19th C Burmese Elephant Camp  

Posted by ေရွးျမန္မာ in

Title- Elephant taming
Date- late 19th century (painted)
Techniques- Gouache, with partial gilding, on prepared cotton cloth
Place- Burma (painted)
Dimensions- Length 108 cmWidth 86.5 cm

Current Location- Victoria & Albert Museum
Museum number- IS.29-1974

The painting accurately illustrates an exhibition of elephant taming at the Court of Ava (Mandalay) during the latter part of the Konbaung Dynasty (1752-1885), a traditional practice which had existed since at least the 15th century.

The scene also includes depictions of many other courtly pursuits. At the top of the picture, a king and queen are seen in the royal pavilion attended by their ministers. In the centre is an enclosure consisting of a brick wall, with a balcony running all the way round at the top, supported by timber columns. At the centre of this enclosure is another pavilion protected by a timber fence.

Spectators are seated all around the top, on the balcony and inside the arcade formed by timber supports, watching a wild elephant being baited by several men inside the enclosure. At top left a pwe (a theatrical performance) is taking place, with an orchestra featuring Burmese instruments, including the patt waing (drum circle), kyi waing (gong circle) and pat-ma (suspended base drum). At top right a pony race takes place within a corner of the moated palace (Mandalay) compound with one of the entrances. Provincial rulers on elephants and horseback followed by attendants carrying their regalia process on the right and left of the picture.

A group of royal cavalry on the lower left are distinguished by their uniforms and horses livery. And, at the bottom of the picture, female elephants and their calves are being driven towards the entrance to the enclosure by tame elephants with their mahouts. Figures are portrayed in costumes of the period--the women in trailing hta-meins, the men in pah-soes worn either as a type of sarong or drawn up to form pantaloons, revealing the tattooing which Burmese men underwent as a form of talisman against evil.

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