CATALOGUE No. 42 THREE PAINTED WOOD FIGURES
H. 49 CMS, 19 ¼ INS; 44 CMS, 17¼ INS; 36 CMS, 14 ¼ INS
Three delightful and lively painted wood figures, one female and two male, each standing in an animated pose.
These figures probably represent nats. Nats are a group of spiritual beings whose worship predates the introduction of Buddhism to Burma, but continue to be worshipped today. Thirty-seven principal nats were identified by King Anawratha (1044-1077) and their images are sometimes seen at the base of Buddha statues, apparently acknowledging the greater spiritual path. In addition, other nats are worshipped at local level, being associated with the natural world, particular villages, the family and certain events and activities. Believed to be the immortal spirits of individuals who have died violently, they are a source of both fear and protection and offerings intended to placate them are left at their shrines. The foremost centre of nat worship in Burma is Mount Popa, a well–known landmark near Pagan.
For a fine example of a closely related painted wood nat see fig. 1, p. 97 in S. Fraser-Lu, Burmese Crafts Past and Present, New York: O.U.P., 1994. For a superbly illustrated book on nats see Sir R. C. Temple, The Thirty-Seven Nats: A Phase of Spirit-Worship Prevailing in Burma, London: W. Griggs Ltd, 1906. To see this book online please visit the following link:
Provenance: Private English collection (from an English country house collection).