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This lovely lacquered painting is part of a series that show the traditionally known Cambodian animals.
Elephants and their babies have a very prominent place in Cambodian stories and culture.
Buddha's own birth is said to have involved a white elephant. His mother Queen Maya, and her husband King Suddhodana were said to have been without child for twenty long years after their marriage. One night, Maya had a very vivid dream, in which four devas, or spirits, came to take her to a lake in the Himalayas, Lake Anottata. Once she was bathed, perfumed with heavenly oils and clad in flowers, a white elephant with his trunk delicately curled around a fragile lotus flower, circled her three times before entering her womb by her right side. The elephant is a very important symbol, so when the Queen woke up, she knew she had been given a vital message.
In 563 BC, Maya gave birth to a little boy, Siddartha, whilst clutching onto the branch of a Sala tree in Lumbini Park, Nepal. According to the legend, the baby emerged from the Queen's right side, exactly as the elephant had entered her.
This luscious painting of a mother elephant with her infant, has been depicted in black and red lacquer and further decorated with fine copper leaf, then coated with a clear lacquer to preserve and protect the painting.