78.0 x 30.0 x 3.6cm
Revered Buddhist texts, written on palm leaf and paper, were protected between pairs of wooden manuscript covers. The top cover was often beautifully decorated, befitting its use as protector of holy texts. Manuscript covers are carved, gilded, and sometimes also decorated with fine gilt drawing over lacquer on the less exposed underside of the cover. Covers now tend to have been separated from their texts for sale on the international market.
This is a beautifully carved cover which also has an unusual scene for its decoration. The central panel depicts the Great Renunciation, one of the significant episodes of the life of Prince Siddhartha, the Buddha-to-be. On that occasion the Prince cuts off his long locks, symbolically renouncing his materialistic and comfortable life, having decided to embark on the search for Enlightenment. Behind the central figure, dramatically captured at his moment of cutting, is a Bodhi tree and a stupa, presaging his eventual enlightenment. Two pairs of kinnaras, half human-half bird figures, flank the scene, their tails appearing as scrolling foliage. The border has the eight auspicious Buddhist emblems and scrolling lotus tendrils. The left end has a kirttimukha or mask of victory carved on it.
Asian Art Department, AGNSW, August 2004.