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very fond, and not without reason, as it is the same costly colour which we call ultramarine. But generally such ornaments are not carved in the plaster, but are simply painted on the flat surface of the walls, either with the proper colours, or with blue and gold, or with blue only, as in the carving. This applies also to the Arabesques.
H. Pray, Sir, does that name come from the Arabs?
U. O. Yes : It was a sort of ornament much employed by the Arabs, who as their religion forbade them to make representations of animals, made the best amends they could by disposing the stalks, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits of plants and trees into an endless variety of ornamental forms, which, like the Persian, they cut or painted on the walls and ceilings of their rooms.* It is really a beautiful sort of ornament when tastefully done, as it often is in the East. But you observe that the Persians, by sometimes introducing birds, do what the Arabs were anxious to avoid. In the famous Arabian palace in Spain, called the Alhambra, the walls are covered with rich work of this description ;
* See the article “ ARABESQUE” in the Penny Cyclopædia.
but there is not, throughout, a single representation of any living thing.
To give you a complete notion of a room ornamented in the most splendid Persian style, I should add that pieces of looking-glass, cut with great exactness, are sometimes inserted amongst the wreathings of these ornaments, so as to fill every vacant space. The effect is very fine when the work is well done; for the room seems lined with looking-glass, over which the stalks and foliage of the rich arabesque appears to run; while the reflections so multiply and deepen the parts of the room in every direction, that, on the first view, the eye of the stranger is bewildered in the gorgeous maze that surrounds him, and which looks more like a dream than any thing real. It is true, that an European may be disappointed when he comes to examine the different ornaments of the room with attention ; but those who are not over-nice in matters of taste, and who like to be pleased with what they see, without asking too anxiously about the why and wherefore, will allow the whole to be impressive and beautiful. The rooms which the Persians themselves consider the most splendid are those which, in the
palaces of the king, and some of the princes, are almost entirely covered with looking-glasses, both in the walls and ceilings; - not in frames, you will observe, but set in the plaster, and nicely joined to one another. When the pieces are large, this is certainly very magnificent.
Mr. D. And are the pieces often large ?
U. O. Yes. The late king, in the course of his reign, received a great number of splendid looking-glasses from England and Russia as presents. Most of these were taken out of their rich frames, and applied to the purpose of lining rooms. These were employed by him in one of his palaces, in the way I mentioned at the beginning of our present talk. Now we must go. Put on your shoes.
Uncle Oliver. I wish again to remind you, that the Persian rooms owe their highly decorated state to the want of furniture. We do not need all this ornament of our walls and ceilings, because we fill our rooms with furniture, most of which is highly ornamental, particularly in our best rooms; but without any furniture, the Persian rooms have a full appearance. It is clear therefore that we have different ways for doing the same thing. If we had less furniture; we should bestow more ornament upon our walls and ceilings; and, indeed, we formerly did employ nearly as much ornament in this way, about our rooms, as the Persians do now. This was when we wanted it nearly as much as they do at present ; for then our articles of furniture were few, and those few not very elegant. But as we advanced in refinement and elegance, our furniture became more abundant and ornamental, and then our rooms themselves gradually became plainer. You understand this, my boys and girl ? Henry. Yes: but, Sir, I dont understand how they do without furniture in their rooms.
U. O. A Persian would be equally at a loss to understand what we do with the furniture we have in our rooms. He would feel much in the same way as a Persian joiner, when shown the numerous tools which an Englishman of his trade employs, and say, “How many things there are that I do not want !”
Frank. And would he be in the right?
U. O. Certainly not. I could say very much on this subject; but I must not allow your questions to carry me too far away from Persia. Ask Mr. Dillon to-morrow, and I dare say he will explain all this to you. [Mr. Dillon nods - as much as to say, “Yes with pleasure.”] All I need say is, that the Persian who should feel and speak in this manner, would forget that the barbarian in his tent, and the savage in his hut or cave, might feel and say the same on viewing his own fine rooms, carpets, fountainsand flower-gardens. If, therefore, he considers himself superior to us because he has fewer wants than ourselves, he ought for the same reasons to consider the savage, whose wants are still fewer than his own, to be superior to himself. If we allow this way