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Antique Burmese Silver, A Fine Pair Of Repoussed, Sculptured And Engraved Silver Gilt Large Candlesticks In The Form Of Burmese Figurines, Probably Rangoon, Burma (Myanmar), c. 1880–1890.

This lot is comprised of an elegant and dashing pair of figural silver candlesticks, shaped into gracious female danseuses, each of them holding the stem of lotus-like cups meant to offer support for the candles.

The pieces, which are quite large, are fitted onto large and circular silver chased and repoussé plinths with motifs arranged throughout three friezes. The main and broadest frieze is comprised of elaborate dha-zin-gwei, or stylised orchid scrolling motif—similar to a Siamese kanote leaf, we also find lobbed cartouches (known as bilu-gwin) are incorporated into the frieze also the main panel is contained within two zig-zag ribbon work.

The statuettes are reminiscent of depictions of a pair of ladies in the elegant costume of the Konbaung court of the late 19th century, which were worn during parades or events by royal members.

It is interesting to note the candlesticks decoration shares similarities with the attire seen in the Phnom Penh royal ballet.
Each statuette wears multiple necklaces, jewelled ear-tubes, bracelets and rings. One of the statuettes wears a low headgear and she displays the classic, almost crescent-shaped, maha-naphoo (royal forehead), which was the height of fashion at the Mandalay court during the time of King Thibaw (r. 1878-1885). After the annexation of Upper Burma by the British in 1885 and the exile of the Burmese royal family, dancers and the nouveau riche had also adopted this style until about 1900.
The complementary statuettes has her hair dressed in a jewelled coil on top of her head, a headpiece known as magaik and distinctive of court dancers of the aforementioned decade.

Each respective costume is rendered in the style of a court lady of the Konbaung Dynasty (1752-1885) and it consists of three main elements — a hta-mein (the lower wrap around garment) which is made up of a central panel of an acheik-luntaya design, floral patterned checkered yinzi (the breast cloth) and a tightly fitting checked ein-gyi (jacket) with flaring khar-taung (waist-wings) and kalama-no (lapets).
These cloths are usually worn with open sandals.

One of the statuettes complements the hta-mein skirt with a pazun-zi belt displaying lavish cloud elements that elevate to the air, these detachable panels are also characteristic of court dances, and were meant to build a temple-like structure around the wearer, so to bring them closer to the divine.

a late 19th century-early 20th century Kalaga from Rangoon (Victoria and Albert Museum)

The similarities of these figures to a woollen hanging at the V&A is striking and help us, alongside the previous data, to date the candlesticks to the late 19th century. The European taste for ornamentation and romantic motifs from Burma are evident in this piece, which likely was produced for local expats or the export market. The second half of the 19th century was a time when objects such as candlesticks, tumblers, or napkin rings were incorporated to the local repertoire of silversmiths. This movement was felt particularly after the advent of the British to Burma and the influence of Victorian love for elaboration. Indeed Burmese silverware maintained traditional shapes, but the pieces became “busier”.

This lot is engraved at the base with an “arm holding a dagger” mark.

Silver marks like these were being used in Rangoon —the heart of craftsmanship in Burma— by artisans to differentiate their pieces.

Condition: Very good, one stem of the lotus flowers had been replaced with a white gilt metal replacement, there is a hole at the base of the small candle bowl, this suggest that probably both figurines were previously used as lamp stands.


28.5 cm height.
11 cm diam. of base.


For an almost identical pair of candlesticks see:

Vidya Dehejia, Dipti Khera, Yuthika Sharma, Wynyard R. T. Wilkinson, Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj Mapin Publishing, 2008, item 104 Page 209.

For similar fashion of 1890s see:

Victoria and Albert Museum, Hanging, Kalaga, Museum number - IS.219-1960.

For similar silver work see:

The “Collection of Claret Jugs & Silver from the East,” Burmese Silver Golbet from 1890
Official Report of the Calcutta International Exhibition, 1883-84: Compiled Under the Orders of the Executive Committee, Volume 2, Bengal Secretariat Press, 1885, p. 115.

John Lowry, Burmese Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1974.

The Colonial and Indian Exhibition 1886, Official Catalogue, London: William Clowes and Sons Limited, 1886, p. 64.

Harry L. Tilly, The Silverwork of Burma by with photographs by P. Klier, Rangoon 1902, Plate V.
Harry L. Tilly, Modern Burmese Silverwork, Superintendent, Rangoon, Government Printing, 1904.

  • Identification Number: 380

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