Arts and Culture
Even in early antiquity, glass art in countless forms was everywhere, but the tradition of fine and detailed paintings on the back of flat glass panes, which were then flipped and viewed from the front —with outstanding, long-lived coloration and a characteristic visual brilliance— was a European monopoly through the 18th century. At the same time, copper engraving technology was making possible inexpensive reproduction of book illustrations, wall decoration, and devotional art; and the extremely high level of artisanship required to create RGPs one at a time saw the slow eclipse of European RGPs. Which was somewhat reversed throughout the 19th century by the export to discerning European markets —via their colonial outposts— of Asian-produced RGPs of subject matter appealing to elite European sensibilities.
Included in this panel would be a detailed curatorial overview of Chinese RGPs in eighteen different Netherland museums; an India-focused review of the adoption, first by Chinese diaspora artists in the subcontinent, later by locals who produced their work largely for regional elites: whose acceptance in the Dravidian states of this unorthodox art form was likely facilitated by the absence there of a conservative or hidebound tradition of Moghul-style miniatures; another investigation of Chinese cultural exports of the RGP technique to Siam, and rather than looking particularly at the adoption of RGP to Buddhist iconography (as was predominant in the other Theravada countries), it was perhaps the basic visual groundwork for the enthusiastic adoption by Siamese artists of European-style landscape paintings: sometimes in RGP (where even now in Thailand most RGPs extant in Buddhist temples are of landscapes and composed still lifes); and finally a presentation on the role of the VoC (the Dutch East India Company), which for largely mercantile reasons, in 1686 generously gifted a Siamese king with a hundred superbly-executed Dutch RGPs of completely secular subject matter, with an eye towards being invited to establish a “factory” in the then-capital Ayodhya. And how once the essential technology of producing flat glass panes had become mastered across mainland Southeast Asia, producing RGPs locally became inexpensive enough for a popular market seeking objects for merit-making through temple donations; and not least also, for handsomely upgrading the aesthetics of even modest household altars: often with RGP pilgrimage souvenirs.