What Makes the ‘Deities of the Four Elements’ Benjarong so Rare and Special?
This year’s exceptional highlight offered in our end of the year live auction on December 11th, 2021, is a superb 19th-century ‘Deities of the Four Elements’ Benjarong. Hailed as a truly special Benjarong, not one but four from the same private collection will be individually auctioned at RCB Auctions throughout the year 2022. Why the excitement? Here are three reasons why Benjarong collectors are excited.
Rare and Unique Design
The patterns on the bowls have captivating subjects. The bowls and matching covers are each finely painted with the four elemental gods and goddesses. It depicts the earth goddess (Phra Mae Thorani) (Pali: Vasundharā) twisting water from her hair amidst waves, the water goddess (Phra Mae Kong Kar) (Sanskrit: Gaṅgā) amidst waves, the wind god (Phra Phai) (Sanskrit: Vāyu) on horseback amidst clouds, and the fire god (Phra Plenng) (Sanskrit: Akni) on a rhino amidst flames. The four deities are Thai representations of Buddhist-Hindu gods. Each deity is painted within lotus-shaped panels on dark blue ground. In contrast, the outer is decorated with twisting scrolls with ‘Kranok’ patterns and issuing ‘Naga’ heads at the curling ends, further elaborated with interlocked dancing minor deities on a gilded background. All within borders of lotus petals and bands of foliate scrolls encircling the rim, above the foot, and around the cover grip. Benjarong with this decoration is extremely rare; not only because of the rarity of major deities depicted on Benjarong, but dancing deities are an unusual subject in contrast to the common iconography of Thephanom in praying posture.
Fine Details and Gold Application
In every respect, these covered bowls are royal treasures, likely ordered from China for the court of King Rama II (1809-1824) in the early Rattanakosin period. The masterful paint application and divine subject matter certainly show its intended royal owner. The excellence of Benjarong during King Rama II’s period was the result of Queen Sri Suriyendra’s direct patronization. The Benjarong produced in the period is considered the best of Benjarong wares, in particular the Lai Nam Thong which had reached its height in popularity and quality. Lai Nam Thong is a classification of gilded Benjarong ware. Gold patterns were harder to fire than other porcelains making it a tedious and expensive process.
Condition is one of the major reasons for higher price points, especially for a masterpiece such as the ‘Deities of the Four Elements’ Benjarong. Pieces in this collection are kept in outstandingly good condition, which we are sure many collectors will appreciate.
View results from December 11, 2021, here.
Browse and bid on February 12, 2022, here.