The Chintamani of the Roerichs: Tales of an extraterrestrial talisman: 10

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10  The mysterious visitor in an icon of modernism
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I suggest it is possible to say, in support of the contention that Roerich believed his Stone was a piece of the Mongolian meteorite, that at the time of the construction of the Buddhist Temple in St Petersburg he may well have had some idea about the appearance of the main mass of the Chintamani stone. This arises because the identification of it in this research as the Armanty stone can be cross-referenced with specific pictorial evidence from Roerich’s scenic decor for Diaghilev’s production of Le Sacre du Printemps.
    In preparing the production design for the first performance in 1913, Roerich had chosen the image of a large oak tree as the centrepiece of his decor for Act One. When this was criticised by Diaghilev, Roerich chose to use instead the image of a stone or boulder. Roerich’s depiction of this stone shows a good similarity in size, shape and characteristics with the great meteorite, which, because of its shape, was known in Mongolia as the ‘Silver Camel’ or ‘Silver Saddle’.
Sacre decor 1912, Kiss to the Earth, with tree
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Sacre decor 1912, Kiss to the Earth, with stone
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Sacre decor 1913
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With each production of the ballet, Roerich seems to have improved its likeness, as if his information about it also improved; for example, in his 1944 designs, he depicted its upper surface with reddish-brown coloration, which might otherwise be thought inaccurate, but would correctly represent the patination on the exposed surface of an iron meteorite.
Sacre decor 1930
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Sacre decor 1944
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From the evidential background previously discussed in Section 9 and elsewhere, Roerich’s motive for choosing this image will be obvious: it would have been inspired by his sympathy for Agvan Dorjiev’s aspiration for the future Shambhala, and the knowledge Roerich is likely to have received from Dorjiev up to 1913 about the main mass of the Chintamani stone which seemingly symbolised this aspiration, and from which Dorjiev is said to have obtained a piece, not long before, for installation in the St Petersburg Temple.
The Armanty meteorite insitu; photograph published in 1962
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    There may have been another iconic – although more idealised – representation of the main stone. In Roerich’s study in Kulu, above the picture-rail level, was a large horizontal painting depicting as its centrepiece a ‘rock’ having a similar ‘saddle’ shape to the Mongolian stone. Prominently superimposed on it was the Banner of Peace symbol – a triad within a circle. Here therefore is the triad – a symbol for Orion – on what may be an image of the Stone, the meteorite from which I suggest the Stone – also known as the ‘Gift of Orion’ – was obtained; it is appropriate to reiterate the point that ‘Orion’ may be a code-word for Mongolia.
Nicholas Roerich in his study at Kulu
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The area of wall below the horizontal painting was occupied by a large triptych, the centre section of which depicts ‘Fiat Rex’, said by the author Alla Shustova to be ‘Vladiko’ or ‘Lord’ Morya, who carries a palm-sized incandescent object emitting luminous radiation from within the casket. On the left-hand panel a knight is holding a shield which faces ‘Fiat Rex’ and bears the triad device, while the corresponding position on the right-hand panel depicts a female figure also turned in his direction, who may represent Mme Roerich holding the casket. The symbolism seems fairly explicit and thus seems intimately related to the Roerichs’ mission with the Stone.
Fiat Rex
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