1854 Burmese Painting  

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Object-Painting
Date-1854
Techniques-Gouache on paper, with decorations picked out in gold paint, mounted on card
Artist - Unknown
Place-Calcutta, India
Dimensions- Height 29 cm (unmounted),Length 42.5 cm (unmounted)
Current Location- Victoria & Albert Museum
Museum number-IS.179-1950

This is one of three paintings (along with IS.180-1950, IS.181-1950) which illustrate the visit of the Burmese King Mindon's envoy to Calcutta in 1854.

At the end of 1854, following the second Anglo-Burmese war of 1852, after which southern Burma fell to British rule, the Burmese King, Mindon Min (r. 1853-1878), sent his ambassador Ashin Nanmadaw Payawun Mingyi on an embassy of good will from his court at Amarapura to the Governor-General of India, Lord Dalhousie, in Calcutta. Sir Arthur Phayre, Commissioner of British Burma, accompanied the mission and acted as interpreter.

These three watercolours, which were presented to the Victoria and Albert Museum by the great niece of Sir Arthur Phayre, allow us to witness the pomp with which Burmese ministers travelled through the eyes of a Burmese court artist, who accompanied the mission.

Here at their first meeting, the ambassador sits with Sir Arthur Phayre and another British envoy on European-style chairs. He is splendidly portrayed in his civil court dress consisting of a wutlon (long gold decorated robe) over a pahsoe (a type of sarong) of acheik luntaya silk together with a bon (high domed hat with applied gilt foil). These robes would have been one of two sets presented to the minister on his appointment, with a full set of accessories and in accordance with strict sumptuary laws, the other being amyee-toe myee-shay (military court robe). Phayre and the other British envoy are portrayed in tight trousers and tail coat, in approximation of mid-Victorian court dress.

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