Over a thousand years before artistists like Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, and Michaelangelo worked on their classic works of art - The Last Supper and the Sistine Chapel to mention just two - an unknown artist or artists, created a dazzling world of colour and wonder in a pocket of rock in the palace complex of Sigiriya. These paintings which are the earliest surviving examples of Sri Lankan art have delighted the world for over 1500 years. Still retaining their original colour, and shrouded in mystery, these paintings are silent witnesses to the grandeur of Sigiriya's golden age. What is not widely known is that amazing techniques in painting these frescoes were used by the artists in King Kasyappa's court. Wet plaster was first applied on the surface to be painted after which the artists began their labour of love. This meant that they had to be 100% accurate because if a mistake was made, it could not be corrected once the plaster had dried. The painters of the famous Ajantha frescoes in Indian on the other hand painted on hard dry plaster leaving room for any corrections, if mistakes were made !
Sri Lankan had her own "Sistine Chapel" in the rock pocket at Sigiriya before that of the Vatican in Rome. Originally there were 500 frescoes. These beautiful paintings fill one with emotion . The eye is never wearied and the heart never sated. That they were painted by the hand of man is hard to imagine. I almost believe they were painted by the Gods ! Living, lovely breathing women.......How sad that while the artists of the western world are known to us, the artistic geniuses of Sigiriya will forever remain anonymous.....Unsung heroes.
Written by : Bernard VanCuylenberg
Pics by : Gerrit, Netty, Hans and Hanneke