19thC Decorated Lacquerware Kun-It BLW45


This rare 19th century kun-it is from Bagan, Burma and features a complex freestyle motif referred to as yok-let-pan-gya – an Ava period design that combines pan-bwa and yok-thei motifs. Kun-it means betel box; an indispensable item of hospitality in a Burmese household.

“This design features racy little animal and human forms tossed pell-mell amongst swirls of foliage and puffs of cloud on a diagonal hatch-stroke ground”(p.223 Sylvia Fraser-Lu, Burmese Crafts: Present & Future). One of the repeated figures appears to be thadin-gyut (October/Libra) from the Burmese zodiac.

There are exterior surface cracks and wear consistent with age as well as two old repairs to the cover as shown in the photos. Despite this, the kun-it sits proudly as a handsome example of Burmese lacquer-ware that has survived over a hundred years of use.

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Availability: In stock

Bagan is the center of lacquer-ware production in Burma, where the tradition is centuries old. The kun-it is constructed from 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.

Height: 12cm, 4.7 in
Diameter: 14cm, 5.5 in
Provenance: Chiang Mai Antique Dealer
Period: 19th Century

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