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Showing posts from 2014

Hamzanama: The Adventures of Amir Hamza

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    As night falls the caravan of camels inches its way along the narrow mountain pass of the ancient silk route. It has been a long and tiring day for the travellers. To their relief they see the flickering lights of the Caravanserai in the distance. Once they reach the Caravanserai, their camels are fed and led away to rest for the night.   The tired travellers freshen up and then get together with travellers from other caravans passing by in the common area, to eat, drink and exchange stories.   Smoke from the hookahs fills the air, and the music is relaxing. In the corner there is a roar of laughter as the storyteller rolls his eyes in an animated manner. The travellers join the group. The storyteller is relating the colourful, action filled adventures of Amir Hamza. Amir Hamza, the hero of these stories was the uncle of Prophet Muhammad. The stories known as the ‘Dastan-e Amir Hamza’ are action filled tales of giants, sorcerers and demons. Hamza and his brave companio

The Enlightened One

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  Fourteen year old Lobsang looks out of the monastery window. He can see the vast expanse of the snow-capped Himalayas in the distance. It was about seven years ago that his parents sent him here to join the order of the Buddhist monks. Gradually over the years the monastery has become his home and the other monks his family, his earlier life is now nothing but a distant memory.     Lobsang, leads a very regimented life in the monastery and spends a lot of time studying under the guidance of a very senior and learned Lama. He is waiting for his teacher; today’s class is on Buddhist art. He wishes he could go out and play with his friends instead, but he hears his teacher approaching and runs and sits down on his mat. Lobsang’s teacher is an elderly Lama. He is a very kind and gentle person and is like a parent to him in many ways. He shows Lobsang a beautiful painting of ‘ Shakyamuni Buddha ‘and explains to him that it was painted in the fifteenth century, here in this ver

Battle of San Romano

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It’s past midnight but sleep evades Bernardo. He turns on his back and looks up at the night sky, staring thoughtfully at the stars that look like tiny jewels. He thinks of home and how he celebrated his seventeenth birthday just a few days ago. Looking around at the small forested area he feels a sudden shudder as he realises there are just a few hours left before he   joins the other foot soldiers and goes into battle. On the 1 st of June 1430, Bernardo fought in the Battle of San Romano. This battle was fought between Florence and Sienna, about thirty miles outside Florence, it lasted the entire day and the outcome is generally considered favourable to the Florentines. The events of that day from dawn to dusk, have been portrayed in a set of three paintings each over six feet high and ten feet wide in the famous painting known as the, ‘Battle of San Romano’. This masterpiece was created by the much respected artist of the early Italian Renaissance, Paolo Uccello. These

Woven Paintings

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The Devonshire Hunting Tapestries on display    Two noblemen on horseback accompanied by their servant and hunting dogs move towards the female bear. She has been flushed out of her cave with her cubs. As the cubs escape, one of the noblemen puts a spear into her chest, while she grapples with the hunting dogs the other nobleman gets ready to deal a deathly blow with his sword. It is hunting season in the fifteenth century and the Dukes of Devonshire are out hunting. Hunting in the middle ages was more than a mere pastime. The elaborate rituals were an integral part of court etiquette, and being skilled in hunting was the peacetime equivalent of being masterful on the battlefield. This passionate love of hunting is reflected in the scenes woven into tapestries known as the ‘Devonshire Hunting Tapestries’. These tapestries from the estates of the Dukes of Devonshire, woven in Arras in modern France are over a hundred and thirty three feet long. Tapestries were very expensiv

The Arnolfini Wedding Portrait

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The rays of the evening sun glisten on the waters of the Zwin, which flow with a steady calm.   Couples stroll leisurely on the banks of the canal and the cool evening breeze adds a crispness to the air. Fifteenth century Bruges (Belgium) is extremely rich and prosperous. The Dukes of Burgundy, the aristocrats and wealthy merchants are patrons of the arts and artists enjoy a very privileged place in society, and are commissioned for their work by the rich and famous.   Jan Van Eyck is the toast of this charmed circle. He is the painter to the Duke of Burgundy and one of the first artists to master the use of oil based paint as a medium for his artwork. When linseed or walnut oil is added to coloured pigments it dries slowly and allows the artist to make revisions, add details and has a luminous quality that makes the colours look like jewels. It also helps in achieving subtle variations in light and shade to heighten the illusion of three dimensional forms. Giovanni di Nic

Where the Wild Things Are

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Adam names the animals     The sky is overcast with dark grey clouds and the persistent drizzle is quickly turning into a downpour. It is the twelfth century in England and Emily is sitting next to her father, watching him work. At sixteen, she is already quite an accomplished artist and considers herself very fortunate to be the daughter of one of the most talented and respected illuminators in England. Her father is creating an ‘Illuminated Manuscript’. Emily knows the patron is extremely wealthy and suspects he may be from the royal family. Illuminated manuscripts were manuscripts decorated in real gold or silver and were fairly common in the medieval ages. They were painted on the best quality parchment called 'Vellum' and were written in Latin. The text was usually written first by a scribe and then given to the illuminator. Emily watches her father as he applies the gold to the painting. She knows the complex process well by now, the gold leaf pieces are ham

The Dual Nature of Christ

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As the group of pilgrims move slowly along the endless desert on their mules, Egeria is struck by the sheer inhospitality of the terrain. She feels humbled when she thinks of Moses, and how he had led his people through this very desert for forty years. It is the sixth century AD, and the pilgrims have travelled for many weeks to reach St. Catherine’s Monastery at the base of Mt.Sinai in Egypt. An old monk leads the tired pilgrims through the monastery. As Egeria follows her people, her eyes suddenly fall on an icon of Christ, she is instantly drawn towards it. This painting of Christ as the Pantocrator, which in Greek means ‘Ruler of All’ is regarded as one of the earliest examples of Byzantine Iconography (painting). Believed to have been painted by a highly accomplished artist from Constantinople (Turkey) during Emperor Justinian’s reign, this is a 33X18cm Encaustic painting on wood. Encaustic painting also known as hot wax painting, involves the use of heated beeswax to

Night - Shining White

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The setting sun is like a fireball in the sky. There is a gentle breeze and the soft undulating hills of ancient China, look like a green carpet has been spread over them. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a stunning, pure white steed appears like an apparition on the horizon. As the majestic horse canters freely every muscle in his body ripples and his beautiful mane blows in the wind. This spirited steed is 'Night – Shining White'. He is the favourite imperial stallion of Emperor Xuanzong, of the Tang dynasty. There is something more than the sheer physical beauty of this animal; it is his spirit, which epitomizes the Chinese myth about imported ‘celestial steeds' that ‘sweat blood’ are really dragons in disguise. It is the eighth century, and Tang China is one of the greatest empires in the medieval world. Emperor Xuanzong, is referred to as the ‘brilliant monarch ‘and his reign is rightfully ranked as the classical period of Chinese art and literature.     Han