Large Burmese silver presentation centrepiece

By Mg San Pe (Burmese, fl. early 20th Century)


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This large silver centrepiece is a monumentalised, elaborated version of a Burmese thabeik bowl. Thabeik bowls were and are still used by Burmese Buddhist monks as alms cups; during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the form of the bowl was adopted by Burmese silversmiths as a medium to demonstrate artistic skill. The present piece does this and does so to an exceptional degree.

The silver throughout the piece is decorated with a variety of silver working techniques, including repoussé (where the silver is hammered from the reverse side to create a design in low relief), chasing (where the silver is hammered on the front side, sinking the metal), and engraving (creating fine surface detail). These three techniques are used in combination to create a rich, detailed series of pictorial scenes. Moreover, the piece is mounted throughout with cast silver elements, providing an additional element of craftsmanship.

The surface of the large globular thabeik bowl of the present piece features eight scenes from Burmese legend contained under traditional cusped arches. The scenes include warriors, courtiers, other figures, and animals, all represented within landscape settings. The remainder of the surface of the bowl is adorned with a variety of foliate bands and leafy scrolls, all executed, like the scenes themselves, with a combination of the silver working techniques described above.

Very unusually, this thabeik bowl is mounted on a triform base and topped with a lid. The lid, formed of three diminishing tiers, is decorated with eight scenes—contained by cusped cartouches—which complement the scenes on the surface of the bowl. The lid is topped by a cast silver figurative finial, which takes the form of a kinnara, a woman-bird hybrid derived from Hindu cosmology and common to much South East Asian art.

The stand below is similarly decorated, terminating in three elephant head feet. The base of the stand is mounted with six cast silver figures, all derived from Burmese mythology or traditional life.

The piece is inscribed several times with maker’s marks, which read “MADE BY MG SAN PE SILVERSMITH THAYETMYO BURMA” and with an inscription signalling the recipient of the piece: “E.B. VAUGHAN, ESQUIRE, FROM B.O.C. STORES CLERICAL STAFF, NYOUNGHLA, 14-2-1925”. Thus, the centrepiece was likely produced to commemorate the retirement of a British civil servant then resident in Burma.


Artist / Maker
By Mg San Pe (Burmese, fl. early 20th Century)
Country of Origin
Date of Manufacture
Early 20th Century
Early 20th Century


65 cm / 25.6 inches
30 cm / 11.8 inches
5.5 kg


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