Violent conflicts are a part and parcel of our life. We have accustomed to them so much that most people hardly pay any attention to. At that, everyone realizes that it is not supposed to be that way. Conflicts are inherent to our nature. A person can even be in a conflict with herself or himself but not in a violent way. Conflicts stem from inside. Harmonious people do not solve their problems through violence. Harmonious societies strive to find civilized ways of settling any dispute. Peace is required as a favorable condition for successful children upbringing. Peace gives calmness of mind and steadiness of hand. Everyone strives for the violence-free existence. This exhibition reminds us about various elements that contribute to peace such as law, faith in God, beauty, wise rulers, and others. Peace is constructed from different pieces which everyone should find in themselves.
1. Akhenaton, Nefertiti, and three daughters, from Amarna, Egypt, ca. 1353–1335 BCE.
Claiming to be a son of god the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaton changed many cultural and artistic conventions of his time. He moved the capital to another city, proclaimed him the only prophet driving priests out of the temples, and demanded to be portrayed the way he was. He had a little potbelly, feminine features, and wide hips. A limestone slab in a hollow relief depicts an unusual scene for Egyptian art. The pharaoh’s family basks in the sunrays of the chief Egyptian god Aton. Sitting in a profile the pharaoh Akhenaton and his wife Nefertiti are holding their three children on their lap. In a stark contrast, with a usual representation of royals, the three daughters are depicted lively and gesticulating towards their parents. Akhenaton lifts one of children to kiss her; and another daughter fidgets on her mother’s lap.
Meanwhile the youngest one climbs onto her mother’s shoulder to play with a necklace. Glimpsing this intimate scene one can see an idyll provided by a peaceful setting and good relationship in a family. Children can be raised up harmoniously only in favorable conditions, which include peace and stability. A family is a place where violence can start or where the foundation of peaceful living can be laid down. The message of Akhenaton stele is double-sided. Rulers should give positive messages to their people and promote an idea of a happy family. At the same time, all kids need to experience abundance of love and care from their parents. This image reminds a viewer about it.
2. 13-38 Castle of Love, lid of a jewelry box, from Paris, France, ca. 1330–1350.
They say men seek fights even outside of wars. To that end, competitions and tournaments can be arranged to let off steam of energetic and active gentlemen. The events of this kind were frequently depicted on luxurious objects in the middle Ages such as jewelry boxes, mirrors, hairbrushes, and others. Made of ivory in a high relief, the jewelry box lid has a scene of a siege of the Castle of Love carved on one of its sides. On the left side, the knights climb the castle wall while women hurl bouquets of flowers at them. Usually a bouquet is a symbol of peace and friendship; hurling flowers at approaching beaux is a piquant touch of passion and sensuality. Meanwhile a cupid aims his arrow at the heart of one of the climbing knights.
The central scene shows two of them in a joust hurling themselves on each other’s spears with women watching them from the top of the castle wall. In the last section of the ivory lid, a victorious knight receives a bunch of flowers from a lady. At a fist glance, it seems to be a typical depiction of a violent conflict. Meanwhile then the viewer can see details and discern flowers, smiles, and cupids with arrows and bows. The noble pastime of jousting on a horseback for a fair lady’s heart is a good alternative to wars.
3. 12-35 Funeral Procession to Westminster Abbey (top) and Battle of Hastings (bottom), details of the Bayeux Tapestry, ca. 1070-1080.
The Bayeux Tapestry is an artistic reminder of the fact that war means death. It is a 230-feet frieze-like linen scroll with pictures embroidered on. Consisting of many scenes on various topics The Bayeux Tapestry narrates about the Norman invasion of England in 1066. The first episode here is a funeral of the English king Edward the Confessor, whose death had given an impetus for the Normans to claim England. The coffin with the king is carried to the church embroidered in painstaking details. There is an image of the God’s hand indicating where the body should be buried.
The second episode demonstrates how ugly the war can be. The horses are falling in inconceivable uncomfortable poses, their necks are distorted, and hind legs raised high into the air. People’s bodies scattered around the battle field. New soldiers fall on top of them. Similar in its idea to the Column of Trajan (with numerous carved scenes), The Bayeux Tapestry laid down the conqueror’s side of the story and served to boost the Normans pride. However, despite the tremendous and captivating needlework, it does not shadow the fact that wars bring grief and anguish.
4. 10-5 Details of a mosaic in the courtyard arcade of the Great Mosque, Damascus, Syria, 706–715.
The Great Mosque of Damascus is a unique object for the exhibition. It is so because while mosaics feature the scenes of peaceful living similar for any nation and people, the construction of the building reveals the adoptions of existing facades, foundation, arches, and other architectural elements of the Late Antiquity. The fact that the mosaics were probably done by Byzantine artists intensifies the synthesis out of which a Muslim mosque had appeared. Taking up a baton of the most aggressive religion from Christianity of the Middle Age, Islam has not experienced much peace lately. It is worth to remember that all people have the same roots. All religions stem from the same Divinity as well.
The mosaics feature a general idea of Paradise. These are the cozy and peaceful interiors and exteriors with fountains and groves. Not having any depiction of animals or people the Great Mosque has only images of plants and buildings. The style of vegetation resembles the existing examples in Roman, Christian, and Byzantine art. There are many similarities among religions. Often one religion adopts many characteristics from its predecessor that became weaker. Therefore, there is no point to fight over religions because eventually they call for peace and love. This work of art demonstrates how different religions can co-exist happily and peacefully within one artistic space. In terms of religions peace would mean having a respect for other cultures and embracing diversity.
Throughout the exhibition, a compilation of artworks demonstrates various aspects of war and peace. The major task of the exhibition is to remind people that inside we are a peaceful lot, and violence is not an answer. It is the time to look inside ourselves and view back at the history to see examples of highs and lows and draw conclusions. Perhaps the exhibition is a small seed that, if sown in the souls of people, will later grow into understanding of the following thing. We, people, do not need to fight over our differences but to cherish and celebrate them.