Friday, 24 November 2017

Cover stories

Arts of the Kingdom

An Exhibition of Masterpieces of Thai Craftsmen

tw-v33-n1-resize_resize

By Busaba
Photos by Royal Courtesy

"I was delighted to have the opportunity on July 2, 2004 to open the latest exhibition of the SUPPORT Foundation at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. It was wonderful to see such spectacular creations, so magnificently handcrafted by our villagers that His Majesty and I have helped to educate and nurture. Now these talented but poverty stricken villagers have become happy villagers, enjoying high artistic skills in their chosen fields. All of you can see and admire the exceptional works presented by generations of these farmers. It is their way of showing gratitude to the land. Today, we are truly happy with such rewarding results."

Excerpt from Her Majesty the Queen's Birthday Anniversary Speech, August 11, 2004.

Thailand's artisans have long been widely recognised for their superb craftsmanship, and the best place to see the actual proof of this is the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, where the most exquisite arts and crafts of the nation are elegantly displayed. For those foreign visitors who wish to learn about and appreciate the traditional arts and crafts of Thailand, this is truly a must-visit place.

"Arts of the Kingdom" is a magnificent exhibition of exquisite traditional Thai crafts displayed in the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. These superb pieces are produced by villagers from around the country who have been given the opportunity by Her Majesty the Queen to learn ancient Thai crafts, perfect their techniques and eventually create beautiful works of art at the Sirikit Institute, formerly known as SUPPORT Training Center at Chitralada Villa, the royal residence in Bangkok of their Majesties.

The Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, the venue of this royal art exhibition, constructed by the royal command of King Rama V in 1907, is probably the most graceful and majestic museum in Thailand.

Here you can see all types of crafts produced by highly-skilled craftsmen, for example, gold and silver handicrafts, gold and silver nielloware, gold and silver inlay, enamel ware, silk weaving, woodcarving, yan lipao basketry, clay modelling, painting, and embroidery. These art works reflect the decades of work initiated under the Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques or the SUPPORT Foundation under the Royal Patronage of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit.

On July 21, 1976 the SUPPORT Foundation of HM Queen Sirikit was officially established to promote local arts and crafts which would assist in supplementing income for the underprivileged families. On regular regional visits, Her Majesty would meet with villagers to informally chat and listen to their opinions and problems, while inspecting their latest handiworks and meet with new talents, who would later be sent to train in Bangkok. With encouragement, the villagers were excited and willing to cultivate higher skills in handling more intricate designs, from weaving to Yan Lipao Basketry and complicated wooden carvings. In 1979, the SUPPORT Training Center was founded at Chitralada Villa. Local artisans from rural villages were selected to receive training from master craftsmen who are experts in various fields of arts and crafts.

Before the Arts of the Kingdom became permanent exhibition in 2008, it had been arranged as a special exhibition on significant occasions, such as the celebrations of Her Majesty the Queen's fifth cycle, or 60th birthday anniversary in 1992, the 60th anniversary of His Majesty the King's accession to the throne in 2006 and His Majesty the King's 80th birthday in December 2007.

Some of the Masterpieces

Each art object on display reflects excellent craftsmanship, and some pieces took one or two years to complete and by a team of more than two hundred artisans. There is over a hundred pieces of works in the exhibition and all of them are masterpieces in my opinion. Anyway, some major masterpieces presented by the institute are as follows:

Busabok Mala (บุษบกมาลา)

A royal regalia rank; crafted in gold nielloware, damascene, enamel, gold and silver and wood carving; embellished with cut iridescent green beetle wing and intricately woven Yan Lipao vine.

Sappagab Phragajatarn (สัปคับพระคชาธาร)

A howdah used by the king when seated on the back of a royal elephant. Crafted in gold floral and vegetative designs and embellished with diamonds, the howdah has a silver inner frame ornamented with a mosaic made from beetle wings.

Model of Sri Suphannahongse Royal Barge (เรือพระที่นั่งสุพรรณหงส์จำลอง)

The majestic golden head of the mythical swan is enamelled and has diamond eyes and fangs. Its mouth holds long ornate and supple golden tassel decorated with diamonds.

Suphannabhetra (สุพรรณเภตรา)

This boat is crafted from gold nielloware. The mast is damascened with an inlay of hair-fine gold and silver wires and with enamelled flags at the top. The sails are filigreed gold sheets. The mat lining the boat is woven strips of gold.

Wood-carved Screen with Scenes from Himavan Forest (ฉากจำหลักไม้เรื่องหิมพานต์)

This panel is carved following the scenes on the other side of the panel, using the same city and palace scenes. All the mythical animals of Himavan are on display -- the Garuda, Naga and Kinnorn. Plants from the mythical forest are abundant, as are the deities and their courtiers, the demons, and the sacred mountain of Kailash, the abode of Shiva.

Other masterpieces are: Footprints of the Lord Buddha in Gold Nielloware, Phra Mahajanaka Golden Junk, Khram Phra Dhramachakra Wheel of Law, Sappagab Thomthong, Sappagab Chamlak Mai, Gold Niello Screen with Scenes from the Ramakien, Embroidered Screen on the Theme of Inao, Wood-Carving Screen with the Legend of Bejaratana, Gold Nielloware Bowl with the 108 Auspicious Symbols, and the Beetle Wing Room

Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall

HM King Rama V commissioned this throne hall built on the grounds of the Dusit Palace in 1907. It was completed in 1915 in the reign of King Rama VI. The throne hall is resplendent with Carrara marble from Italy, embellished with a rich Renaissance decor. The Throne Hall is a two storey construction with a large dome (49.5m high) in the centre, surrounded by six smaller domes. In 2008, HM the King graciously granted permission for the Sirikit Institute to use the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall as a museum for the Arts of the Kingdom.

Admission and Ticketing

  • Ticket Price: 150 Baht
  • The Grand Palace tour tickets can be used as admission tickets. (Tickets expire 7 days after purchase.)
  • Official Hours: Tuesday - Sunday, 10.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. (Tickets are available from 10.00 a.m. - 4.00 p.m). Museum is closed on Mondays, New Year's Holidays and Songkran Days.
  • Remarks: Women are required to wear appropriate length dresses or skirts. Sleeveless clothing is not allowed. Cotton sarongs are available for 50 Baht per piece. Men are required to wear long pants and sleeved shirts.

Facilities: Parking area, toilets, wheel chairs for the disabled and the elderly, audio players for both Thai and English narration, souvenir shop, coffee shop.

For more details, please visit www.artsofthekingdom.com