THE ORIENTAL PEARLS OF TBILISI

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An Egyptian mummy and a sarcophagus, delicate Chinese paintings on rice paper, majestic swords of Samurai, colorful portraits by unknown Iranian masters and decorative jade items – and that’s not even a full list of the Oriental Arts Collection which can be seen in the Georgian National Museum at #3 Rustaveli Avenue. The Oriental Collection is placed in three different areas: the fi rst hall represents Egyptian art, in the second you can view the Iranian collection and the third hall houses ancient objects of the Japanese and Chinese cultures. Studies into the Oriental Arts began two centuries ago and provoked huge interest in Georgia. Some art works were gathered in the Caucasian Museum by the Georgian Literacy and Geographical – Ethnographical societies; some objects were donated from nobility families. The Oriental Arts Department of the Georgian Art Museum was established in 1954 and was periodically enriched with purchased as well as collected objects from archeological expeditions. But, due to the bleak conditions of the museum at the time, this remarkable collection found its home in the Georgian National Museum several years ago. Today, the vast collection of Oriental art attracts a lot of visitors. Indeed, it is diffi cult not to pay attention to such antique objects as the mummy of Egyptian priestess Takharus, dating back to the VI century BC, and a sarcophagus from the XI-X centuries BC with remains of paintings of two chronological layers. It is also interesting to view ancient remains of textiles in tapestries and carpet techniques made by Christian Egyptians Copts, with motives of vine leaves, animals and St. George. The second hall of the museum “breathes” Iranian soul and is more focused on lyrical paintings from the Qajar period: oil canvases of lightly dressed dancer women and lovers, created by unknown masters during the reign of Mohammad Shah (1834-1848) and Fath – Ali Shah (1798-1834). These works of art are distinctive, more decorative and far from the artistic-realistic European tendencies of that time. Two paintings, created in a different manner are also sure to catch your eye. According to art experts, the two works belong to the Georgian – Persian Painting School of the XVIII-XIX centuries. The reverse paintings on glass: “Birds,” “Portrait of Youth,” “A Scene of Photographers” also have a very delicate look. In the Chinese and Japanese area are displayed ceramics with Cobalt painting, original ritual objects, decorated weapons, paintings on silk and many others. Here you can also see a Natsuke with little fi gurines – an inseparable part and attribute of Kimono. Don’t pass by the Samurai armament and a Katana sword with its scabbard. An Emperor’s gown often worn by Sing Dynasty governors for their parade portraits is a remarkable exponent of the collection too. The gown has a fi ve-fi nger monster in the center – a guarding symbol of emperors. The real pride of the collection is two Chinese vases of the XIV-XV centuries brought here from Iran. There are only several such vases in the world. These items, with special hallmarks, were donated by Shah Abbas I to the Sheikh Safi Mausoleum, one of the religious centers of Iran. The Oriental collection also presents a number of jade fi gures. Regarded more precious than gold and silver in China, people used to make delicate items and statues of gods from jade. Finally, you should not miss the real pearl of the exposition – the XVII century painting on silk which was owned by the first Chinese family in Georgia. The family lived in Chakvi, Adjara, and was specially invited at the end of the XIX century to establish tea culture in Georgia.

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