Southeast Asia, Burma (present day Myanmar), Ava Period, ca. 19th century CE. A tall wooden statue painted with thick black, bright gold, and bright red details, with inlaid white and black stone eyes that seem to stare directly at the viewer. The statue depicts Shwe Nabay, one of the Nats of Burmese legend. She stands here in a golden and black costume, draped with multiple naga (rearing cobras) including two tied into a knot at her waist to form a belt, two on her shoulders, two she holds in her hands, and three rising from her headdress. Her face is well sculpted, with bright red lips, large brows, and a thin, raised nose. Everywhere on the figure are pretty details, including the scales of the naga and the relief floral motifs on the borders of her clothing. Size: 10.75" W x 34" H (27.3 cm x 86.4 cm)
Shwe Nabay (Shwenabay / Naga Medaw) was a beautiful woman from Mindon Village who married a naga. When her husband deserted her, she died of a broken heart, becoming a Nat - a spirit who, in human life, met with a violent death. The 37 Nats continue to be worshiped in Burma to this day, with pilgrimage sites, temples, relic sites, and festivals. The Nats have human characteristics, wants and needs, often portrayed as flawed and having desires that are taboo or immoral in mainstream Buddhism. Statues like this one that venerate them hint at that characteristic with their faces, which often show a greater range of emotion than those of the Buddha.
Provenance: private Boulder, Colorado, USA collection, acquired at Indochine Gallery, Boulder, Colorado, USA
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