Guides to Fine Arts Like Painting, Designing, Architecture, Sculpture, Photography and More

In Babylon, in the sixth century b.c., under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, the art of tile-painting reached a high state of perfection. The Babylonians had no such splendid alabaster as had the Assyrians, neither had they lime-stone; so they could not make fine sculptured slabs, such as are found at Nineveh and in other Assyrian ruins. But the Babylonians had a fine clay, and they learned how to use it to the best advantage. The city of Babylon shone with richly colored tiles, and one traveller writes: “By the side of Assyria, her colder and severer sister of the North, Babylon showed herself a true child of the South,—rich, glowing, careless of the rules of taste, only desiring to awaken admiration by the dazzling brilliance of her appearance.”

Many of the Babylonish tiles are in regular, set patterns in rich tints; some are simply in solid colors. These last are found in the famous terrace-temple of BorsippĂȘ, near Babylon. We know from ancient writings that there were decorative paintings in Babylon which represented hunting scenes and like subjects, and, according to the prophet Ezekiel, chap. xxiii., verse 14, there were “men portrayed upon the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed with vermilion, girded with girdles upon their loins, exceeding in dyed attire upon their heads, all of them princes to look to, after the manner of the Babylonians of Chaldea, the land of their nativity.” Some writers assume that this must have been a description of tapestries; but most authorities believe them to have been glazed tile-paintings.

A whole cargo of fragments of Babylonish tile-paintings was once collected for the gallery of the Louvre at Paris, and, when on board a ship and ready to be sent away, by some accident the whole was sunk. From the descriptions of them which were written, we find that there were portions of pictures of human faces and other parts of the body, of animals, mountains, and forests, of water, walls, and trees.

Judging from what still remains, the art of painting was far less important and much less advanced among the Eastern or Oriental nations than were those of architecture and sculpture. It is very strange that these peoples, who seem to have observed nature closely, and to have mastered the mathematical sciences, made no steps toward the discovery of the laws of perspective; neither did they know how to give any expression of thought or feeling to the human face. In truth, their pictures were a mere repetition of set figures, and were only valuable as pieces of colored decorations for walls, adding a pleasing richness and variety by their different tints, but almost worthless as works of art.

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