A pipe-dream

Wouldn’t it be just wonderful if we in Myanmar could spend a Sunday now and then strolling in the “Gallery of Replicas of Foreign Art”? A pipe-dream? Anyway,I’m going into the Gallery right now. Care to accompany me?

Look over there! That’s a replica of “The Thinker”, a sculpture by Francois Auguste Rodin. It’s supposed to be a symbol of the power of thought. And look over here also. Another work by Rodin, “The Burghers of Calais”. It represents the six elders of the town who went out of the city walls to give themselves up to Edward III as ransom for the other citizens when the King conquered the town in 1347. Rodin once described this work of his: “Their souls push them forward, their feet refuse to go”.

And that statue in the little niche over there, as you know, is Michelangelo’s “La Pieta”.The replica is by a modern Italian sculptor A. Santini and donated by a great Italian art lover.

Now, let’s go over to the paintings. Here’s some by Leonardo di Vinci. Remember that old flick “The Theft of the Mona Lisa””? The very same, my dear fellow, the very same. Mona Lisa, the lady with the enigmatic smile. Why don’t you buy a reprint at the counter over there? Hey, come here a minute. Here’s another by the same master. It’s a portrait of a lady also, “Ginevra dei Benci”. The original is in the National Gallery in Washington. What did you say? A little more background data? Well, I’ll do my best. If I remember right, the Americans bought it from the Prince of Liechtenin in February 1967 for more than five million dollars. According to Director John Walker of Washington national Gallery, “Mona Lisa’s smile is without gaiety: Ginevra’s somberness is without dejection. In these two paintings Leonardo has presented us with two personalities as complex as life itself”.

Yes, I know you were going to ask that one! Why did the Americans buy it? Well, why are we in this “Gallery of Replicas of Foreign Art”? To sample a taste of the other one’s culture of course. The Europeans also have had a taste of American art in the time of Albrecht Durer, the German painter. Well, not exactly the art of the present Americans of course, if you know what I mean. But American art anyway. Durer was in the Netherlands when Montezuma’s(the last king of the Aztecs) treasure arrived at the Court of Charles V.. Lucky fellow, that Durer. It gave him the chance to witness what has been appropriately termed “history’s first European Exhibition of American Art”. And Durer was so impressed by those fine samples of pre-Columbian art that he wrote down in his diary something in this vein, “…..fairer to see than marvels. I have never seen in all mydays what so rejoiced my heart”.

Let’s do the Modern Art Section now. That one near the window? Yes, that’s a modern by a Yugoslav artist. “The Speaker”, by Vladimar Velickovic. I must say I really dig this painting. The figure in the painting with the open mouth reminds me of a talkative friend of mine.

And that’s Picasso’s “Guernica”. The canvas is supposed to portray agony. The agony of a city that was bombed. And now for some by Willem de Kooning. His works , all these, are said to express the painter’s memories, energy, odd thoughts(like mine), theories and sense of craftsmanship(unlike mine).

There are a lot in that room also, but I’m afraid you have had enough for the day. We’ll come here again some other time. Let’s now buy some prints at the gate counter. The guide-book first. Actually we should have bought it when we first entered the Gallery. Don’t you think this here motto of the “Gallery of Replicas of Foreign Art” is simply beautiful? It’s by Mahatma Gandhi;”I do not want my house to be walled on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any”.

End of a pipe-dream!



Born in 1940 when my country was still under British rule. Graduated from Rangoon University with Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Law in 1963 and 1966.

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Banya Saw

Born in 1940 when my country was still under British rule. Graduated from Rangoon University with Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Law in 1963 and 1966.