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Throne for a Buddha image, 1850–1900

Throne for a Buddha image, 1850–1900

Throne for a Buddha image, 1850–1900. Burma. Lacquered and gilded wood and metal with mirror inlay. Gift from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation's Southeast Asian Art Collection, 2006.27.1.

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Such an elaborate throne and Buddha image would have been an important fixture of a nineteenth-century Burmese Buddhist temple, and similar ones can still be seen in temples today.

The significance of the crowned and bejeweled Buddha image varied in different places and periods. According to a tradition known in Thailand and Burma for the past several centuries (and perhaps considerably longer), an arrogant king named Jambupati once attempted to awe the Buddha with his grandeur. In response, the Buddha manifested himself in the most magnificent crown and royal finery to teach that the grandeur of buddhahood vastly outshines that of earthly kingship. 

The original crown of this Buddha image disappeared long ago. The one the image now wears was made using traditional techniques and in the traditional style in 2002 by U Win Maung, an expert artisan in Mandalay, Burma. It is a gift in memory of M.R. Vadhanathorn Chirapravati. The rest of the Buddha image's royal decorations appear to be original.