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HISTORY OF GLORANTHAN ART


M Helsdon

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Originally posted on FaceBook by @Jeff
 
A HISTORY OF GLORANTHAN ART, PART I
DAWN AGE
At the Dawn, there were basically two cultural centers - Dragon Pass (also known as the Theyalans or the Unity Council) and the Peloria lowlands ruled by the Horse Lords.
The Theyalans had a tradition of “realistic” art thanks to the Silver Age heroes called the Architect and the Artist (both of whom were active in Kethaela). Moreover, they had access to dwarf crafters, dragonewts and elves. And to surviving pre-Time relics. It followed geometric patterns of proportion and composition, and mortals and gods alike were depicted nude. This “Theyalan style” got spread all over the place, but also was probably really diverse. Individual artists did things in individual ways.
Example:
Stravulstead, 1st Century, thought to be Heort

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Edited by M Helsdon
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A HISTORY OF GLORANTHAN ART, PART II
SECOND AGE
This unified culture collapses in the Gbaji Wars at the end of the First Age. War and poverty. A collapse, which in turn leads to reduction in complexity in artwork. A Dark Age from about 450 to 600 or so.
In Dragon Pass, you end up with a vibrant civilization around 700. But they don't have the dwarfs around to help them. And a lot more trollish influences.
Sculpture became less “realistic” and powerfully primitive. Basic shapes, essentially. But done with lots of wealth.

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HISTORY OF GLORANTHAN ART, PART III
THIRD AGE - HOLY COUNTRY
And then comes a long period of war that culminates in the Dragonkill War. Which divides the world into Kethaela and Peloria.
Kethaela starts with that late Second Age Esrolian style. Sensuous and baroque. Though regressed a bit and gets worse and worse at it. Since you don't have the actual artisans present anymore.
Until Belintar shows up. And Belintar oversees a rich artistic renaissance. And he's of course a thorough God Learner, with baroque references on top of baroque references. So the style remains mostly the same, but revitalized. Not "realistic" but symbolic and mythological.
And he draws on the Esrolians, the Heortlings, the Caladralanders, the God Forgotites, the trolls, and the dwarfs to create a visual melting point. And the Kethaelans get their technical skills back. The way the ornamentation and detailing is made is changed as a result of communication from the dwarfs of Gemborg. Intricate decoration.
At some point, the style is a reference to a reference to itself. So whereas the Second Age stuff was naturalistic verging on weird abstractions (like in the eyes and so on), under Belintar, temple architecture was naturalistic but not formalized.

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HISTORY OF GLORANTHAN ART, PART IV
Belintar tries to recreate that very spread out and universal First Age Style. And of course this just goes nuts with the Opening. Because the Holy Country is now stupid rich.
Now when Sartar gets settled, they bring this artistic tradition with them. Sartar and his heirs hire artists from the Holy Country. But Orlanth is the focus. It is not as baroque. It is more martial, more masculine. And somewhat technically cruder, except for the dwarf or Wilms-made stuff from Sartar's time. Which is technically superb. More masculine, more martial, more violent. And even more individualistic. Artists are very much encouraged to put their own spin on things. The overall style is there, of course, you can't really escape it.
Statue of a Sartarite Chieftain or King

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HISTORY OF GLORANTHAN ART, PART V
The Lunar Empire
But, in Peloria, things are different. The EWF style are gone. And we have a long dark age.
The Carmanians embrace a formal brutalism style. Them and their gods triumphing atop piles of dead. Think Assyrian palace style. Scenes of war and scenes of authority.
The Lunar-Dara Happan revolt comes out of that tradition but tries to turn it upside down. With a naked goddess being the equal of a stern but benevolent Yelm. Standing on top of a pile of dead Carmanians and Pentans.
But also we start getting new esotericism. It could be that the Red Goddess was not even initially depicted as a deity.
But just as a woman. Deliberately smaller than the gods and rulers. Naked and human, but superior to the immortal gods. And she is not depicted in a formal manner. Idealised yes, but relaxed and in dance. The Yelm cult takes its cues from here as well. Yelm gets less formalized, although continues to be idealized. Maybe even more idealized.
As the Lunar Empire gets richer, the art gets better, and becomes what we now call the Old Lunar style.
We get a century and a half of this Old Lunar style. And then in 1375 the Pentans come. And for nearly a century, the Pentans reduce Peloria to grasslands. People are eating mud and each other. The Lunar Empire consists of the besieged center of Glamour, some barbaric kingdoms in the south, and the Western Reaches aka Old Carmania.
Lunar art becomes cruder, poorer, and more emphatic. There is now no difference between Lunar and Dara Happan. There is simply Lunar-Pentan-Slave. Empathic in subject and very removed from the concerns of the world. Because in the real world Sheng Seleris rules. Minor victories or stalemates against Sheng Seleris are monumental triumphs!
In a surprise, the Red Emperor defeats Sheng Seleris and confines him to a Lunar (ie mystical) hell. The Pentans collapse. And now the Lunar Empire is able to resettle the New Grasslands of Peloria. This is where Lunar art comes from. Restore and Rebuild. New towns need to be built. Old cities need to be rebuilt.
All quickly, all at the same time, and from the Oronin River to the Arcos. From the White Sea to the gates of Alkoth. Every town gets laid out more or less the same, with a temple complex to the Red Goddess, Yelm, Dendara, Lodril, and whoever else. All by the same architects and artists.
And although directly supervised by the Red Emperor, Great Sister, or Hon-eel, it is initially done fast and on the cheap. And some a lot better than others.
So we now have within the empire basically four styles. Three are old and can be found in:
1. Glamour and the Tripolis;
2. Western Reaches:
3. Jillaro.
4. Everywhere else. The New Lunar style or the Lunar Heartland style.
Towns are built quick. And cheap. Art is initially easy to reproduce. Very stylized and formalized. But over the next century and a half, the empire gets richer and richer and richer. So this New Lunar style gets built upon, embellished, upgraded. More elaborate and more technically skilled. But it is still based off that original post-Sheng style. But now rich Lunar priests demand that the artist display technical virtuosity and work in all sorts of Lunar motifs and esoteric references.
During Sheng's occupation, the shift towards more empathic and non-real world related themes in art also brings in another thing. The artwork starts to depict Yelm, Lodril, Dayzatar, and all the others as idealized and perfect. These almost calming presences in the world, a source of stability amongst the chaos and horror of Sheng’s rule.
Yelm is no longer that stiff, formal, restricted thing on the Gods Wall. He is still that yes, but to the masses he is also the benevolent sun god. And the Red Goddess' divine father.
As the occupation ends, as more art gets made and the more and more money gets pumped into it, this transforms.
The Seven Mothers, Etyries , Hon-eel, etc. are depicted in a sensual, loose and free style. They are beautiful and relatable.
The Celestial Gods meanwhile are beautiful, yet perfect. They are not sensual; they are not mere mortal things. They are the perfect geometry of the world, the cosmic order.
A depiction of Hon-eel or Jar-eel or Etyries shows you an idealized reflection of you, the mortal viewer.
They were born, they suffered, they transcended. Like the Goddess herself.
The depiction of Yelm shows you something else though. something still beautiful, but in a different way. It is the beauty of perfect harmony. The beauty of the cosmic order of the Golden Age.
So let's move this forward a tiny bit more. By the 7th Wane, the Lunar Empire is ruled by Yelm illuminates of the Red Goddess cult. For generations. They are self-referential by now in the sense that their art needs to communicate with them and not so much other audiences. So in our magnificent great temple in Glamour, with gold and gems and glass, abstract depictions of Yelm and statues of Apollo, we have this crude little gold sun disk on a horse from the Dawn.
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Pavic Architecture:

The driving philosophical aesthetic of Pavic architecture could be dismissed as mere cosmopolitanism, yet there is more at work.  The city was settled by many folk from many parts of Genertela and beyond, and it would often appear to new arrivals that the jumble of building styles was a mere fusion of elements in a haphazard pastiche that appeared novel but was in fact both utterly derivative and appropriationist.  Pastiche is not originality; it is only ever a place-holder for originality, for it is inherently faux, pseudo, and lacking in any holistics.  Pastiche is the art of the artistically bankrupt; the pretenders, the visionless, the soulless; those whom the Muses never kissed and whom the Gods despise.  We might accuse the Palace of Tarsh of being a victim of this, having been at the crossroads of civilizations in Dragon Pass, and changed hands and styles many times over its history, producing something that is unique, but also disjointed and disquieting, where competing agendas fight to subvert each other in the attention of the observer. In the case of Old Pavis, this was almost always the result of individuals of one culture purchasing a building from previous tenants of another culture, and then making the structure conform to the new groups needs and expectations retroactively.

Of course cosmopolitanism was also the stylistic affectation of the Jrusteli Empire, that being the only truly worldwide empire in Gloranthan history, was the first and perhaps the only society to ever look at the buildings of the world, and deliberately appropriate features from other building styles.  They begin with half-timbered wattle and daub, with high roofs that shed rain and snow, then adopt increasingly mostali building methods, such as the implementation of brick and internal chain, as well as jigsaw cut stone, Timnit hive resins and even the osmotic sung stone structures of the ancient Artmali had a brief renaissance in the Jrusteli Empire.  So when does novelty become affectation, and why? 

Simply put, the wealth of the Jrusteli was such that their buildings that had once been practical and of materials derived from the soil of Jrustela (when they were a new colonial society on a foreign shore), gave way to ostentation for its own sake.  Families whose fortunes were tied to the conquered lands such as Kralorela and Teshnos would adopt elements of the architectural styles from those lands, not because they were appropriate, but merely to draw attention to their wealth and connections in distant lands, advertising their holdings and their virtues.  Then the authenticity, such as it was might give way to a more sentimental treatment of those styles, or worse, a misinterpretation based on the descriptions of travellers not properly versed in the language of architecture.  Thus Teshnan elephants become bizarre caricatures of the real animal, all but unrecognizable, and mingled haphazardly into Kralorelan pagodas, without even authentically representing even a primitive style from those regions, let alone their truer forms, yet going unquestioned by an ignorant mass of Jrustelans who gawp and expostulate at the exoticism, that is exotic for its own sake, without proper symbolic reference to anything at all. More rarely, one might view more finessed versions of such styles, which were invariably the product of natives of those lands having made good in distant lands, or of those of Jrusteli heritage who were born or raised in distant places, or simply held them in deep affection and valued them for what they were and hence sought authenticity, however decontextualized.

 Having said all this, it is necessary to point out that while Old Pavis architecture often fell within a cosmopolitanism, it was a naïve cosmopolitanism that derives from functionalism, that is forgivable as there is no deliberate agenda, save to live within.  Even the ruins of Robcradle do not portray Jrusteli architecture in its cosmopolitan decadence, for they are all but entirely simple military formations, made to project force over an area in the normal functionalist military fashion.  There was nothing of the edifice of the conquerors about them, for they had yet to truly conquer Prax and so were not in a position to build “propaganda edifices” and similar great projects that dominate and impose themselves upon the people by overwhelming them with their sense of scale.

This is far from suggesting that grand and outré projects of the imposing and the overwhelming didn’t exist within Old Pavis. Our survey and summary of the city is far from complete.  It is a mere truism to point to the towering walls of the Land within a Wall, built by giants and say “awesome scale”, but you would be wrong, for the giants who built them did not see them so.  The great walls were merely a means of preventing the humans swarming and slaying their precious children in their cradles.  Or we might point to the Faceless Statue and say “scale”, for the whole city is built from this colossal statue-made-man-rune, yet that would also be a falsity, for the statue is long since dismembered and repurposed.  No, to understand the power of edifices of power in Old Pavis I draw your learned attention to the King’s Villa, known today as the Temple of Pavis.  It is constructed of crystalline stones, so similar to the intensely magical Truestone it is uncanny. Each piece imbued with the magic of the Faceless Statue, and yet repurposed into a dwelling on par with anything within any empire of any time, and yet greater than them all.  We can look at the Red Moon, and say there is great magic there, but there is none of the intimacy or intention; only the desire to dominate.  Pavis was a hero, but what he built was the effort of many heroes, and thus while immanent is divine in inspiration, and built to the fervent purpose of a lost age.

Obviously Lord Pavis and the architecture of his city was deeply affected by the architecture of the Empire of the Wyrms’ Friends, and evidence of that architectural style is evident in many places and affected a great deal that was built within the city, yet I will address it separately in the article “Dragonewt Architecture” below.  It is sufficiently important that it requires a completely separate treatment, for it is seminally important in understanding Atring Mansion and its influences.  Atring Manor is not alone in having been constructed with access to the secrets of the sacred architectures, but it may be unique in that there is no other example of a building that incorporates such diverse and apparently incompatible influences in what must once have been a seamless and serenely integrated whole.  There is great magical power in the building, as one might expect from the product of such singular influences, and yet its source remains a mystery despite centuries of neglectful exposure to the elements and the cruel vagaries of history.

In discussing the architecture that remains in Old Pavis, I let us draw our attention to a final building.  It has long since been profaned and damaged beyond repair, but with the Lhankor Mhy spell Recreation it is yet possible to roam the structure intact, and for the student of architecture it is well worth the time.  The site is a haunting enigma, and a homily in stone, and some have even suggested that it speaks quietly of impossible things to those who have the wit to understand.  I speak of the Temple of Aldrya on Opili’s Hill.  It is not unknown for humans to have altars and shrines to Aldrya, but the Elf Goddess is elusive, hostile, and alien and the sense of such shrines is always ersatz.  Whether Aldryami or not, the representations of Aldrya used for veneration by humans are inevitably incomplete, alienated, and somehow disquieting, despite their desire to present notions of forest idylls and natural harmony.  In this respect the Temple Hill example is quite unique for many reasons.

Here we see colonnades, straight and linear on first appearance at a distance, yet as one draws closer, it becomes apparent that this is a trick of perspective, for the columns are mimicking the trunks of trees, yet in stone.  We see subtle uses of jadeite stones, to create a semblance of life in what some might call an homage to the Vegetarian heresy of the Mostali, and we can tell that Lord Pavis Half-Elven himself had some hand in its creation, for how else could this be?  We see beautiful caryatids, forming stone nymphs and dryads slinking forth from similarly unlikely stone trees, and walled sanctums that use crystal to mimic both darkness and the dappled light that falls between branches.  The Temple is formed as a Plant Rune, and once housed a Flamal, a Shanasse and an Aldrya sacred tree in each of the open courtyards of the rings that make the rune.  And yet, when we study the workmanship, there can be no doubt that this is Mostali work. 

The tracery and detail is beyond anyone else, but goes beyond a naive realism that merely represents what is, to scale, for the trees vary in size and scale, species and composition quite deliberately.  This is like the work of a dwarf, and yet it is art, and not human art trying to depict an Aldryami theme, but something greater and finer than any dwarf or elf or man could possibly create on their own.  This is architecture as art in its truest sense, for we do not know the artist, and yet we see hints of their hand in other buildings and works, including the Atring family mansion.  The record of their name is lost, and it is unlikely that this was the work of a Diamond Dwarf, though the skill required might well be of that order of magnitude.  So we face the mystery, and we are dumbfounded, and because we are dumbfounded and do not speak, we listen and we hear the Silence,  and the impossible whisper of the Silence is holy indeed, and then we understand, that this Temple of Aldrya is impossible.  It embodies the Green Age, and the promise of so much more, and then the Reconstruction spell lapses, and we weep at the loss, for the trolls alas have also made their contribution.

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  • 2 months later...
On 3/18/2022 at 4:40 PM, M Helsdon said:
Originally posted on FaceBook by @Jeff
 
A HISTORY OF GLORANTHAN ART, PART I
DAWN AGE
At the Dawn, there were basically two cultural centers - Dragon Pass (also known as the Theyalans or the Unity Council) and the Peloria lowlands ruled by the Horse Lords.
 

This is why I don't always agree with Jeff: Breaks down Glorantha into 2 parts of Central Genertela. IMO Genertela, alone, is much more diverse than this.

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27 minutes ago, Bill the barbarian said:

A good thought, but I feel this would not be rough enough!

According to Trollpak, he's correct, but it would be a couple of metres tall and chewed into the rock.

Korasting.PNG

Edited by Dogboy
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On 5/27/2022 at 12:41 PM, jajagappa said:

Look at the RQ Quickstart scenario!  This is a classic Earth goddess.

The question is, is this representation a "Second Age Reduction in Complexity" or a sign that the original Posts are a gross oversimplification of a complex subject 😜.

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Anything that fits in a post will be a gross simplification. And using RW art outside of its own context will also be a simplified analogy. But we also need visual markers to help immersion.

That said, I expect most people in Glorantha will assume that the statuette is earth related, but they will consider it is from somewhere else, or possibly a copy of old art, rather than something people still do.

Art travels well, and it influences a lot other artists, and artists seldom abandon techniques, so going back to more primitive forms is a consequence of some kind of iconoclasm, usually religious but in some cases motivated by a rejection of some technologies. RW monotheists seem to have regular occurrences of iconoclasm that affect art, but I do not expect that to be a regular occurrence in Glorantha, except for phenomena like recreated hsunchen cultures or technologically scarred cultures like the Brolians, devolved from agrarian to hunter gatherers. Another possibility could be ironic Lunar artists claiming to be influenced by Green Age Godtime experiences. The Lunar Heartlands is probably the only place where I expect to find such ironical artistic recreations, claiming to touch some simpler, realer myths. 

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On 5/30/2022 at 10:11 AM, JRE said:

Anything that fits in a post will be a gross simplification. And using RW art outside of its own context will also be a simplified analogy. But we also need visual markers to help immersion.

That said, I expect most people in Glorantha will assume that the statuette is earth related, but they will consider it is from somewhere else, or possibly a copy of old art, rather than something people still do. 

OK, the original posts are longer than anything that has been written about Art history in Glorantha. By a long way. Mostly because AH has by and large not been written about. But just because it is voluminous, doesn't mean it's correct. One look at the Prosopedia (the one in Gods of Glorantha, not the up coming one), tells you art in 3rd Age Glorantha is very diverse. Hell, that booklet is why I got into doing Gloranthan art in the first place. I worry that RQG and it's supplements are undermining that somewhat.

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On 5/27/2022 at 7:41 AM, jajagappa said:

Look at the RQ Quickstart scenario!  This is a classic Earth goddess.

this figurine or one of its sisters is used as an example of a Pelandan Uleria statuette in the Entekosiad, too

Though that one was described as originally being larger than a person, and made of a pliant substance better than flesh, but it shrank and grew hard (more Koverian, per the Pelandans) within Time.

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16 hours ago, Dogboy said:

I worry that RQG and it's supplements are undermining that somewhat.

The available material primarily represents Dragon Pass, Prax, and the Holy Country, which is a very small area, and to a lesser degree southern Peloria. That's a relatively small geographic area. For a wider view, there's the Guide.

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On 6/2/2022 at 7:45 AM, M Helsdon said:

The available material primarily represents Dragon Pass, Prax, and the Holy Country, which is a very small area, and to a lesser degree southern Peloria. That's a relatively small geographic area. For a wider view, there's the Guide.

Dragon Pass is a pretty cosmopolitan, and I'd expect some diversity there. Prax doesn't seem to get a look in.

Anyway, it seems I'm the only one who finds this annoying, so I'll shut up

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5 hours ago, Dogboy said:

Dragon Pass is a pretty cosmopolitan, and I'd expect some diversity there. Prax doesn't seem to get a look in.

Anyway, it seems I'm the only one who finds this annoying, so I'll shut up

What do you mean by diversity Dan? I see plenty of Holy Country influences on our Sartar stuff, some Pelorian influences, and even the occasional Prax bit (more in use of Praxian beasts, leather, and hide - the Praxians don't have much architectural influence on folk in Dragon Pass!). 

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18 hours ago, Jeff said:

What do you mean by diversity Dan? I see plenty of Holy Country influences on our Sartar stuff, some Pelorian influences, and even the occasional Prax bit (more in use of Praxian beasts, leather, and hide - the Praxians don't have much architectural influence on folk in Dragon Pass!). 

Maybe I've missed them, as you give less context in RQG than in HQG for Gloranthan art styles. can you point some out?

I will say it seems odd to me that you see the Unity Council as pushing a single style of art, considering their background (later on, possibly, but initially they will be wide ranging in their art styles). Similarly the Horse Lords, as nomads, are likely to be patrons of the local folk arts.
 

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47 minutes ago, Dogboy said:

Maybe I've missed them, as you give less context in RQG than in HQG for Gloranthan art styles. can you point some out?

I will say it seems odd to me that you see the Unity Council as pushing a single style of art, considering their background (later on, possibly, but initially they will be wide ranging in their art styles). Similarly the Horse Lords, as nomads, are likely to be patrons of the local folk arts.
 

I think it is more a matter of numbers. The total population of the Unity Council at the Dawn was a little over 50,000 mortals. Of those, about 13,000 were humans. Another way of putting it is the entire human population of the Unity Council at the Dawn was comparable to the Colymar Tribe.

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Now those numbers go up of course. By around 150 ST (shortly before the Second Council is formed), the human population has grown to 75,000, while the dwarf numbers have likely stayed more or less the same (16,000). Troll numbers have increased a bit but not nearly as quickly as the human population (maybe 24,000). So although the Unity Council was more than 70% Elder Race, the Second Council was majority human.

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On 6/7/2022 at 7:45 AM, Jeff said:

... the Praxians don't have much architectural influence on folk in Dragon Pass!). 

What about other arts, the non-monumental stuff?
Small effigies and other statuary (mostly mobile, but aren't there a few fixed shrines around Prax & the wastes?), beadwork, weaving, leatherworking beyond mere functionality, etc.

Prax is presumably endowed with this, similarly to some of the Real-World-inspirational cultures...

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On 6/7/2022 at 10:45 AM, Jeff said:

What do you mean by diversity Dan? I see plenty of Holy Country influences on our Sartar stuff, some Pelorian influences, and even the occasional Prax bit (more in use of Praxian beasts, leather, and hide - the Praxians don't have much architectural influence on folk in Dragon Pass!). 

Given how most of the Prax riders object to horses being ridden, I suspect not many "bits" find their way to Sartar ("what am I supposed to do with a bit for a High Llama?")

🤔

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