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Textiles in Ancient Balinese Paintings

January 14, 2016 3 min read

Life is full of choices and the worst challenges are choosing between two bad choices or between two good choices.

Shall I buy a painting or a textile? Shall I spend time studying the painting or studying the mind of the artist? Shall I spend my time indulging my mind by studying the art or shall I spend it indulging my eyes and soul and soaking up its beauty.

Since all resources are finite for everyone – especially the most critical of all – time – there is no choice but to choose.

There was a film I’d watched long ago – with Cher and Meryl Streep and someone else – in which they have the boon to live forever. The film explores how boring that becomes for them as time progresses. Would that happen to me?  Maybe. But only afterfinishing looking at all the old arts of the word and meeting all the vanishing cultures – which would take up a few hundred years. But yes – after that I’d have to take up a new interest like climbing mountains or diving or meditation!

Sigh. So much wistful thinking. But today sad sentiments have no place – because I am so thrilled and so exhilarated on two counts – both of which relate to art.

The first reason is this:

As I examined some photos of ancient paintings that I took a few weeks ago, I noticed that the subject contained very detailed textiles ….


After the initial surprise, the thrill set in. And then I found myself going up on 3 rollercoasters simultaenously.

One –  relishing the saturated colors and the very unique  character and strokes

Two – trying to decipher the story within and getting a shot of adrenalin every time I recognised a scene

Three -noticing all that the figures were wearing and examining and understanding the costume format, the textile, the design, was it printed was it woven, did the format mean something …

I was examining one photo after the other in a hurry to see all that there was to be seen, in full size, zoomed in… to study and identify and understand all that I was looking at ..

This roller coaster had no down. Just up up and up! And the best part was that no choices needed to be made … everything was coming at me through the same visual input! Hence the undiluted joy!

In a short story I read long ago in my very impressionable years, Somerset Maugham talked about a man who met with his death simply because the sight he saw one night was more beautiful than his heart could handle. Literally. And so he died of beauty. And what a coincidence that he was talking of the sight of the mid-autumn full moon in Denpasar – the same location that my photos were taken in.  I remember thinking at that time in my ridiculous naivete of youth – “ya right – how can anyone die because of beauty”

But then I had not yet experienced the beauty of Bali.

So … here are some pictures for those who love antique textiles – paintings from Bali that made me want to see more, meet these beautiful people that have been painted here … and watch them in their full splendor within the lives they lived in that era.

These were all painted on wooden ceilings.


One more place to go back to… with my zoom lenses and the ones that can handle darkness better!

Someday soon!!

jaina mishra

jan 2016

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