The oldest lacquerware piece discovered is dated AD 1284 but the tradition did not reach its zenith until the Konbaung period (1752-1885). This kun-it is constructed of coils of bamboo (tin-wa) slivers that have been applied with several layers of lacquer and decorated with a sharp iron stylus. The substance used to make lacquer in Burma is called thit-si, a sap from the Melanorrhoea usitata, a tree that grows wild in Burma, mostly in the Shan States. Cinnabar from China was added to achieve the red color and green from a combination of orpiment and indigo.
The art of achieving certain tonal qualities of color is a closely guarded secret and it has been said that a master will not impart this secret even to his wife and only to the most trusted of his sons. The alternating flower patterns at the base on this piece are in the style referred to as shwei-gyin-khat and the main design depicts scenes from the royal court.
Naturally there is a fair degree of ware on such an old piece and chips and scratches are present. This lacquerware box is a rare item, with great character and would serve as a decorative piece with a fascinating history. If desired, a little coconut oil applied to the surface, to rejuvenate the appearance.
Height: 23.5m, 9.25 in
Diameter: 23.5m, 9.25 in
Materials: bamboo, lacquer, pigment
Provenance: antique dealer, Myawadi, Burma
Period: Late 19th century