Mediaeval Sinhalese Art
Being a Monograph on Mediaeval Sinhalese Arts
& Crafts, Mainly as Surviving in the Eighteenth
Century, with an Account of the Structure of Society
& the Status of the Craftsmen, 2nd Edition
By Ananda K. Coomaraswamy
December 2003, Reprint of 1956 Edition
Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers
413 pages, Illustrated, 8 ¾" x 11 ½"
This book is a record of the work and the life of the craftsman in a feudal society not unlike that of Early Mediaeval Europe. It deals, not with a period of great attainment in fine art, but with a beautiful and dignified scheme of peasant decoration, based upon the traditions of Indian art and craft. Sinhalese art is essentially Indian, but possesses this special interest, that it is in many ways of an earlier character, and more truly Hindu - though Buddhist in intention - than any Indian art surviving on the mainland so late as the beginning of the nineteenth century. The minor arts, and the painting, are such as we might expect to have been associated with the culture of Asoka's time, and the builders of Barahat. The period dealt with has been called Mediaeval; but it must be understood that changes of style in decorative art take place comparatively slowly, and that it is generally impossible to say at a glance whether a given piece of work be of the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth century, or even older or later. Most of the specimens here figured or described date from the latter part of the eighteenth century. Mediaeval conditions survived in full force until the British occupation of Kandy in 1815, and what is actually described in this book is the work of Sinhalese craftsmen under mediaeval conditions, mainly as these survived in the eighteenth century, and, in a less degree, even to the present day.
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