Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Not content with the fine cement work that the casual observer may well mistake for the grandeur of such as Portland Stone, the mid to late 19th Century builders of so many of the 120 palaces in Bangladesh, clearly found the grandeur an insufficient demonstration of their wealth.
Sitlai Palace in Pabna.
Many of the palaces from mid 19th Century onward are designed in a neo classical form, or towering columns, and intricate capitols, and the skill of the work executed in brick and cement is very impressive. Indeed, it is said that, in Europe, workman had not mastered such intricate work skills; more impressive is the durability of these great pieces of work. Acanthus leaves remain intact 150 years on; even in Portland stone some wear might be expected!

Puthia Palace near Rajshahi.

However, to delight the eye, it is the ceramic mosaic work that still can please.
Whether the work derives from the intricate inlays, conspicuous in the marbles of the Taj Mahal, or has its origins closer to the homelands of those it may be reasonable to suspect were the craftsmen... China and South Asia..it is not clear.
Certainly, the 19th Century Shop houses of such as Malacca and Singapore are rich in this decor, and the use of broken ceramics makes that origin seem more probable. But whatever the origin, the craft was clearly elevated to high art in buildings in Bangladesh.

Dublahati Palace in Naogaon.

Great palaces are faced with such mosaics, including, at  one magnificent site, the use of entire crockery, whole, across the fascia! But the gemlike appearance of the finished work can be breathtaking. And, as the minarets of so many, even newly built mosques evidence, it is an art form far from lost.
The use of stone fragments, too, are used to great effect on at least one stately mansion in Panam City, and, inevitably, inlays too, of semi precious stones like Lapis Lazula..but in cement and plaster, rather than the unavailable, or unaffordable, marble.

Panam City in Sonaorgoan.
Carefully sculpted cement blocks are also in evidence, with patterns probably derived from the rich tradition of terracotta. And then there is the wrought ironwork, with evidence of origin in both Britain, and locally made.  All of which adds up to some very grand designs, indeed!

No comments:

Post a Comment