Paintings in Oil

by wjw on July 18, 2008

The world’s oldest oil paintings have been discovered in Asia, dating from the 5th to 9th centuries, well before the technique was imported (or independently rediscovered) by Europeans.

The most heartening aspect of this news is that the oil paintings are at the Buddhist site in Bamyan in Afghanistan, where the Taliban, with encouragement from al-Qaeda, blew up the colossal Buddha statues back in 2001 in a world-class case of cultural vandalism.

The Taliban didn’t do a very thorough job, it seems. The Bamyan complex is very large, and in the tunnels and structures behind the Buddhas are thoroughly decorated with Buddhist imagery, including the oil paintings. The paintings have been severely damaged, but much remains intact.

UNESCO is attempting a restoration of the statues, so perhaps the paintings will be restored as well.

In the meantime I’m all glowy that culture survives and that the Taliban’s most infamous act was performed in such a incompetent fashion.

Eleanor July 25, 2008 at 5:13 pm

Very cool. I climbed to the top of the big Buddha in Bamian when I was 16. There were still paintings on the walls of the nitch within which the Buddha stood. It wasn’t a hard climb. There tunnels made by the workers who carved the figure were still there and usable.

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