The exuberant wall paintings found in the Buddhist temples of Thailand enchant the eye and spirit with their subtle colour, lyrical line and vivid depiction of mythological and secular scenes inspired by ancient texts. These little-known masterpieces, reproduced here in exquisite detail, speak to us across the centuries with joy, humour and grace. Santi Leksukhum's text traces the complex history of these paintings. It examines the development of their distinctive style, from the arrival of Buddhism, to the overwhelming influence of the royal workshops of Bangkok, to the incorporation of Buddhist techniques as Thailand opened up to the West in the mid-nineteenth century. The rulers, who were believed to have divine power, imposed strict codes on subject matter, imagery and composition. Despite the extreme stylization, we see the hand of the artist in the freshness of the brushstrokes. The murals embrace opposing elements - the sacred and the profane, formality and spontaneity, the real and the imaginary - and combine them in harmonious compositions of startling beauty. The renowned French photographer Gilles Mermet made several expeditions to Thailand to photograph these magnificent murals specially for this volume. The delicate tracery and the fragility of the medium are captured in Marmet's images, which convey the full epic sweep of these narrative murals. An appendix recounts the major Buddhist texts, including the Three Worlds, the Ten Great Jatakas, or birth tales, and the Life of the Historical Buddha. In addition, there is a map showing the location of the major temples and a glossary. Temples of Gold presents an intricate and subtle art form as practised over seven centuries in celebration of one of the world's great religions. It will fascinate art lovers, students of Buddhism, cultural historians, armchair travellers, and all who want to enter the enhanced world of a rarely-seen civilization.
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Published February 12, 2001
by Thames & Hudson Ltd.
Religion & Spirituality, Arts & Photography, History.