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Plaque with image of seated Buddha. Pagan period, 11th-13th century. Gilded metal with polychrome. 7 x 6 1/4 x 1/4 in. (17.8 x 15.9 x 0.6 cm). Bagan Archaeological Museum. Photo: Sean Dungan

NEW YORK, NY.- Asia Society Museum presents a landmark exhibition of spectacular works of art from collections in Myanmar and the United States. Buddhist Art of Myanmar comprises approximately 70 works from the fifth through the early twentieth century and includes stone, bronze, and lacquered wood sculptures as well as textiles, paintings, and ritual implements. The majority of works in the exhibition on loan from Myanmar have never been seen in the West. 

On view in New York from February 10 through May 10, 2015, the exhibition showcases Buddhist objects created for temples, monasteries, and personal devotion, presented in their historical and ritual contexts. Exhibition artworks highlight the long and continuous presence of Buddhism in Myanmar since the first millennium, as well as the unique combination of style, technique, and religious deities that appeared in the arts of Buddhist Myanmar. 

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Buddha seated in dharmacakra mudra. Pagan period, 11th century. Sandstone. H. 42 x W. 27 x D. 10 in. (106.7 x 68.6 x 25.4 cm). Bagan Archaeological Museum. Photo: Sean Dungan.

The exhibition is organized by guest curators Sylvia Fraser-Lu and Donald M. Stadtner in conjunction with Adriana Proser, Asia Society’s John H. Foster Senior Curator for Traditional Asian Art. 

A fully illustrated catalogue, co-published by Asia Society and Yale University Press, accompanies the exhibition and features new photography of the loans from Myanmar. The book is the first publication to critically examine works of art from collections in Myanmar with contributions by art historians, historians, and religious studies specialists. It includes scholarly essays and an extensive bibliography. It also has a glossary of Myanmar, Pali, and Sanskrit terms; geographical, historical, and religious names and places; and mythical figures. 

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Buddha Severing His Hair. Pagan period, ca. 11th-12th century. Sandstone with traces of pigment. H. 31 x W. 18 x D. 9 in. (78.7 x 45.7 x 22.9 cm). Bagan Archaeological Museum. Photo: Sean Dungan

Buddhist Art of Myanmar is organized into three sections—Images of the Buddha, Lives of the Buddha, and Devotion and Ritual—which showcase the multiplicity of styles throughout the country, in part a reflection of the localization of religious practice. The objects bring into relief such issues as state support of Buddhism, the effects of trade and international relations, and the role of local myths and ethnicity, all of which have inextricably linked Buddhism and Myanmar for more than two thousand years. 

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Buddha. Pyu period, ca. 8th–9th century. Copper alloy. H. 181/2 x W. 121/2 x D. 91/2 in. (47 x 31.8 x 24.2 cm). Sri Ksetra Archaeological Museum, Hmawza, 2013/2/2. Photo: Sean Dungan.

Buddhism has been present in Myanmar since the third century BCE. Buddhist Art of Myanmar features objects from the eras when Theravada Buddhism—the predominant religion of continental Southeast Asia for many centuries—was rooted in Myanmar history. These include the Pyu period, an era of significant overland trade with the Indian subcontinent and China; the Bagan period (849–1287), a time of strong Indian Pala-period Buddhist influence that was notable for stunning stone and bronze sculptures; the Ava period (1287–1782) from which relatively little Buddhist material survives; and the Konbaung Dynasty (1752–1885), when Myanmar’s rulers extended their domain into parts of Laos and Thailand (Siam) and a period from which resplendent gilt and inlaid lacquer Buddhist sculpture survives. 

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Mara’s Demons. Shwegugyi Temple, Pegu. Ca. 1479. Glazed earthenware. H. 18 1/2 x W. 13 x D. 4 in. (47 x 33 x 10.2 cm). National Museum, Nay Pyi Taw. Photo: Sean Dungan

A highlight of the exhibition is a large twelfth-century sandstone panel depicting the death of the Buddha and which was until very recently in its original temple niche at the Kubyauknge Temple.

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Parinibbana. Kubyauknge Temple, Myinkaba village. Pagan period, ca. 1198. Sandstone with pigment. 35.5 x 51 x 13 in. (90.2 x 129.5 x 33 cm.). Bagan Archaeological Museum.

 

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Roundel with figures. Kyontu. Ca. 5th–6th century. Terracotta. H. 17 x W. 18 x D. 51/2 in. (43.2 x 45.7 x 14 cm). National Museum, Nay Pyi Taw.

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Hollow cube. Khin Ba Stupa relic chamber. Pyu period, ca. 7th century. Silver. H. 53/4 x W. 5 x D. 5 in. (14.6 x 12.7 x 12.7 cm). National Museum, Yangon.

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Buddha. Pyu period. Stone. Approx. H. 45 x W. 44 x D. 9 in. (114.3 x 111.8 x 22.9 cm). Sri Ksetra Archaeological Museum, Hmawza, 2013/1/41.

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Buddha. Ca. 7th century. Sandstone. H. 14 x W. 7 x D. 2 in. (35.6 x 17.9 x 5.1 cm). Sri Ksetra Archaeological Museum, Hmawza, 2013/1/56.

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Buddha. Pyu period, ca. 8th–9th century. Quartz. H. 5 x W. 2 x D. 11/4 in. (12.7 x 5 x 3.2 cm). Sri Ksetra Archaeological Museum, Hmawza, 2013/1/106.

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Metteyya. Ca. 8th–9th century. Copper alloy. H. 181/2 x W. 121/2 x D. 91/2 in. (47 x 31.8 x 24.1 cm). Sri Ksetra Archaeological Museum, Hmawza, 3013/2/5.

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Votive tablet. Pyu period. Terracotta. H. 33/4 x W. 3 x D. 3/4 in. (9.5 x 7.6 x 1.9 cm). Sri Ksetra Archaeological Museum, Hmawza, 2013/6/92.

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Vajra-ghanta. Pyu period, ca. 8th–9th century. Copper alloy. H. 6 x Diam. 21/4 in. (15.2 x 5.7 cm). Sri Ksetra Archaeological Museum, Hmawza, 2013/2/5. 

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Mold for votive tablets. Pre-Pagan or Pagan period. Metal. H. 31/2 x W. 25/16 x D. 2 in. (8.9 x 5.9 x 5 cm). National Museum, Yangon.

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Birth of the Buddha. Kubyauknge Temple, Myinkaba village. Pagan period, 1198. Sandstone. H. 433/4 x W. 253/4 x D. 151/2 in. (111.1 x 65.4 x 39.4 cm). Bagan Archaeological Museum.

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Monkey Making Offering of Honey to the Buddha. Kubyauknge Temple, Myinkaba village. Pagan period, 1198. Sandstone with polychrome. H. 451/2 x W. 27 x D. 91/2 in. (115.6 x 68.6 x 24.1 cm). Bagan Archaeological Museum.

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Vishnu. Pagan period, 11th–12th century. Bronze. H. 14 x W. 7 x D. 4 in. (35.6 x 17.8 x 10.2 cm). National Museum, Yangon.

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Buddha. Pagan period, ca. 11th–12th century. Bronze. H. 271/4 x W. 9 x D. 4 in. (69.2 x 22.9 x 10.2 cm). National Museum, Yangon.

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Buddha Descending from Tavatimsa. Pagan period, 12th century. Wood. H. 273/4 x W. 171/2 x D. 9 in. (70.5 x 44.5 x 22.9 cm). Bagan Archaeological Museum.

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Brahma. Pagan period, ca. 11th–13th century. Sandstone. H. 131/4 x W. 10 x D. 43/4 in. (33.7 x 25.4 x 12 cm). Bagan Archaeological Museum.

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Parinibbana. Pagan period, 11th–13th century. Copper. H. 43/4 x W. 111/4 x D. 1/4 in. (12.1 x 28.6 x 0.6 cm). Bagan Archaeological Museum.

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Mara’s daughter. From Shwegugyi Temple complex, Ajapala Shrine, Pegu. Ca. 1479. Glazed terracotta. H. 18 x W. 13 x D. 4 in. (45.7 x 33 x 10.2 cm). National Museum, Nay Pyi Taw.

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Buddha seated in bhumisparsa mudra. Nyaung-yan. period, 17th–18th century. Bronze, with silver pigment. H. 21 x W. 13 x D. 73/4 in. (53.3 x 33 x 19.7 cm). National Museum, Yangon.

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Buddha seated in bhumisparsa mudra. From the Kyaung-U. Temple, Pagan. Late Ava period, 18th century. Marble with traces of lacquer. H. 331/2 x W. 20 x D. 9 in. (85 x 50.8 x 22.9 cm). Bagan Archaeological Museum.

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Tile with Mara’s soldiers with parrot heads. Mingun Pagoda, Sagaing Region. Ca. 1792. Glazed terracotta. H. 9 x W. 9 x D. 13/4 in. (22.9 x 22.9 x 4.4 cm). National Museum, Nay Pyi Taw.

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Seated Buddha. Mandalay era, ca. 1860–1900. Copper alloy. H. 181/2 x W. 151/2 in. (47 x 39.4 cm). © Asian Art Museum: The Avery Brundage Collection, B60B230. Photo © Asian Art Museum, San Francisco/

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Bell. 1884. Bronze. H. 16 x Diam. 9 in. (40.6 x 22.9 cm). National Museum, Nay Pyi Taw. Photo: Sean Dungan

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The Great Departure. 19th century. Bronze. H. 12 x W. 91/2 x D. 4 in. (30.5 x 24.1 x 10.2 cm). Private Collection. Photo: Alex Jamison.

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Earth Goddess (Vasudhara). 19th century. Wood, lacquer, and gold leaf. H. 30 x W. 93/4 x D. 14 in. (76.2 x 24.8 x 35.6 cm). Bagan Archaeological Museum. Photo: Sean Dungan

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Kinnara. Konbaung Mandalay period (1857–85). Wood, lacquer, gold leaf, and glass inlay. H. 561/2 x W. 225/8 x D. 263/8 in. (143.5 x 57.5 x 67 cm). Burma Art Collection at Northern Illinois University: Gift of Konrad and Sarah Bekker, BC87.01.01. Photo: Northern Illinois University media services.

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Offering vessel (hsun-ok). Mandalay. Late 19th–early 20th century. Bamboo, wood, sheet metal, lacquer, gold leaf, and cut glass. H. 38 x Diam. 181/2 in. (96.5 x 47 cm). © Asian Art Museum: Gift of George McWilliams, 2008.92.a–.c. Photo © Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

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Wall hanging depicting the Vessantara Jataka (Wethandaya Zat).Late 19th-early 20th century. Velvet, cotton and flannel cloth, wool, sequins, and metal-wrapped thread. H. 17 1/2 x W. 138 1/2 in. (44.5 x 351.8 cm). Burma Art Collection at Northern Illinois University: Gift of Paul J. Bennett, BC90.4.275. Photo: Northern Illinois University media services

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Ma Nay Le Nat. Myanmar, Amarapura, 2004. Lacquered teak wood, gold leaf, red and black paint. H. 48 x W. 10 in. (121.9 x 25.4 cm). Burma Art Collection at Northern Illinois University: Gift of Catherine Raymond, 2006, BC2006.04.04. Photo: Center for Burma Studies Burma Art Collection at Northern Illinois University