'Arts of the Kingdom VI' offers breathtaking proof that Thai craftsmanship hasn't faded
The Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall at Dusit Palace – long admired for its architectural blend of Italian Renaissance and neo-classicism and Siamese craftsmanship – has since 2007 been an active showcase for the Kingdom’s heritage. That year Her Majesty the Queen arranged for a permanent display of delicately embroidered screens, carvings and other remarkable creations, as seen in the exhibition “Arts of the Kingdom”.
This year brings “Arts of the Kingdom VI”, with nine new masterpieces added. Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn opened the exhibition last Saturday on behalf of His Majesty the King.
Set out like modern art museums, the show guides visitors – in Thai and English – through the history of superb Siamese craftsmanship and offers a glimpse of the future. That future rests in the capable hands of artisans at the Sirikit Institute, formerly Support – the Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques.
Among the new additions are breathtaking emerald-hued wallpaper and chederlia decorated with beetle wings. Joining portraits of the King and Queen on the wall is Thai poetry in Gold KhramDamascene.
And another hall has the Gold Khram Damascene Inlay “Kong” Throne. This small throne is named after the shape of the armrests, which curve like kong – disks – to fit the sitter. Because of its small size and lightness, it can be used as a palanquin in royal processions. In the past kong thrones were made of intricately carved wood and decorated with lacquer and gold and coloured mirror pieces. To accommodate the gold damascene inlay, the new throne on view was made at the Sirikit Institute completely of metal.
The base, customarily a basic rectangle, is a more elaborate 12-cornered redented platform. In place of the traditional garuda and naga motif is a chain of monkeys, corresponding to the Queen’s birth sign in the Chinese zodiac.
The base tapers upward to the throne platform, which itself has two layers. The bottom shows the singha (lion) and the upper more monkeys as well as Poom Khao Bin rice and other traditional motifs.
The beautiful gold inlay also bears a collage of beetle wings, adding vivid colour and dimension. Combined with the gold fretwork and other decorative elements, the Kong Throne is a startling work of art that combines the best of the past and present.
Nearby is a double-sided wood-carved screen depicting the Sangthong and Rojana from King Rama II’s play “Inao” on the front and creatures from the Ramakien’s mythical Himma- vanta Forest on the reverse. Six metres long, 36 centimetres wide and 5.2 metres high, it was a three-year labour of love for 79 carvers.
Sangthong and Rojana and forest characters Kinnorn and Kinnaree are sculpted in teak, life size, and decorated with jewel-like beetle wings.
The triple-spire Busabok Throne is based on the one seen in Lord Brahma’s heavenly abode, as portrayed on the pediment of the Buddhai Sawan Throne Hall. A busabok is a small, open-sided pavilion, a repository for sacred objects such as Buddha images or Tipitaka scriptures. Nearly 200 artisans spent almost two years on this masterpiece.
Garnering support for the Queen’s efforts to preserve the art of making gold and silver nielloware – a Siamese speciality since the Ayutthaya Period – the exhibition has a Gold Niello Screen. It depicts three episodes from the Ramakien – “Ravana in His Garden”, “Chasing the Deer and Sita’s Abduction”, and “Hunt of the Horse Upakarn”.
Also on display are models of the Sri Prapatsorachai and Mongkol Suban Royal Barges, and an amazing embroidered piece depicting 18 scenes from Rama II’s “Inao”.
More than 143 craftsmen spent the past four years creating this beautiful silk panel, 9.61 metres long and 4.29 metres high. The neat stitching technique known as pak soi incorporated 250 shades of silk, ensuring astonishing dimension and detail. Parts of the pattern are padded for added depth, a trick dating to the reign of King Chulalongkorn.
The Lord of Swans is shown in various colours in tribute to Her Majesty, alongside the garuda, the royal symbol of Rama II. Eighteen chapters are illustrated, including “Collecting Flowers”, “Busaba Bathing”, “Viewing the Shrine” and “Whirlwind”.
THE SIAMESE WAY
<< “Arts of the Kingdom VI” opens at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall at Dusit Palace on Friday and will continue indefinitely, daily except Monday from 10am to 5pm except for Coronation Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, and Songkran.
<< Admission is Bt150 (Bt75 for students). Ticket sales close each day at 4pm.
<< City buses that stop near Dusit Palace include 503, 70 and 72. Private car parking is in the Equestrian Plaza at Sanam Sua Pa and at Vimanmek Mansion.
<< Proper attire is required: no shorts or sleeveless tops, no skirts above the knee, no sarong-style skirts and no denim jeans.
<< Find out more at (02) 283 9411 and (02) 283 9185 and www.ArtsOfTheKingdom.com.
<< Watch video clip www.NationMultiMedia.com