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Old 03-25-2012, 08:20 AM   #1
Mithalwen
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Join Date: May 2004
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Art in Middle Earth.

We know that there was music in Middle Earth, we know there was poetry and song and stories, but there seems to me that there is little visual art (even though Tolkien himself enjoyed drawing and painting). There is fine architecture (though Gondolin sounds a bit blingy for my taste), wonderful jewellery, a lot of decorative art - the Elves and dwarves perhaps in particular take pride in making even practical objects lovely - think of the unnamed elf in Lorien who comments that "..we out the thought of all that we love into the things that we make" and the various reference to things being carved or engraved.

Then there are the heraldic devices - the cover of many editions of the Silmarillion is Tolkien's design for the device of Luthien and "Artist and Illustrator" has those of other prominent characters. The ithildin design on the doors of Moria and Arwen's banner could be included in this category.

What there seems a dearth of is the visual "fine arts", there is no painting that I can think of and very little sculpture. There are Turgon's images of the two trees "wrought with elven-craft", and the figures of Isildur and Anarion at the Argonath (what is lacking in quantity surely being made up for in sheer scale).

Then the other king at the crossroads whose decapitated head is crowned with flowers but whose substitute head is a "rough-hewn stone rudely painted by savage hands in the likeness of a grinning face with one large red eye in the midst of its forehead".

There may of course others that I have missed - I should make it clear that this is not one of my specialist subjects. I go to galleries and the occasional lecture have picked up a bit here and there but I am neither an executant artist nor an art historian. However I have been pondering this on and off really since seeing the film of The Fellowship of the Ring and seeing the painting of the death of Elendil in Rivendell. Now I can see it made sense as a film device but aside from the fact it reminded me of the heroic realism beloved of the Third Reich, it just seemed rather un-Elvish to paint. The carved figure supporting the shard of Narsil also jarred a little.

I can understand that the Elves might not feel the need to preserve memories this way - they are immortal, they don't change they have hyper-real memories. And if ithe Elves didn't then maybe the Numenoreans wouldn't as their culture was based on that of the elves. Was it too primitive for Elves? Were there cultural reasons for not making likenesses as there are in some cultures now? Am I just missing loads of examples? Is it one of those things that may/must have existed but aren't mentioned. I will be interested to see what more knowledgeable and observant readers might have to add.
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Last edited by Mithalwen; 03-25-2012 at 06:33 PM.
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