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Old Carved Panel from Mandalay
Item No. T52B

19th - 20th Century, N/A, Burma
Wood with Pigmentation
18.25" x 8.75" x 2.75"
( 46.355 x 22.225 x 6.985 cm)
(H x W x D)

This is a teak carving of a Burmese dancer who is in the midst of a dance, possibly a warrior's dance, as he holds a sword in his right hand and it rests on his right shoulder. The warrior wears a court cap and some elements of formal court dress, but actually few elements of a complete formal military uniform, as he is a dancer. All attire in the Burmese kingdom was controlled and prescribed by strict and eleborate sumptuary laws that were written on "parabaik" or manuscripts. Such laws controlled the use of silk, brocades, jewels, gold and silver, precious stones and all other decoration used in clothing, including sashes, headgear, footware and more.

The formal dress for a general at court consisted of a very heavy coat worn over a "pahso," the lower garment worn by Burmese men which could be worn similarly to a sarong or also in pants fashion by bringing it up between the legs and tucking it in at the waist. The coat could be sleeveless or with sleeves and came with attached skirting. A "ba-le-gwei, a gorget with upswept wings and couched gold thread decorated the neck, and below it on both the front and back were ba-yek, large medallions pendent from a necklace.

The coat would have been decorated with much couched gold threads, sequins, and embroidered flowers; the skirting might be designed and ornamented with star diamonds, a colorful floral band and leaf decoration or another design;, both might be partially made of different colored velvets; the uniform was held with a waist-tie; and the whole would be topped off with a gilded broad-brimmed helmet(shwe-pe kha-mauk)decorated with a band of golden flowers and leaves to give a sense of height and strength.

The dancer's costume has a single colored undecorated long sleeved shirt that ends at the wrists, over which is a collar that seems to consist of six half-round segments. He wears multi-segmented pants that, in reality, is closer to royal rather than military attire. They would have been stiched with couched gold thread and sequens and been gold and jewel-encrusted. As in normal royal attire, the dancers costume has been made more dramatic and awe-inspiring with the addition of the wing-like panels that project to each side. A king's royal attire would have had so many jewels, gold and precious stones that it would weigh nearly one hundred pounds, but this dancer's costume, though it may have a hint of the formal elements of royal attire, had to be made much lighter so the dancer can perform well and not be weighed down by his costume.

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