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Rare Mon-Style Silver-Leaf Kammavaca on Brass Sheet
Mon People, Lower Burma
length: 46.3cm, width: 8.7cm - 7 leaves & 2 covers
This early and rare kammavaca (or kammawa-sa) manuscript set comprises two wooden covers decorated with red lacquer and silver leaf, and seven thin
brass 'pages' covered in silver leaf. Each page has been inscribed with an extract from one of the nine khandakas, a section of the Pali Vinaya Pitaka which
sets out the rules of conduct for Burmese Buddhist monks and novices.
The set is not from the Burmans or Shan of Burma, but from the Mons of Lower Burma, who preferred to decorate their kammavaca sets with silver leaf rather
than gold leaf.
Leaves or pages cut from metal sheet are unusual. According to Singer (1993), the panels, cut to the desired lengths, were sold by metal merchants in the
Zaygyodaw Bazaar in Mandalay.
The vast majority of kammavaca leaves are cut from fabric which were then lacquered and cut into shape. Kammavaca leaves can also be made from
lacquered textile, palm leaf, ivory and copper sheets.
Each leaf is decorated on both sides with six lines of rounded Burmese script in black.
The pages are read horizontally and are turned away from the reader as it is finished and the next one is commenced.
A small hole in the covers and in each page allowed for a bamboo pin to be driven through the set to hold it together when not in use.
Kammavaca manuscripts often were presented to novice monks on their joining a monastery, or to mark the ordination of a monk. They were also
commissioned and presented to monasteries to mark life cycle events such as an important birthday, graduation, marriage or birth.
The set shows plenty of wear. There is significant tarnishing to the silver leaf around the edges of each page. The corners of many pages are crinkled
slightly. It is also possible that it is incomplete. The covers also have wear. However, such wear is to be expected given the material from which the set is
made, and its age. The set's rarity makes it a desirable addition to a collection.
Fraser-Lu, S., Burmese Lacquerware, White Orchid Books, 2000.
Isaacs, R., & T.R. Blurton, Burma and the Art of Lacquer, River Books, 2000.
Lowry, J., Burmese Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1974.
Singer, N., 'Kammavaca texts: their covers and binding ribbons', in Arts of Asia, May-June 1993.
Provenance: UK art market
Inventory no.: 3397 SOLD
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