Lapis Lazuli in Pursuit of a Celestial Stone
the amazing quality of lapis lazuli, the purity of its color and the mystery of its origins have meant that it has been pursued through the ages as a rare and precious gemstone. Sarah Searight’s passion, set ablaze at school by a line in a poem by Robert Browning, has led to a lifetime in search of the stone itself and the role it played in the great civilizations of the old World. in this book Sarah Searight seeks out the history of the stone across many cultures, traversing a wide geographical area from the lapis mines in the mountains of north-eastern Afghanistan. she travels to the Middle east and central Asia, to Saharan Africa and on into Europe. on the way she examines the different perceptions and roles of lapis both as stone and—just as important—as pigment. that brilliant blue on the sacred paintings of Buddhism and Christianity—on the walls of caves and churches, in illuminated manuscripts, on renaissance Madonnas—was produced from lapis lazuli. she takes us into both remote and familiar worlds where this remarkable stone cast its spell to represent different meanings to different societies, nearly always with an enduring sacred dimension. royalty laid claim to it as ‘royal blue’ but artists’ patrons insisted on Madonnas being painted in sacred blue. the common theme has been the rarity and inaccessibility of the stone, the purity of its color and its perennial association with the heavens. she also outlines how the modern world perceives lapis lazuli, looks at the current marketplace and the dangers for the present-day buyer.
Sarah Searight is a historian, a traveler and a writer. this book is the culmination of many years of travel, especially in the Middle east (about which she has written frequently) and central Asia, always on the lookout for the precious, celestial lapis lazuli. she lives in London, often on the move, looking for this celestial stone. previous publications include The British in the Middle East, Steaming East and Yemen: Land and People.
2010, paperback, 272 pages, 170 colour plates, 26.0 x 20.0 cm