G676 A LARGE PAIR OF PAINTED WOOD FEMALE NAT FIGURES


 

G676 A LARGE PAIR OF PAINTED WOOD FEMALE NAT FIGURES

BURMA

19TH CENTURY

H. 87 CMS, 34 INS

H. 76 CMS, 30 INS

Two delightful and lively painted teakwood figures of female nats, both standing on cylindrical bases and painted with red, black and gold pigments, the taller one with a naga headdress and hands raised in abhayamudra (the gesture of dispelling fear) and the other with her right hand raised in vitarka (teaching)-mudra.

These figures represent two of the most important female nats: Ma Ngwe Taung (‘Lady Silver Mountain’) and Thon Ban Hla (‘Lady Three Times Beautiful’).

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, closely related figure of Ma Ngwe Taung nat in the Northern Illinois University Center for Burma Studies please visit the following link:

https://www.niu.edu/clas/burma/collections/art/sculptures/sculpture_83.shtml.

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:

https://tinyurl.com/yxr832wh

Provenance: Private German collection