Burmese Teaching Panels

This set of teaching panels came from Mandalay in Northeast Burma. They were carved at the end of the nineteenth century and uniquely combine painting and sculpture. Colored from paints made from various natural dyes, minerals, and extracts, the hardwood panels were hand-carved in deep relief.

Although we do not know the exact subject matter of these particular panels, it is likely that the robed figure is a king, the children are his grandchildren, and the figure with a face of a monster is evil. Typically, the subject matter for Burmese panels combined a variety of decorative elements with either stories about historical or mythological people or depictions of Jatakas (stories of previous lives of the historical Buddha). Particular characters or episodes were used to tell a complex story, and the artwork often focused on a central figure whose clothing and jewelry was highly detailed. At times, the background was also detailed, emphasizing interior design and, perhaps, architecturally important motifs.

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