Scenes from Life of the Buddha

Court of King Mindon Burmese
or King Tibaw Burmese

Not on view

This pictorial manuscript belongs to the finest quality of court production associated with the last decades of the court of King Mindon (r. 1853–78), and his successor King Thibaw (r. 1878–85). Such richly illustrated manuscripts were produced primarily for court use, to serve as manuals of instruction utilized by monks in narrating moralizing Buddhist stories. The range of quality of such illustrated books suggests that they were also copied outside the court, by commercial workshops. This example appears to be a ‘deluxe edition,’ displaying an extensive suite of panoramic scenes executed to a high standard.

It depicts episodes from the biography of the historical Buddha, beginning with the gifting of parkland to the Buddha at Jetavana, Sravasti, and concluding with an episode at Rajgir, near Bodhgaya, when the physician/healer Jivaka cures King Bimbisara’s ailments. The story of Jivaka, the illegitimate son of a prince and a courtesan who became highly skilled in medicine and famed for his healing powers, is a major part of this manuscript’s narrative.

Scenes from Life of the Buddha, Court of King Mindon (Burmese, r. 1853–78), Accordion-fold album (Burmese: parabaik), watercolors, ink and gold on mulberry bark paper, with tooled leather boards, Myanmar (Burma), Mandalay

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