Role of visual forms of art in architecture of Uzbekistan in ancient period

Shoira Nurmukhamedova,

During various periods of development of architecture art of Central Asia there was its close interrelation with monumental painting and sculpture. The Chinese chronicles testified monumental painting in the Central Asian monuments, eulogizing colorful paintings of the building in Kushaniya (1, page 315; page 19) which walls had “paintings” of faces of the kings of various countries. The process of close interrelation of small types of fine arts with the architectural environment, interior space and decoration of walls can be traced on the monuments of the ancient period in northern and southern Bactria, Khorezm, Sogd, and eastern Parthia, “where synthesis of arts was formed with involvement of Greek art, but everywhere looked differently” (2, p. 228).
If to look at the history of the world architecture, you can notice various level of relationship of fine and monumental arts. So, in ancient Greece, which architecture differed in compositional logicality, ancient builders strengthened feeling of interaction between sculpture and architecture by means of sculptural composition due to their plastic properties (3). In Ancient Rome murals and mosaics were used for decoration of houses. By means of painting the “isolation of Roman house and narrowness of their rooms were visually expanded” (3, page 481). Small types of arts occupied a specific place also in ancient architecture of Uzbekistan, where “plastic art prevailed over painting” (4, page 214).
Attitude to a wall surface was special already during the Achaemenid period, when pilaster-sides, cornices, castellation were used for decoration of buildings. Use of graphic means was limited during the ancient period, they were applied “only in nodal elements of volumetric and spatial compositions of buildings” (5, page 43). The nature of decoration of rooms in many respects depended on their function: economic and service rooms were decorated more modestly, living and ceremonial rooms were decorated with the appropriate pomp. For example, if in Buddhist constructions or temples, where Bactrian masters, felt more freely in the creative terms, they were actively decorated with the means of painting and sculptures (Fayaztepa, Karatepa), then in the Zoroastrian constructions there was “a relative hostility to the cult of idols” (6, page 64), as in Achaemenid Iran there already had been prohibition of graphic elements, which were widely spread during the hellinization period (4, page 214).
Small types of arts were generally used in the interiors (Toprak-kala, Khalchayan) focused on a human scale, while exteriors were built on a combination of simple monumental volumes correlated with the city scale. In the interiors, differing in the color saturation and plastic development of walls, there was a process of subordination of fine arts to the monumental one, whereas art means emphasized composite features of a particular construction.
A sculpture made of fat plastic clay of yellow-brown color, submitting to the architecture, served as an element of its design. A relief prevailed in a sculpture, but it was also done in a bas-relief, high relief (Ayratam frieze, the Palace in Toprak-Kala) or in the form of a round sculpture (Aykhanum, Surkh-Kotal), depending on its placement in the general composition of a particular construction and experience of the masters belonging to different art schools. It should be noted that regardless of execution manner the particular sculpture was intended for not on a roundabout way, but for a frontal view (Oks temple on Takhti-Sangin (7, page 159) and always (unlike, for example, the Greek one) was connected with the wall, as if growing out of it (8, page 130). Therefore in the round sculpture (Khalchayan) the head was executed in full, shoulders and breast – in a three-quarter relief, and torso in the bas-relief. Gradual increase of volume is an Asian technique in sculptural compositions, characteristic of the early ancient period, whereas subsequently such differences did not exist. Such techniques were designed to create a better visual effect, “correcting visual shifts caused by high location of the sculpture in rather narrow interior of the hall” (9, page 105). Often presented images of the secular (statues of kings) and religious subjects (sculptures of local deities, images of Buddha and Bodhisattva) had intentional asymmetry (in faces), disproportion (in figures) aimed at correction of visual angles (Khalchayan).
The ancient architects, who perceived a space holistically, set aside special decorative niches in the rooms for installation of a round sculpture. It could be decorative niches (spiral form as, for example, in the Hall of soldiers on Toprakkala), small rectangular “shelves” (hall of victories), rectangular niches with arched top (Surkh-Kotal), and arches of different shapes (semi-circular or pointed up). Thus, in installation of the sculpture there was no uniformity, and the “entire sculpture was considered as one of the types of internal decor of the wall” (10, page 81). The effect was amplified with the color, which served, for example, as addition to the best perception of three-dimensional sculpture, revealing its plastic forms, emphasizing their illusory vitality (Dt-1, Dt-7). Considering the fact that the interiors were mostly shaded (due to the lack of windows), and the main material (clay) weakened perception clearness, thanks to introduction of color the sculpture in a special way enliven the interior. And in contrast to the more constrained medieval one the ancient sculpture differed in the realistic forms (correct construction of a figure), expressiveness (type and emotions of faces), ease (in various turns of a body), which emphasized the esthetic sides of constructions. Using artistic opportunities, masters of ancient sculpture emphasized monumentality of constructions and their ideological concept (for example, the idea of greatness). And, the most important, the sculpture differed in the architectonic feature (Buddha under arches, Gandharva between acanthuses) as scales of the monument itself, height of walls, observation conditions, architectonics of the interior were nevertheless a decisive factor in their installation on a particular site (11, page 86).
Smooth walls of buildings in the architecture of Uzbekistan of the ancient period were segmented not only horizontally – friezes and zophor, but also vertically thanks to door and window openings, columns and pilasters. And if in Bactria masters used corinthianized and composite capitals and pilasters representing a finished architectural form, then the monumental architecture of Khorezm was not familiar with corinthianized pilasters, and instead of them, peculiar architectonic techniques were used: circles embedded into walls and big volute shaped capitals (halls of Toprak-kala).
It is interesting to note that often the sculpture was combined with painting (Toprak-kala, Khalchayan), sometimes they were united by similar themes, color effect, or staining technique. However “the round sculpture, especially big forms, had not such strong roots in Central Asia” (2, page 231), as a monumental painting, which was wide spread long before the Hellenistic conquest (polychrome frescos with hunting scenes on Pessidzhiktepa) (12, page 3). The last mentioned was also used as a part of interior decor of buildings with both religious (the temple on Kazakly-Yatkan, Fayaztepa, Karatepa) and secular purposes (the palace in Khalchayan on Dalverzintepa) (13, page 92). Painted panels could be placed as on the main walls, so in niches (temple in Erkurgan), as well as on columns and even on ceiling (Garuda’s images on Zartepa (14, page 100), and depending on it the subject of composition was chosen. They were, mainly wall-paintings of ayvans and halls, for application of which the wall was smoothed out, and paintings were applied on a white base coating (plaster), or on clay. The choice of color scale, as well as in sculpture, depended on lighting (often artificial), therefore they used mineral paints of local origin with bright intensive shades. Depending on lighting artists used both polychrome (yards on Cara-tepa) and monochrome (in cave corridors) pictorial compositions, which could be located like frieze (on the wall of the narrow bypass corridor in Cara-tepa) (15, page 35). Bright and various paints were used also for giving to the plot more realism and vivacity.
In placement of painted panels, as well as in installation of a sculpture, highly professional artist-masters considered such factors as wall architectonics, observation level, and location. I.e. according to the interior sizes in ancient monuments, height and width of painted panel was selected. For example, in the Dioskurs’ temple the painting was “above eye level of the people entering the temple” (16, page 91), and the ayvan paintings of Khalchayan Palace were up to the level of the window openings finished further by a sculpture. For painting (as well as for sculpture) masters could use special niches framed with ornamental borders (Khalchayan, the northeast cult complex of Dilberdzhin) and angular wooden pilasters (Dilberdzhin). For example, in the temple on Kazakly-Yatkan it were rectangular cells in three rows (60kh45sm) (17, page 272-283), and in the chapel of the temple on Dalverzintepa the painted panel (1,5х1 m) was framed with an ornamental border in the form of palmettes and elongated petals. By means of paintings masters also emphasized the dominant position of a certain significant place. For example, one of such place in the temple courtyard on Karatepa was the southern portico decorated with a subject wall-painting.
The main feature of the ancient art was harmony and commensurateness, sense of proportion and tact. Sculpture and monumental painting, being an organic whole with the architecture, enriched it with their color and plastic solution, emphasizing the architectonics of the interior with artistic means. This effect was supplemented and strengthened by columns and pilasters, as well as beautiful patterned fabrics, carpets, and rugs (18, page 101). Finally, thanks to professional use of graphic means, constructions reached art integrity and organic unity, representing the monumental finished work of architecture.

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