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Central Thailand
Lacquered and gilded wood with glass inlay and pigments
Gift from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Southeast Asian Art Collection, 2006.27.49

In the old days the houses of Siamese aristocrats, like those of ordinary people, had relatively little furniture. In the mid-1800s, however, as Western customs became more familiar (and were thought of as modern and fashionable) and the availability of both Western-style and Chinese furniture increased, so did the use of tables, chairs, settees, and beds in the homes of those Siamese who could afford them.

This elaborately ornamented bench—neither very comfortable nor very sturdy—must have been intended primarily for show. Its back and seat seem not to
have been made together. The design and crafting of the backrest are refined. It is decorated on the front with a pattern of eight-pointed medallions amid leafy vines carved in pierced relief, and decorated on the back with exactly the same pattern in painting.

The bench itself is of less precise artisanship and seems to have been made to accommodate a handsome backrest that had originally had another purpose.

all text & images © Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

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