During the Ly, Tran dynasty, silk painting appeared along with wall-paintings depicting religious scenes and themes. It was also usual for portraits of heroes who fought against Mongolian Yuan force and the talented and righteous were also painted.
The Ly dynasty, beginning of the 11th Century, is viewed as the golden age of Vietnamese art. Its ceramics became famous across East and Southeast Asia.
The Ly dynasty also saw the construction of many of Vietnam’s landmark structures, including the Temple of Literature, one-pillar pagoda, and Quynh Lam pagoda.
The Tran Dynasty that immediately followed in the 13th Century saw a more subdued approach to art. At that time, many paintings were painted on paper fans and screens. Today, however, these art forms are simply subjects in the history books.
One of the oldest preserved works depicts Nguyen Trai, a great Mandarin under the Le Dynasty. The painting, created in the 15th Century, is usually kept in Nguyen Trai Temple in Ha Tay province. It is currently on show at theVietnam History Museum.
The painting pictures Nguyen Trai in a Mandarin’s traditional costume (blue color embroidered with dragons and clouds) and wearing a dragon fly-winged hat. He sits on a decorative chair, with a rosy complexion, his beard and hair a snow as white. This is the only special ritual portrait of the 15th Century surviving today.
The painting was kept by descendants over many generations until 20th Century. However, in 1927, the painting showed signs of decay so descendants repaired the portrait.
Today, silk-paintings, together with lacquer paintings, make up most of the basis for art creations. Deeply rooted in the people, the silk-painting is frequently renewed, and time is an impartial judge.