The National Museum in Belgrade

BURMANSKA UMETNOST LAKA: tradicionalna tehnika graviranja i motivi na dve baganske kutije za betel
THE BURMESE ART OF LACQUER: The Traditional Technique of Engraving and Motifs on Two Bagan Betel Boxes

Journal 10/2014 (Museum of Applied Art), pages 37-46


Abstract (original language):
Kutije za betel (kun it) jedan su od najprepoznatljivijih izraza tradicionalne burmanske umetnosti laka. Na primeru dve kutije (privatno vlasništvo) od bambusa i burmanskog laka ticija (thit si), analiziraju se struktura, tehnika izrade i motivi dekoracije. Duboki cilindrični poklopac pokriva unutrašnjost: telo kutije istog oblika i dve tacne u kojima se čuvaju sastojci za betel. Običaj žvakanja betela bio je deo religijskih i dvorskih ceremonija, društvenog života i umetnosti. Osnova od pletenog bambusa prekrivena je slojevima crnog laka, a dekoracija je izvedena složenom jun (yun) tehnikom – graviranjem crteža i utrljavanjem boje u gravure. Crvena kutija (prva polovina XX veka, Bagan, Mjanmar) ukrašena je motivom „Junan polukruga“, znacima burmanskog Zodijaka i „osam planeta“ u crnoj boji i motivom „semenke paprike“ u žutoj. Kutija sa scenom „kralja na dvoru“ (1920–1950, Bagan, radionica sa zaštitnim znakom tigra) sa natpisima na burmanskom jeziku, izvedena je graviranjem crnog laka tradicionalnim redosledom u crvenoj, zelenoj, žutoj i narandžastoj boji.

Key words: (original language)
kutije za betel – kun it, lak – lacquer, tici – thit si, tehnika graviranja – yun

The author analyzes the structure, the execution techniques and the decorative motifs of this extraordinary, with us still unknown art, in the effort to present it to the professional and general audience, taking as examples two Burmese Betel Boxes, kun it (private property), crafted from bamboo and lacquer, thit si. These boxes are cylindrical in shape, with deep lids that cover their interiors: the bodies of the boxes and two trays in which the ingredients for betel are to be kept. The custom of chewing betel belongs to religious and court ceremonies, to social life and art. The bases of the boxes are made of woven bamboo strips, covered with layers of black lacquer, and the decorative motifs are executed in yun technique – which understands engraving of decorative pattern and rubbing of paint into the engravings on the surface. Red Box (the first half of 20th century, Myanmar, Bagan) is decorated with motive of kunan kanbyat, i.e., the signs of Burmese Zodiac, yathi yok and „eight planets“, gyo shitlon, in black, and with the motive of “chilli seeds”, ngayoksi, in yellow. Box with a Scene of King at Court, nandwin (1920- 50, Bagan, workshop with tiger trademark), is executed in five colours: engraving in black lacquer with the traditional sequence of colours – red, green, yellow and orange. The box contains the inscriptions with names of patrons of the village pagoda and with their good wishes.

Typical of times and places of their production, the refinement of these boxes serves as an example of the quality of workshops from which they emerged. The motifs full of symbolic meanings, according to canon, although often accompanied by routinely executed drawings, are indisputably characterized by the refined sense of artistic qualities. Bearing in mind the quality of the boxes intended for everyday use, one could imagine the beauty of the best works of Burmese lacquerware with which it undoubtedly stands equal to other, more acknowledged and better-known countries that claim this art as their heritage.

You can download PDF of the article (261 KB)