Top ten murals of the ancient world

Top ten murals of the ancient world

A mural is a piece of art that is painted on walls. It can be on the inside of buildings or outside for public display. They are large and take artistic expertise to paint them. The artwork incorporates the architecture of the building to bring out the painting and the building as one. Murals date back to 30,000 BC. Here we take a look at ten most intriguing murals from around the world:

1. Christ in Majesty:
Christ in Majesty or Christ in Glory is the Western Christian image of Christ seated on a throne as ruler of the world. One of the most common motifs in Romanesque Art is ‘Christ in Majesty’, where Christ is depicted in full frontal view, with the Gospels in his left hand and his right hand blessing the viewers. Christ appears in a mandorla (almond shaped frame), surrounded by the four living creatures that symbolize the four evangelists: The Lion (Mark), the Bull (Luke), the Eagle (John) and the Winged Man (Matthew). This motif, an iconographic evolution of the earlier ‘Christ Pantocrator’, can be seen in apses (as mural painting), in tympanums (as relief) and elsewhere in Romanesque churches.

2. Jataka tales from the Ajanta Caves:

Thematically, the walls of the Ajanta caves have Jataka Tales that tell the stories of Bodhisattvas painted on them. Bodhisattvas are the earlier Buddhas on the path to becoming a Buddha, not yet Buddha but still carrying some traits of Buddha. There are 550 or so tales and some of them can be seen painted and sculpted at all Buddhist sites. Other than Jataka tales, the Bodhisattvas and Buddha are also painted on the walls. Bodhisattvas can be any species : elephant, monkey, snake, swan or a human being though it is never a female. However, due to environmental degradation, many paintings have been lost, it’s still a sight to behold.

3. Gajendra Moksham painting, Kerala :

The ‘Gajendra Moksham’ is a massive mural depicting an elephant saluting Lord Vishnu as the other Gods, Goddesses and sages look on in reverence. At 49 sq m, this largest single mural band which is one of its kind ever found in Kerala, greets all who visit Krishnapuram Palace.The Krishnapuram Palace is a rare specimen of the Kerala style of architecture, complete with gabled roofs, narrow corridors and dormer windows. Residence of the rulers of Kayamkulam Kingdom, the age of the palace is unknown. Renovated in the 18th century, the palace is today a protected monument under the Archaeology Department.  This mural was placed at the entrance to the palace from the pond to enable the rulers to worship the deity after their bath.

4. Investiture of Zimri Lim:

The Investiture of Zimri-Lim is a large colorful mural discovered at the Royal Palace of the ancient city-state of Mari in eastern Syria. The fresco, which dates back to the 18th century BC, depicts Zimri-Lim, king of Mari, receiving the symbols of rule from the goddess Ishtar. It was likely created c. 1775 BCE when Zimri-Lim regained the throne of Mari for the Amorite “Lim Dynasty” from Shamsi-Adad’s son, Yasmakh-Adad. The mural depicts Zimri-Lim receiving his divine right to rule from Ishtar.The picture was found on the site of its original wall located opposite the Grand doorway to the podium which leads to the throne room of the Palace. He was discovered by the French archaeologist andré parrot at Mari during excavations in the years 1935-1936. The painting is now displayed in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.

5. San Bartolo mural:

San Bartolo, located within the biological corridor of the Ixcan River Basin, northeast of the Department of Petén, has the most beautiful, polychrome murals of all of the archaeological sites found in Guatemala, making it a proposed candidate for Cultural Heritage status for its unique value on an artistic level. The most important and impressive part of the San Bartolo site is a structure called the Pyramid of the Paintings, featuring a construction sequence that dates back to the Late Preclassic period (250 BC-250 AD).  Here the Maya erected a domed building that within its interior are one-of-a-kind murals, painted with beautiful and bright colors. The murals are complex mythological scenes relating to the Maize God and the creation of the world, as well as the enthronement of a sovereign, which is part of the historical process of the Maya.

6. Panel of glazed tiles by Jorge Colaço:

The Portuguese painter, Jorge Colaco was an azulejo painter. The name of Jorge Colaço is closely linked to Porto, through the beautiful tile panels of the S. Bento Railway Station (above), considered one of the most beautiful in the world. The tiles that line the walls of the lobby celebrate this year the 100th anniversary of its application as decorative pieces that give the place an incomparable beauty, transforming it into a surprising spectacle for all who visit.

7. Wall paintings in Alchi and Hemis monasteries, Ladakh:

The Alchi murals, their vibrant colors and beautifully rendered forms rivaling medieval European frescoes, have drawn a growing number of tourists from around the world. Mesmerizing colored patterns scroll across the wood beams overhead; the temple’s walls are covered with hundreds of small seated Buddhas, finely painted in ocher, black, green, azurite and gold. At the far end of the room, towering more than 17 feet high, stands an unblinking figure, naked to the waist, with four arms and a gilded head topped with a spiked crown. It’s a painted statue of the Bodhisattva Maitreya, a messianic being of Tibetan Buddhism who came to bring enlightenment to the world. Two hulking statues, one embodying compassion and the other wisdom, stand in niches on side walls, attended by garishly colored sculptures depicting flying goddesses and minor deities. Each massive figure wears a dhoti, a kind of sarong, embellished with minutely rendered scenes from the life of Buddha.

8. The murals at the Vishnu Temple ,Madanpur ,Uttar Pradesh:

Traces of narrative paintings found on the ceiling of Vishnu Temple at Madanpur, near Lalitpur in UP. Temple was built at the time of Raja Madan Verma (1130-1165). The paintings were added later. The angular flying figures, with pointed noses, extended eyes and dressed in patterned tight fitting costumes, have affiliations with Jain characters in Medieval palm leaf Kalpasutras also with eastern Indian palm leaf Manuscript paintings. The conventional lotus, peacocks and other decorations are also similar to those in medieval paintings. Madanpur figures are static, though thickly crowded in Hindu manner.  They move around the main static design of the ceiling almost like apsaras of Ajanta.

9. Murals of Virupaksha temple, Hampi:
The ceiling of the Virupaksha temple in Hampi is covered with paintings of the 15th century. There is simplicity and vigour in the style of the paintings. A sense of movement and energy is caught in the painted figures. In these paintings, there is a deep intertwining of the story of the Vijayanagar empire and its kings with the stories of the gods they believed in. There is also a painting of the procession of the revered sage Vidyaranya, who was the spiritual mentor of the founders of the Empire.

10. Sulawesi Cave Art (37,900 BC):

The Sulawesi cave art consists of hand stenciling dating back to at least 37,900 BC. It was one of the oldest paintings of its type ever discovered in the world. It is the second oldest painting in the world after the EL Castillo cave paintings which have been dated to around 39,000 BC. Discovered in Sulawesi, Indonesia, it has become a treasure among prehistoric artworks and something of a revolution in the study of the evolution of mankind.

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