Ajanta Frescos

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Though not actually Frescos Ajanta Murals are popularly known so. Here's a description by Ross

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  • The Burlington Magazine Publications Ltd. is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to TheBurlington Magazine for Connoisseurs.

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    Ajant Frescoes Author(s): Robert Ross Source: The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 29, No. 160 (Jul., 1916), pp.

    154-155+158-161Published by: The Burlington Magazine Publications Ltd.Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/860247Accessed: 28-03-2015 09:34 UTC

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  • An Italian Lacquered Table of the 17th Century The pattern is without relief and all the details

    are carried out with the utmost delicacy of touch. The whole production differs both in workmanship as well as in design from the usual European lacquerwork, above-mentioned, which is usually coarse in execution and in which figures, buildings and landscapes almost invariably occur. The work presents, at first sight, a somewhat Persian or Arab appearance. This is due to a certain similarity which the bands of gilt scrollwork bear to the gilt arabesques on a black or coloured ground found on painted caskets and other small objects made in Venice during the I6th century. Closer inspection, however, reveals the fact that the source of inspiration of the whole is none other than Chinese. Yet the model for the design must not necessarily be sought for among objects in oriental lacquer; but it is more probable that painted or woven silks, wall-papers and books of designs which were then becoming popular fur- nished the models.

    Some admirable specimens of Chinese wall- paper in a house at Wottonunderedge, in Gloucestershire, are described by Mr. A. G. B. Russell in the 7th volume of The Burlington Magazine (p. 309). A comparison of the table- top with the illustrations which accompany Mr. Russell's article reveals the same trees and flowering shrubs, the same pheasants, cranes and richly plumaged birds, and the same ducks, hares

    and other animals. Though the Chinese details have been here to a certain extent Europeanized, they retain their oriental character, and very con- siderable skill has been displayed in adapting them to suit the decorative scheme of the table. Wall- papers similar to that at Wottonunderedge were carried by the Dutch and English merchantmen to Amsterdam and London, and thence imported to central Europe and particularly to Italy, where they doubtless served as models for the lacquer artist who was responsible for the decoration of the table. It is probable that the date of its execution is about the last quarter of the 17th century.

    Mr. Kendrick has drawn my attention to the very interesting likeness between certain details of the lacquered design and the fine English chinoiserie tapestry by John Vanderbank which was acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1910.1 This panel was woven at Soho during the last years of the 17th or the early part of the I8th century. It is therefore about the same date as the table, and exhibits many of the same features. The most remarkable of these are the scroll-work borders, which are of striking similarity to the delicate bands that play so prominent a part in the ornamental design of the table.

    1 Victoria and Albert Museum Portfolios, Tapestries, Part I,

    No. 5. Catalogue of Tapestries in the Victoria and Albert

    Museum, p. 23, No. 5.

    AJANTA FRESCOES* BY ROBERT ROSS

    HE letterpress of art publications is proverbially dull, even when important or essential. The India Society, how- ever, has falsified an old calumny in which there was much terrible truth.

    With superb reproductions (due to the skill of Mr. Emery Walker and the Oxford University Press) here is issued a libretto hardly less interest- ing than the copies of the Ajanta frescoes executed by Lady Herringham and her talented assistants. Such excellent reading is rare at all times, and some of us will regret there is not more of it. For those unfamiliar with Buddhist mythology, concise little versions of the Jatakas, or nativity stories, identified as being illustrated in the Ajantft caves, will be especially welcomed. A generous note by the editor emphasizes how much is owed to the liberality and patience of

    predecessors whose copies were destroyed by fire in 1866 and 1885--a sequence of ill luck recalling that which pursued the former owners of a mummy at the British Museum. Sir Wilmot Herringham describes his brilliant wife's three visits to the caves between 19o6 and 1911. His description of a wonderful site is too fascinating not to quote :

    These temples are hewn out of the solid hill which forms one side of a romantic valley thirty-four miles south of

    Jalgaon, about 200 miles from Bombay on the line to

    Calcutta. . . . Between the columns of many of the

    temples are hung great nests of bees, which must be care- fully humoured to prevent dangerous hostilities ; and in the deep recesses gibbering bats crawl sidling along the rock cornices unaware that the concentrated stench of their cen- turies of occupation is their formidable defence against man's intrusion. Standing on the terrace, you look down upon the river bed curving away to a waterfall on the right, and beyond it rises a sloping, rocky hill covered with scrub. In the rains the river becomes a mighty torrent, but in winter it dwindles to a stream with a few pools in it. Green parrots fly across it in the sunshine; monkeys, boars, and an occasional panther haunt it ; black buck feed in the valley. Everywhere on the banks are long bottle- shaped birds' nests something like those of our long-tailed tit. It is a wild and beautiful place.

    A place one would certainly like to see, as Pater said of another shrine.

    From Lady Herringham, the accomplished painter and copyist, an expert in all primitive

    * Ajanta Frescoes, being reproductions in colour and mono- chrome of frescoes in some of the caves at Ajanta after copies taken in the years 1909-1911, by Lady Herringham and her assistants ; with introductory essays by various members of the India Society. Imnperial 4to (15 by II inches), ed. limited to 60o copies, of which 350 only are for sale at Four Guineas

    net each. The portfolio comprises 15 plates in colour, 27 in mono- chrome, I in collotype, and 28 pages of introductory matter.

    Humphrey Milford (Oxford University Press).

    I54

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  • (A) " THE QUEISTIONS OF SARIPUTRA ", CAVE XVII, WALL OF ANTECHAMBER, LEFT CORNER. FROM A WVATER-COLOUR DRA\VIN(G BY SYAD) AHMAD

    AJANTA FRESCOES ", PL. XXII (24)

    AJANTA FIRESCOES PLATE I

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  • (B) MATRIPOSHAKA JATAKA; THE ELEPHANT RETURNS TO HIS MOTHER AND KINDRED IN THE JUNGLE.

    CAVE XVII. FROM A COPY IN TEMPERA BY LADY HERRINGHAM. "4AJANTA FRESCOES ", PL. XXI (23) (C) DETAIL OF " THE BODHISATTVA AVALOKITESVARA, OR GREAT BUDDHA." BACK WALL OF HALL, LEFT OF ANTECHAMBER. FROM A XVATER-COLOUR COPY BY SYAD AHMAD AND MUHAMMAD FAZL UD

    DI)IN. AJANTA FRESCOES ", PL. XXXII (35)

    AJANTA FRESCOES

    PLATE II

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  • Ajantd Frescoes mediums, we have valuable though rather sketchy observations on the history and character of the Ajanta frescoes. Influenced too perhaps by Pater, she shocks advanced archaeology by advocat- ing repairs, for copies at least, of the mutilated antique. Where predecessors have shown blemishes "we have thought it advisable for the sake of the beauty of the composition and of intelligibility to fill up the smaller holes." Without any claim myself to be an archaeologist, I think this was an entire mistake, though it is eloquently defended by Mr. Rothenstein. The value of the copies is sacrificed to the undoubted charm of the colour reproductions. I believe archaeologists would support my conten- tion. Very important is the impression recorded by Lady Herringham that the Ajanta walls--

    were not so much surfaces to be decorated as spaces on which legends might be depicted for the identification of the devout.

    If this statement is correct, as one feels sure it is, let us hope that late 19th-century nonsense about pure or mere decoration (based on a French mis- interpretation of Japanese art) is finally disposed of. The dates of the frescoes range, Lady Herringham tells us, from 450 to 650 A.D. It is a trifle disap- pointing to find that no special dates are hazarded in the table of plates for the paintings reproduced. Reference is merely given to a volume of Mr. Vincent Smith. We learn there are twen