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Asian Art Museum

19th-century Thai King

19th-century Thai King

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From: Asian Art Museum
Limited Edition: 65
Exhibition: Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam & Burma
Material: Printed vinyl
Dimensions: 35" x 72" (88cm x 182cm)

Hanging Hardware Included


An old Siamese parable tells of the pious King Nimi who was invited by the gods to visit Heaven. A chariot was sent for him and it passed through Hell on its way to Heaven. The artist has used the simple vocabulary of traditional Thai art and a bold but limited color palette to capture the scene. It is also captured on 40 banners from San Francisco's Asian Art Museum.


According to the Buddhist parable “The Nimi Jataka”, King Nimi is the last in a lineage of eighty-four thousand generations of unbroken succession that began with Makhadeva, an enlightened and righteous king who strove to reach Nirvana. In promoting its exhibition, “Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam & Burma”, the Asian Art Museum uses a painting on cloth of King Nimi as Makhadeva reincarnate carried through the heavens on a divine chariot. The banner depicts a snapshot of the tale, wherein the pious Nimi, having been invited by admiring gods to visit Tavatimsa heaven, finally reaches the heavens after having passed through all the worlds of heaven and hell.

The banner depicts Nimi standing in the chariot guided by Matali the charioteer. The painting is an especially interesting illustration of Buddhist 19th century art integrated with Western framing technology. The angularity of Nimi’s and Matali’s elbows, and Nimi’s palm and fingers turned and straining upwards, convey restrained energy prevalent in traditional Thai painting, sculpture, and dance. The “goose tail”, mythologizing wild geese flight to the heavens, flares out of the back of the chariot also expressing this spiritual striving. And while the brushstrokes and colors are characteristic Thai, the original painting is affixed on a Western-type stretcher, clearing identifying it with the Western influence of the second half of the 19th century.

The front of the banner is a detail of a larger cloth depicting King Nimi carried though the heavens on a diving chariot with the white text “Museum”. The back of the banner has a black background on which the exhibition title in white text, "Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam & Burma”, and dates, "Oct 23 – Jan 10", and “Asian Art” appear.


These banners were displayed around San Francisco from October 23, 2009 through January 1, 2010 to promote the exhibition, Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam & Burma.

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