Row 9

Burmese Statuary, Japanese Lacquer

Buddhism was initially founded in India by Gautama Buddha (563 - 483 BC). The three main Buddhist beliefs are i) All things are ever changing. There is no ‘being’ only ‘becoming’; ii) Humans are present and ephemeral links in a chain of cause and effect called Karma; iii) Personal efforts must be made in order to remove the notion of individuality as the only means to ultimate salvation. The majority of the Buddha statuary in this row comes from Burma (present-day Myanmar) and is mainly of 19th-Century date. Gestures depicted in Buddhist statuary include the ‘Abhaya mudra’: gesture of re-assurance; the hand held up, palm outward, with fingers fully extended. The ‘Bhumisparsa mudra’ sees the Buddha touching the earth, calling on the earth goddess to bear witness to his right to sit beneath the tree of wisdom. The ‘Dhyana mudra’ depicts Buddha’s meditation, in which the palms of the hands are upwards with fingers extended, lying one on top of the other in his lap.

The Japanese decorative arts collection of the Museum numbers over 1,500 objects. The majority of these artefacts date to the Edo (1600 - 1868 AD) and Meiji (1868 - 1912 AD) periods. Two principal donors of Japanese material during the late 19th/early 20th Centuries were the Duke of Leinster and Mrs Thom. The Japanese lacquer on show consists mostly of inkstone cases/writing boxes, incense trays, pillows, letter boxes, food containers and comb boxes. Some techniques associated with lacquer of the 18th and 19th Centuries include: ‘Hiramaki-e’, decoration in low relief using only lacquer; the ‘maki-e’; technique involving the sprinkling of metal dust on a coat of wet lacquer, and ‘Takamaki-e’: relief design formed by modelling a combination of charcoal, clay and lacquer.

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