The Mandalay Period represents the last great cultural flourishing of Burmese art. The period was named after the city of Mandalay, which served as capital of Myanmar for a brief period (1860-1885 A.D.) during the reign of King Mindon. After the Anglo-Burmese Wars, northern Myanmar was shut off from the coastal areas that were controlled by the British. King Mindon founded the new capital at a sacred site at the foot of a large hill. The center of the city was designed in the perfect geometrical form of a Buddhist Mandala, giving the city its name. Although this short-lived kingdom finally fell to the British forces in 1886 A.D. during the Third Anglo-Burmese War, the Royal Guilds that created such remarkable works of art for the King remained in the city where they continued to produce sculptures in the Mandalay style.
In Myanmar, two disciples traditionally flank important representations of the Buddha. Their presence is historically inaccurate, considering that all of the Buddha’s friends had deserted him at the time of his enlightenment. However, it reflects a traditional Burmese Buddhist belief that the faith was introduced into Myanmar by two of his disciples during the Buddha’s lifetime. These two disciples begin to appear as early as the 11th Century A.D. and can be identified as two of the chief disciples Mogallana and Sariputta. Here, the two are depicted in their traditional representation: seated in relaxed poses of quiet contemplation. They wear simple robes consistent with the monastic order. Originally, they would have been placed nearby a larger sculpture of the Buddha himself inside an ornately decorated temple. They are always depicted slightly smaller than the Buddha in order to reveal their status as disciples. This lovely bronze pair of Mogallana and Sariputta features inlaid glass eyes in order to heighten the naturalism. Together, they represent an aspect of Buddhist art unique to Myanmar.