Morin huur and the mask of mystery. Five exhibits of the Mongolian collection of the Museum of Oriental Art

June 18

The collection of Mongolian art of the State Museum of the Oriental Art contains about 1500 objects of the 12th-20th centuries. Sculptures, paintings, masks, musical instruments and household items give an idea of the Mongols life of the past and Tibetan Buddhism, which from the 16th century to this day is the main religion of Mongolia in terms of the number of believers. Nonna Alfonso, senior researcher of the Department of Art of the Near and Middle East, South and Central Asia, choose five collection pieces and told about them.

Green Tara (first half - middle of the 18th century)

A major role in the development of Mongolian painting and sculpture was played by the sculptor and artist, political and religious figure Gombodorjiin Dzanabadzar (1635-1724). Having studied the art of Nepal, Tibet and China, Dzanabadzar created amazing images in their lively beauty and attractiveness in the traditions of the Buddhist visual canon. His works, recognized as masterpieces all over the world, were the shrines of the largest Mongolian monasteries and temples, the object of study and repetition for subsequent generations of masters. Thus, a special school of sculpture - the school of Dzanabadzar appeared.

In the collection of the Museum of Oriental Art there are no sculptures of the master himself, but there are works of his followers. Among them there is the image of the Green Tara goddess created in the first half - middle of the 18th century. It is made of a copper alloy in the technique of casting by the lost-wax method. The process is very laborious: first, a model of the future sculpture with all the details is cut out of wax, then it is covered with several layers of clay. Each new layer is applied only when the previous one dries. Thus, a strong frame is obtained, into which the molten metal is poured, thereby displacing the wax. After that, the upper form of clay is broken.

Green Tara. G. Dzanabadzar school. Mongolia. The first half of the 18th century

The sculpture is decorated with a gilded coating and inserts of semiprecious stones. The image of the goddess corresponds to all the rules of the Buddhist canon: Green Tara sits on a high throne made of a double row of lotus petals, her right foot rests on the flower, symbolizing the readiness to instantly come to the rescue, the right hand is lowered down, the palm is turned outwards as a sign of granting mercy, and the gesture of the left hand means instruction in Buddhist teachings.

On the icons, the Green Tara is depicted with a green body surrounded by a shining halo. She is considered a merciful Deity who helps people in their everyday problems. There is a belief that during the time when a person blinks, the Green Tara flies around the world a thousand times, managing to help anyone who asks.

Temple gobelin (late 19th century)

The gobelin with embroidery and applique is a unique, very rare exhibit. This is one of five gobelins that were created at the end of the 19th century by masters from Urga (now the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar), with images of sacrificial offerings to the theotechnies of the Buddhist pantheon. The details on the satin base are made of pieces of brocade, silk and cotton fabric, the pattern is complemented by embroidery with silk, gold and silver threads. The gobelin is quite large: 130 centimeters wide and 250 centimeters long.

Similar gobelins used to adorn the interiors and facades of temples, the walls of palaces. They were intended for decoration of ritual ceremonies. Up to several dozen masters could work on one such gobelin under the guidance of the main artist - the creator of the sketch of the future composition. Parts of the applique were cut out on a stencil of silk or brocade, then the fragments were collected and sewn on a special warp, constantly checking the sketch.

Temple gobelin. Mongolia. End of the 19th century

The gobelin consists of several tiers. In the center of the upper one there is a pedestal made of lotus petals, on which the magical vajra scepter rests - the main symbol of Vajrayana Buddhism widespread in Mongolia. Everything that surrounds the throne is considered symbols of the riches and treasures of the Universe (both material and spiritual), for example, a vessel with a drink of immortality, a white lotus - a symbol of purity and innocence, an infinite knot of happiness, an eight-radius wheel - an emblem of the Buddha's teaching.

There are also treasures of the chakravartin, in Buddhism - the lord of the Universe, who raises the world from chaos to the highest level of order, as well as jewels placed in skull bowls, mystical ritual attributes. The lowest row - a variety of animals: elephants, camels, lions, cows, sheep, goats, yaks. In short, everything that is most valuable in the world is offered as a symbolic gift to the Deity in exchange for protection and instruction in Buddhist teachings.

 Temple gobelin. Mongolia. End of the 19th century

Mask of the Tsam Mystery (early twentieth century)

Such mask was used during the mystery of tsam - so in Mongolia called special ritual dances and pantomime in masks, which were performed once a year in large Buddhist monasteries. The performance of the mystery pursued several aims at once, and each monastery had its own priorities: the enemies of Buddhism intimidation, the triumph of the true teaching over all false doctrines demonstration, a way to appease the evil forces so that the coming year would be prosperous.

The specially trained monks who were initiated took part in the tsam. Ritual costumes and masks were made of papier-mache or wood, painted, varnished, gilded, and sometimes even encrusted with precious stones. The mask could weigh up to 30 kilograms. Their production is equated with high art.

The mask of the tsam mystery. Mongolia. Early twentieth century

This mask represents Yama, in Buddhism and Hinduism - the Deity of death, the judge of human souls. He is usually depicted with the horned head of a bull. Why? The answer can be found in a Tibetan legend. One day, two robbers with a stolen bull got into a cave where a hermit had been meditating for a long time. The villains immediately killed the animal, cutting off its head. Having noticed the witness, they decided to kill him. When the ascetic regained consciousness, he found that his head was missing. In a frenzy, the unfortunate man began to rush around the cave in search of his head, but all he could find was the head of a bull killed by thieves. The unfortunate man put it on his shoulders and, in a terrible rage, killed the robbers and threatened to destroy all the inhabitants of Tibet. The merciful Deities were able to tame him, and for his high spiritual merits gave him power over the underworld.

Morin huur (1950)

In the country of horsemen, the image of a horse is one of the most popular, and an example of this is the most famous Mongolian musical instrument, the morin huur. This is a two-stringed bow instrument, it consists of a trapezoidal box-body and a rather long and narrow neck. The fiddle bow is slightly shaped like a curved Mongolian bow and is made of a flexible birch rod, on which the hair of a horse's tail is stretched. The long necks of the morin huurs are certainly decorated with sculptured horse heads. This animal gave the name to the instrument: mor, or morin, translated from Mongolian as horse. In addition, the sound produced by the instrument resembles the neighing of a horse.

The musical instrument morin huur. Master D. Gund. 1950

In Mongolia, there are many touching legends about how morin huur appeared. One of them tells about the simultaneous birth of not only the instrument, but also the Mongolian music itself: more than a thousand years ago, there lived a poor shepherd who had the only true friend - the black horse Kara Mor. When he died, the shepherd became sad. The good spirits took pity and advised him to pull out a few hairs from the horse's tail, make a box out of a piece of wood, cover it with leather, attach a soundboard to it, and crown the neck with a carved horse's head. So it turned out to be a morin huur, in the sound of which the shepherd recognized the voice of his friend.

The exhibit presented in the museum was made by the famous Mongolian master D. Gund in the middle of the twentieth century. He decorated the case with a carved floral pattern and a traditional alkhan khee ornament. In the lower part of the neck, he depicted a dynamic scene of a battle between two horses.

There are several morin huurs in the collection of the Museum of Oriental Art. One of them was handed over by Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, who received the instrument as a gift during his visit to Mongolia in the 1950s.

The musical instrument morin huur. Master D. Gund. 1950

Belt Set (1949)

Before, for Mongol there was no way to do without such a belt set. Traditional Mongolian clothing - the dheel robe - has no pockets, so all the small items necessary for constant roaming from place to place were attached with special pendants to the belt. The set necessarily included a knife in a scabbard, often with chopsticks, and a steel for striking sparks from flint.

Belt accessories were the pride of the owner and therefore were made soundly and tastefully decorated. The decor most often consisted of silver onlays covered with hammered ornaments. The pattern could be supplemented by engraving and inlaid with colored stones.

Belt set. Master B. Tozhil. 1949

Such sets often are a real work of art. As, for example, a belt set made by the Mongolian master B. Tozhil in 1949. B. Tozhil - Honored Artist of the Mongolian People's Republic. In this set, he very skillfully combines steel, silver, mahogany, bone and leather. The master decorated the blade on both sides with grooves with light chiseled curls of vegetable ornaments, and covered the leather case for the flint with carved and silver plates. The luster of the lacy silver pendants is accentuated by the applique on the leather straps with red, orange and white inserts. These straps were used for attaching the pendants to the belt.

The museum also has ayag bowls in its collection. This is another mandatory attribute of the Mongol nomad. They were made of wood or burl, polished to a mirror shine and decorated with silver onlays. They drank tea and meat broths from them.

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