Statistical Information

The ‘David and Kathleen Owens’ Burmese silver collection is catalogued using EmbArk Gallery Systems software. The EmbArk database contains detailed information on 141 pieces of silver. This information can be charted to provide a visual representation of the collection’s key characteristics.

Form and Design

The two bar charts below summarize the different silver Forms and Designs by the number of pieces and as a percentage of the total number of pieces.   

Iconography

The primary decorative iconography of each piece of silver is recorded in the database. The bar chart below displays the number of pieces in each decorative group. Lime boxes are not included in the data.

Inscribed Age

The completion date of the silver in the Burmese Era calendar is inscribed on 41 pieces in the collection. The bar chart below summarizes the age of the silver in sample periods of 5-years.

 

 

Bowls – the Weight and Diameter Relationship

The data points on the graph below record the diameter (x-axis) and the weight (y-axis) of 206 traditional Burmese silver bowls. The database includes bowls in the ‘David and Kathleen Owens’ collection and in two other private collections. Each of the three data sources is represented on the graph with a unique symbol.

Three data point clusters are visible on the graph. These clusters suggest that silversmiths standardized the size of bowls to a certain extent rather than making bowls of random size and weight. This standardization may be due to technical reasons in the workshop or due to fixed units of measurement in the silver supply, either in the supply of silver bullion or as coins for melting. Also, silver trade was controlled by official ‘brokers’ and the government bureaucracy may have played a role in the partial standardization of bowl size and weight.

The three weight-diameter relationship clusters have been arbitrarily defined as (1) Small, (2) Medium and (3) Large. There are also data points for ‘Very Large’ and ‘Super Large’, but the sample populations of these groups are statistically insignificant. The elliptical outlines around data clusters on the graph are illustrative and not statistical boundaries.

The mean weight and diameter of the silver bowls in the three main clusters are as follows;

Category

Weight Range (g)

Mean Weight (g)

Diameter (mm)

Small

0 – 500

187

106

Medium

501 – 1,000

647

191

Large

1,001 – 2,000

1,273

278

 

The ‘Large’ bowls are commonly decorated with Jataka, Buddha life stories, Ramayana scenes or folk tales. This commonality of size and decorative story-telling loosely defines a generic style of silver bowl that was primarily made for the domestic market in the early 20th century. It’s probable that many of these bowls were commissioned by wealthy Burmese families and high-ranking government officials to perform Buddhist religious traditions.

The data point S106 on the graph in the top-right corner of the graph is a statistical outlier representing an exceptional, super large bowl weighing nearly 4 kilograms. This bowl is decorated with episodes from the Ramayana tale.

It is also noted that the database used for this simple study is statistically too small to be significant with respect to the total output of Burmese silversmiths in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The study results and characterization of the silver only reflect the subjective, personal tastes and interests of the individual silver collectors. And, in the case of the ‘David and Kathleen Owens’ collection, a particular appreciation and interest in the ‘Large’ silver offering bowls decorated with Buddhist and other historical stories.