Bamiyan Oil Paintings
April 24, 2008 9:20 PM   Subscribe

Ancient Buddhist Paintings From Bamiyan Were Made Of Oil, Hundreds Of Years Before Technique Was 'Invented' In Europe. [Via MonkeyFilter.]

Previous posts on ancient Buddhist murals.
posted by homunculus (23 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sweet! I've recently been having internal angst about logical positivism versus the merits of traditional knowledge, so it's really nice to see something that shows how contemporary scientific techniques can work in tandem with historiography to validate ancient traditions.

Also, it's pretty neat.
posted by Tesseractive at 9:31 PM on April 24, 2008


wow nice.
posted by italktoomuch at 9:42 PM on April 24, 2008


The Made Of Oil link is absolutely fascinating. Great post!
posted by amyms at 9:51 PM on April 24, 2008


Thanks for the links! A lovely way to wind down before bed...
posted by owhydididoit at 10:27 PM on April 24, 2008


In many European history and art books, oil painting is said to have started in the 15th century in Europe.

Those silly racist Europeans who think they did everything first! As it is, historians have to work with the knowledge they have. Had the Afghans built on their success and gone on to invent a printing press, produce a Mona Lisa, or even kept written records of their accomplishments perhaps European text books would have not had to wait until 2008 to learn the truth.
posted by three blind mice at 1:00 AM on April 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


It seems as if the next steps are clear: get out there and do more synchrotron analysis! There are still other extant samples of the Gandhara school of Buddhist painting and architecture, but they are unfortunately in areas that are in peril either politically or naturally.
posted by DenOfSizer at 3:54 AM on April 25, 2008


The European cave artists of Lascaux mixed their pigments with spit or animal fat 20,000 years ago. Animal fat, in case you haven't had your cholesterol checked lately, is oil. So get this, buddy, our Christian European cavemen were doing oil painting well before your Afghan Bhuddists were doing their heavily outlined, Herge-influenced cartoons. Too bad this headline writer had to steal the joy the whole world might have taken in the discovery of these pictures by turning it into a sophomoric sneer against "so-called Western culture."
posted by Faze at 4:35 AM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Those silly racist Europeans who think they did everything first!

The wicked flee when no man pursueth.
posted by DU at 4:53 AM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


There are only so many ways to make paint.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:35 AM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oil on canvas with a hair brush was European. It replaced panel painting as the dominant form. There was more to it than just the fact oil was used. Because canvas is cheaper and lighter and easier to make and work with it created a flood of new painting commissions, the ability to experiment more, to go beyond religious subjects, to easily trade and sell works of art. Oil on a cave wall is as Faze points out very old, and it's non-portable, limited where it can exist, limited in existence and influence.
posted by stbalbach at 6:02 AM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


How long before Technique was invented, anyway?
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 6:51 AM on April 25, 2008



Hundreds Of Years Before Technique Was 'Invented' In Europe.

This is unnecessary, as I don't ever recall reading or hearing a claim that oil paint was invented in Europe. What Europe most certainly did invent was a painting style in which the depictions were made as realistic as possible, which in turn demanded the use of a slower drying paints.

There's a strange glee that some people take when it is discovered that something wasn't invented in Europe but instead was invented centuries earlier in some other culture. So what? The Chinese invented gunpowder in the 800's. Seven hundred years later they still had gunpowder. The Europeans learned about gunpowder in the 1200's. Seven hundred years later they were putting people on rockets and sending them to the moon.

There are myriad examples of this. Baghdad batteries, paper money in China, compasses, calendars, etc. But no generators, no central banking, co coordinate-based mapping or navigation. None of the things that come fifty or a hundred generations into exploring the technology after the initial discovery or invention.

Culture is not a collection of claims to priority, nor should cultures be compared on the basis of which one had what inventions first. It is very easy to invent the first one of anything. You want a battery? Jam a coper nail and a zinc nail into an orange and you have a battery. The Afghans had oil paint first. So? Someone in Afghanistan invented it, but evidently not enough people in that culture cared about the invention to pass that knowledge along down through the years. It was so lost to history that when European painters decide they need better slow drying paint, someone has to reinvent oil paint independently. When that guy does it, apparently a lot of people care and start copying his invention, because it shows up in hundreds if not thousands of paintings shortly thereafter. So if you must compare the invention of oil paint in Afghanistan or in Europe, which contribution is more important? The contribution that was forgotten by its culture, or the contribution that was embrace and spread throughout its culture?
posted by Pastabagel at 8:01 AM on April 25, 2008


The Europeans learned about gunpowder in the 1200's. Seven hundred years later they were putting people on rockets and sending them to the moon.

Europeans landed on the moon? I must have missed that.
posted by R. Mutt at 9:09 AM on April 25, 2008


Tintin landed on the moon in 1953.
posted by teg at 9:44 AM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


And but plus the Chinese invented paper, which is also important to art sometimes.
posted by DenOfSizer at 10:13 AM on April 25, 2008


Pastabagel, thank you for typing what I was thinking. Well said.
posted by alexwoods at 10:27 AM on April 25, 2008


Too bad this headline writer had to steal the joy the whole world might have taken in the discovery of these pictures by turning it into a sophomoric sneer against "so-called Western culture."

You know, the headline really didn't steal the joy for me. I hardly even considered it. But I guess it does give snarkers an excuse to do what they love best, so that's just more joy for everyone.
posted by homunculus at 1:04 PM on April 25, 2008


cool.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:51 PM on April 25, 2008


Europeans landed on the moon? I must have missed that.

Werner von Braun put those men on the moon.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:13 PM on April 25, 2008


Werner von Braun, as a naturalized U.S. citizen, put those men on the moon.

For some reason he felt the need to leave Europe, go figure.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:37 PM on April 25, 2008


Some Europeans might have wanted a word with Von Braun about the Mittelwerk and the ultimate destination of the V2.
posted by Grimgrin at 8:03 PM on April 25, 2008


Cool find! First, not first, bfd. Oil paint was in use prior to when we previously thought, that's a neat discovery.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:55 AM on April 26, 2008


Hidden jewel of Afghan culture: Architectural historian and broadcaster Dan Cruickshank treks into the mountains of western Afghanistan to visit and film an architectural treasure, the leaning minaret of Jam.
posted by homunculus at 6:14 PM on May 4, 2008


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