For the most ancient period, instead of “Siamese art” we must speak of “art in Siam”, since the Siamese of today, originally called Thai, immigrated en masse only in the century. XIII, coming from the north, in the Menam valley. At that time an artistic activity was already flourishing, especially in the field of sculpture. To which race these pre-existing nuclei belonged is not yet definitively clarified. In any case, the lower course of the Menam belonged during the period that goes from the century. V to VII, and perhaps even later, in Funnan, that is to the pre-existing kingdom of the Khmer, in the Mekong. In Siam the sculpture of that period is called Dvaravati (Thvaravadi), from the name of the capital of that time. From the real works of Funnan it is distinguished above all by the material, a bluish limestone. If Dvaravati’s sculpture was, as is assumed, prior to that of the Mekong valley, it could be considered an intermediary between the Indian Gupta style and the East; almost at the same time the southwestern part of Siam, and its extension, the Malayan peninsula, were part of the powerful kingdom of Śrivijaya, which dominated Java and the archipelago from Sumatra. Some sculptures of Prapatom (western bank of the Menam) in stone, terracotta or bronze, resemble those of the early Javanese period and date back to the 7th-9th centuries. The third group of Siamese works of art executed under foreign rule also includes remains of architecture, and is located in a region of the country already under the influence of Funnan, with Lobburi as its capital. Here the Khmer exert their dominion from the eleventh to the thirteenth century. For Thailand 2001, please check naturegnosis.com.
Among this colonial art, the Siamese schools proper erupt. Chronologically the first is the northern school which begins in the century. XIII and includes only bronze objects. At first in Chiengmai and Chieng Sen, then further south in Sukhodaya a national Siamese type is formed, in conscious and evident contrast with that of the Khmer. The exclusively Buddhist figures show full and soft faces. Arcs are used everywhere in place of the horizontal lines preferred by the Khmer to Lobburi. In the sculptures the hairstyle of the hair always falls on the forehead at an acute angle; the head is generally crowned by a flame, probably derived from Ceylon and which remains characteristic even later for the Siamese plastic. Around 1350 the capital was moved further south, to Ayudhya. Bangkok takes its place after three centuries. In the sculptures of Ayudhya, in stone, bronze and terracotta, the contrast with the Khmer sculptures is even more accentuated: the face is composed only of curved lines; in the bronzes the eyes are encrusted with stone and mother of pearl; the curls, metallic and poorly modeled, spread over a narrow area around the head. The type is found in endless, often mechanical, reruns.
The architecture of the late Siamese period is characterized by the emergence of acute pagodas on the forms proper to the stupa (phra), which surround the simple central temple (bot) within the sacred enclosure (vat). The modern buildings, with gilded carvings, acroterî at the corners and acute crowns, are of a purely national style, like the banners of the Buddhist temples and the frescos in strident colors, the objects lacquered in gold on a black background or in nielloed silver, the fabrics. The pottery has undergone since the century. XIII the Chinese influence.
In more recent times, the industriousness of Italian artists and decorators in Siam was notable. The throne room for the king of Siam was entirely made by Italians: it is due to the architects Rigotti and Tamagno, to the engineers Allegri and Gollo; Galileo Chini painted, with great coloristic effectiveness, partly in fresco and partly in lime, three half domes, a large lunette and the vast dome of the staircase, and directed the ornamentation of the other parts of the royal palace.