A Bedecked Burmese Harp

Do you know what a saung kauk is? I didn’t until two days ago. After taking in the Carpeaux exhibition at the Met on Saturday, I decided to further endure the weekend museum crowds and visit some of my favorite galleries before I left. After a stroll through the magnificent American Wing, I stopped by the Musical Instruments. Though most of the objects are displayed in cases and tricky to photograph, I was dazzled by this old Burmese harp. I took a couple of pics for Music Monday, but I’m afraid they don’t do justice to the shimmering gold and detailed craftsmanship.

IMG_6278

The descriptive text reads as follows:

SAUNG KAUK.
Burma.
This richly decorated arched harp is tuned by twisting the braids attaching its strings to the neck. Often used to accompany songs, the sang kauk has its origin in ancient India and represents one of the eldest surviving harp traditions.

IMG_6282

This particular harp is from 1889, but the sang kauk is a centuries-old instrument, believed to originate as far back as 500 AD. You can read much more about this harp on Wikipedia.

I’m going to jump civilizations for a moment. Let’s leap from southeast Asia to ancient Greece, from one resplendent stringed instrument to another. This is Gustave Moreau’s depiction of the Greek poet Hesiod in Hesiod and the Muse. Technically that’s a lyre, but still a beautifully adorned instrument. Also I love Moreau, and any painting with the word “muse” in the title is most welcome on this blog 🙂

Moreau-HesiodMuse

12 thoughts on “A Bedecked Burmese Harp

  1. Wonderful, my wife will love to see this harp when I show her!

  2. Lynn Kauppi says:

    Leave it to Moreau to make Hesiod and his muse creepy! Good illustration as always Claudia.

    Lynn

  3. Dave says:

    Very interesting post, Claudia. I love the detail on the Burmese harp.

    As for the painting, at first glance I thought the (semi) nude figure was a woman. I wonder if Moreau deliberately sought to portray Heriod in such an androgynous way. If so, do you have any idea why?

    And thanks again for the advice about group modeling.

    • artmodel says:

      Dave,

      Yes, at first glance the Hesiod figure looks vaguely feminine. The only reason I can think of for Moreau’s androgynous depiction is that he’s the wonderfully weird Gustave Moreau 😆 All kidding aside, art has countless examples of androgynous figures. Sometimes the explanation has to do with whether the artist worked from life, used a male model for a female form, or if they worked from their imagination, references, etc.

      Happy to give advice for the group modeling gig. Let me know how it goes!

      Thanks for your comments.

      Claudia

  4. scorpioski says:

    Your powers of inspiration are mighty indeed, Claudia.
    I tremble to think what you’d be like be-winged and carrying a sword…
    Thank you for making my Mondays and my inbox more cultured and interesting. I hope to see you by our humble marshes this summer…

    • artmodel says:

      Paul,

      How I would love to have wings … if only for one day 🙂
      I was just thinking about you recently and, lo and behold, you’ve posted a comment! It’s so great to hear from you, and your kind words are greatly appreciated.

      As for the summer, I very, very much want to make it up to the island this year. I will try to make it happen, especially since last summer was such a bust.

      Thanks for your comments!

      Claudia

  5. scorpioski says:

    Good thoughts I hope.
    I’ll leave the light on & save space
    for
    You

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