The Beauty in the Clash of Cultural Epochs
The use of Benjarong screen dates back to ancient times and is believed to have been influenced by Chinese trade and exchange. Particularly during the Rattanakosin era, screens or partitions were installed in royal residences and temples. For instance, inside the walls of the stained glass doors at Wat Thong Thammachat in Bangkok.
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The wooden Benjarong screen adorned with the design of Theppanom and Norasingha stands as a timeless reflection of Thailand’s history. With delicate lines intricately painted on ceramic, forming the depiction of celestial beings amidst Norasingha, embodying softness, intricacy, and elegance. These graceful avian forms complement the elaborate Theppanom pattern perfectly. Encased within the intricately carved wooden frame, it magnifies the inherent splendor of this masterpiece. The Benjarong’s pattern of Theppanom remains an age-old motif that emerged since the Ayutthaya era, originating from Siamese artisans who shared it with Chinese craftsmen to create various ceramic forms, eventually returning home to Thailand.
The black-based Benjarong was highly favored during the Ayutthaya era, crafted with diverse intricate details. Patterns vary, featuring depictions of celestial beings like Theppanom, Theppanom Norasingha, or Theppanom Rajasiha (the great lion), showcasing the opulence of Thai cultural artistry from bygone ages.
The wooden Benjarong screen holds a significant place in altar table decorations or ceremonial altars, influenced by Chinese culture. It is believed to have made its way to Thailand around 1818, during the reign of King Rama II. This was discovered by Thai diplomats who traveled to China, witnessing the adorned palaces and residences with intricate designs. This discovery inspired the decorative plans for the pavilions within the Grand Palace gardens. Since then the nobility began adorning their residences with altar table. A complete set included the porcelain screen, a large flower vase, a tall cylindrical vase, a joss stick holder, an incense burner container, an offering fruit bowl, a small flower vase, and a pair of candlestick holders.
The altar table decoration was so highly regarded that competitions were held during the celebration of the Temple of Emerald Buddha in the era of King Mongkut (King Rama IV). Subsequently, the practice of altar table decoration gained immense popularity in the reign of King Chulalongkorn (King Rama V). At this juncture, key figures such as H.E. Phya Chuduk Rajasethee (Phook), prominent couriters, humbly requested by Phra Ong Chao Chumsai, the Lord Chamberlain in King Rama IV’s reign, to commission a table set from China. This set was intended to be used as a representation of Thai altar table wares, branded as 金堂福記 (Jīntáng Fú Jì), commonly known as the ‘Jintang Table’. This table’s prominence endured through the reign of King Chulalongkorn, reaching the pinnacle of ceremonial altar table decoration. Competitions for setting up these tables became a celebrated tradition, showcasing royal excellence and prestige in Thai society.
This wooden Benjarong screen painted with the imagery of Theppanom and Norasingha hold such breathtaking beauty that it stands as a masterpiece, revered as an exquisite pinnacle of artistic craftsmanship.
A very rare and finely painted Benjarong screen painted with the design of Theppanom and Singha alternating with kranok on a black ground with a wooden frame carved and pierced with floral vine scrolls (1 pc.)
Style: Thai, Rattanakosin
Dimensions: W 44 cm H 68 cm
Circa: 19th Century
Estimated Price: 1,200,000 – 1,500,000 THB
Starting Price: 500,000 THB