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Manuscript with scenes of combat from the Thai version of the epic of Rama
Place of Origin: Central Thailand
Date: approx. 1800-1840
Materials: Opaque watercolors and gold on paper
Dimensions: H. 8 3/4 in x W. 19 1/2 in x Th. 2 1/2 in, H. 22.2 cm x W. 49.5 cm x Th. 6.3 cm
Credit Line: Gift from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation's Southeast Asian Art Collection
Department: Southeast Asian Art
Collection: Books And Manuscripts
Object Number: 2006.27.9
On Display: No

Description

Label:

This manuscript is unusual in a number of ways. Less elongated than most manuscripts. It is filled with paintings and has no text at all. All of its paintings show scenes from the Rammakian, a Thai version of the epic of Rama, which-for all its popularity in central Thai literature, theater, and visual arts of the late 1700s and the 1800s-is rarely depicted in manuscripts.

All sixty-three paintings show several figures in hand-to-hand combat. No other important episodes of the epic of Rama are included. Various characters are identifiable by their facial features, skin color, type of headdress, and so on-for example, Rama; his brother Lakshmana; their monkey ally, Hanuman; and their enemy, Ravana. Why are there so many scenes of hand-to-hand combat and none of any other kind of episode?

This manuscript may have been a sort of pattern book. However, a pattern book would be expected to be a workaday affair, and to show evidence of use and passing from artist to artist. But this manuscript is luxurious and well preserved, and the only similar volume known is in the Thai royal collection, kept at the Bangkok National Museum. Another interesting issue is the relationship, if any, between the illustrations in this manuscript and the famous Rammakian reliefs at Wat Phra Chettuphon (Wat Pho) in Bangkok (see F2008.49). Both have large, and often few, figures in a square field, and the size of the paintings is within a centimeter or two of that of the reliefs. So far, though, research has not worked out the specifics of any relationship.

Images in this manuscript include:
The hero Lakshmana in combat with the demon Indrajit
The hero Lakshmana in combat with the demon Kumbhakarna
The hero Rama in combat with the demon Ravana
The hero Lakshmana in combat with a demon, perhaps Tripakkan
The hero Rama in combat with a demon, perhaps Kuweranurat
The hero Lakshmana in combat with a demon, perhaps Thotsakhiriwan
The hero Lakshmana and the monkey Hanuman in combat with the demon Kumbhakarna
The hero Rama in combat with a demon, perhaps Indrajit
The hero Lakshmana in combat with the demon Indrajit
The hero Rama, in four-armed form, in combat with the demon Ravana in the form of the deity Indra
The demon Vibhishana and the monkey Hanuman in combat with the demon Ravana
Monkeys in combat
Nobles in combat
The monkey Hanuman in combat with a demon, perhaps Maiyarap
The monkey in combat with the demon Mangkorakan
The hero Lakshmana in combat with the demon Indrajit


More Information

Exhibition History: "Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam and Burma," Asian Art Museum, October 23, 2009–January 10, 2010

"The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe," Asian Art Museum, October 21, 2015–January 15, 2017
Additional Label:

Rama and Ravana, and many other pairs of warriors from the Rama epic, struggle on page after page of this manuscript. No other narratives are shown, and there is no text. Only facial features, types of headdress, and skin color allow viewers to identify characters.

In Thailand both Rama and Ravana traditionally have green skin. Ravana has multiple demonic faces stacked in his crown. Both warriors wield sticklike weapons which, on the stage, can represent bows, arrows, or fighting staffs.

 Almost always each pair of fighters is shown on three successive double pages at various moments of their clashes. It is as if we see three freezeframes from a movie.

The function of this manuscript is not at all clear. It must have had something to do with the Thai classical dance-drama, as its costumes and positions are virtually identical to those seen on stage.

(Exhibition Label from The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe)


Label:

This manuscript is unusual in a number of ways. Less elongated than most manuscripts. It is filled with paintings and has no text at all. All of its paintings show scenes from the Rammakian, a Thai version of the epic of Rama, which-for all its popularity in central Thai literature, theater, and visual arts of the late 1700s and the 1800s-is rarely depicted in manuscripts.

All sixty-three paintings show several figures in hand-to-hand combat. No other important episodes of the epic of Rama are included. Various characters are identifiable by their facial features, skin color, type of headdress, and so on-for example, Rama; his brother Lakshmana; their monkey ally, Hanuman; and their enemy, Ravana. Why are there so many scenes of hand-to-hand combat and none of any other kind of episode?

This manuscript may have been a sort of pattern book. However, a pattern book would be expected to be a workaday affair, and to show evidence of use and passing from artist to artist. But this manuscript is luxurious and well preserved, and the only similar volume known is in the Thai royal collection, kept at the Bangkok National Museum. Another interesting issue is the relationship, if any, between the illustrations in this manuscript and the famous Rammakian reliefs at Wat Phra Chettuphon (Wat Pho) in Bangkok (see F2008.49). Both have large, and often few, figures in a square field, and the size of the paintings is within a centimeter or two of that of the reliefs. So far, though, research has not worked out the specifics of any relationship.

Images in this manuscript include:
The hero Lakshmana in combat with the demon Indrajit
The hero Lakshmana in combat with the demon Kumbhakarna
The hero Rama in combat with the demon Ravana
The hero Lakshmana in combat with a demon, perhaps Tripakkan
The hero Rama in combat with a demon, perhaps Kuweranurat
The hero Lakshmana in combat with a demon, perhaps Thotsakhiriwan
The hero Lakshmana and the monkey Hanuman in combat with the demon Kumbhakarna
The hero Rama in combat with a demon, perhaps Indrajit
The hero Lakshmana in combat with the demon Indrajit
The hero Rama, in four-armed form, in combat with the demon Ravana in the form of the deity Indra
The demon Vibhishana and the monkey Hanuman in combat with the demon Ravana
Monkeys in combat
Nobles in combat
The monkey Hanuman in combat with a demon, perhaps Maiyarap
The monkey in combat with the demon Mangkorakan
The hero Lakshmana in combat with the demon Indrajit


Exhibition History: "Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam and Burma," Asian Art Museum, October 23, 2009–January 10, 2010

"The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe," Asian Art Museum, October 21, 2015–January 15, 2017
Expanded Label:

Rama and Ravana, and many other pairs of warriors from the Rama epic, struggle on page after page of this manuscript. No other narratives are shown, and there is no text. Only facial features, types of headdress, and skin color allow viewers to identify characters.

In Thailand both Rama and Ravana traditionally have green skin. Ravana has multiple demonic faces stacked in his crown. Both warriors wield sticklike weapons which, on the stage, can represent bows, arrows, or fighting staffs.

 Almost always each pair of fighters is shown on three successive double pages at various moments of their clashes. It is as if we see three freezeframes from a movie.

The function of this manuscript is not at all clear. It must have had something to do with the Thai classical dance-drama, as its costumes and positions are virtually identical to those seen on stage.

(Exhibition Label from The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe)