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Antique Tibetan Tiger Rugs

A large number of antique Tibetan rugs including the powerful Tiger Rugs will be available at Austria Auction Company’s specialist carpet auction, ‘Fine Oriental Rugs XXVII Auction‘ on 27 November 2021.

Tibetan tiger rugs are as culturally fascinating, and as poignantly elusive now, as the tigers themselves. From the early 19th century, woven tiger rugs had become the substitute for the increasingly scarce and highly-prized Indian tiger pelts. The relatively small number of such rugs produced remained within the monasteries, and unlike other works of Tibetan art appeared outside Tibet only after 1976, when an example was taken to the USA. After the more recent social upheaval in Tibet and the breakdown of religious sects and rites, the rugs, once used for meditation, were no longer needed and were dispersed.

Tibetan Jabuye rug with tigers, Tibet, late 19th century. Estimate €3,000  €4,000.

The tiger is a magnificent and instantly recognisable beast, evocative to different people for different reasons. For those living in the remote forest areas of the east, the creature is traditionally attributed with mystical and sacred powers.

In order to raise awareness and funding for the global conservation efforts of TX2 to double tiger numbers in the wild by 2022 the major fundraising project, ‘Tomorrow’s Tigers’ saw the WWF collaborating with Artwise and Christopher Farr. The contemporary rugs produced for TX2 were inspired by traditional tiger rug designs such as the ‘flayed pelt’, with Buddhist and Hindu iconography from Nepal and India; the ‘happy tigers’, depicted in pairs and representative of the male and female (Yin and Yang), with Chinese influence; and (the most prevalent design) the abstract tiger. The theme was inspired by the small group of evocative tiger rugs coming out of Tibet.

Tibetan tiger rug, Tibet, second half 19th century. Estimate €6,000 – €9,000.

In addition to the ten contemporary rugs, a small group of nine old and antique tiger rugs, lent by Nelly Frize, Mimi Lipton, David Sorgato, and anonymous private collectors, dating from between 1860 and 1950, were on display. Five in this group were for sale, including a flayed tiger, two double tigers, and two abstract stripe and pelt designs, ranging in price from £22,000 to £30,000, with some of the proceeds going to TX2. Their placement next to the contemporary rugs during the exhibition created a positive interaction between the designs of the past and the present.

Read about this collaborative project in full in HALI 199.



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