • Crowned images in royal attire wore a conical crown similar in shape to the crown of the Mahamuni Buddha Image.
  • Most adorned images wore a crossed breast-chain with a rhombus medal-lion at its center. (Carvings in floral and the Ayutthaya Pracham yam patterns were commonly found on these medallions).
  • The Buddha statues in the standing position would have the right hand showing a gesture. Many had the right hand pendant with the palm turned outwards similar to the Pang Prathan Phorn gesture (The Varada Mudra or gift bestowing gesture) or the Pang Perd Lok (open to the tjree worlds) gesture.
  • The statues of Buddha attendants or well-known monks from that period were also popular.
  • Mandalay art focusd on realism, especially in the monk’s robes which would be beautifully draped. The rule of Mahapurisa 32 (the thirty-two great men of the Buddha) was not a main concern and the face and feet of the image would not necessarily follow this rule. Reclining images were also as naturally portrayed as possible.
  • Gilt, crowned images in royal attire and decorated with red Chad (red colour) and inlaid glass were very popular.
  • Another important characteristic of the Mandalay Buddha image was the clear wide striped rim of the face.
  • Mandalay images, except adorned images, wore only a plain monk’s robe across the left shoulder. Adorned images, on the other hand, were dressed in a transparent robe over a flamboyantly ornamented, royal long-sleeved bodice.
  • The base of the image was low since the high throne or pedestal with its large niche and decorative archway (Sum Ruen Kaew) would be placed at the back of the image. The image would be seated on top of this high pedestal, as if at the center of a throne, to symbolize theLord Buddha as Chakravatin (The emperor who ruled over the universe).

Mandalay Buddha images were made from various kinds of materials. Some were cast in bronze and some were carved from marble, jade, papier mache or wood. Most adorned images were made from wood or bronze and some styles even used much different material in the one image. The Buddha head, hands and feet would be in marble, the torso would be of wood with a costume painted in black lacquer, decorated with gilt and inlaid with coloured glass. This would be adorned with separate, delicately ornamented pieces made of zinc plate. A very small number of papier mache (Pra Prong) images have been found which have been painted with black lacquer. Gilded and decorated with coloured inlaid glass. The faces of the images were beautified in various ways. Some were painted white, some were gilded and some simply showed the surface of the original materials from which the face was made.

Post Mandalay Buddha statues

The Post Mandalay period runs from the last days of the Myanmar dynasty to the time when Myanmar regained its independence from the British. During this period, Myanmar art or Burmese Art changed little from the Mandalay style although some branches of art show traces of a British influence, especially with regard to shapes and patterns. The Buddhist Art of this period were less sophisticated with their shape and the pattern of their coloured glass inlays lacking a degree delicacy. This Post Mandalay art, in fact, displays little sign of the soul of the artisan which, in previous periods, clearly announced a strong faith in Buddha and Buddhism.

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