Sacred & Secular: The Piccus Collection of Tibetan Rugs
Preview pages of our popular book on Tibetan rugs from the Piccus Collection.
Sacred & Secular tibetan rugS the PiccuS collection oF FO R PR EV IE robert p. piccus W O N LY Sacred & Secular PR EV IE FO R robert p. piccus Serindia Publications, Chicago W O N LY t i b e ta n r u g S t h e P i c c u S c o l l e c t i o n oF contentS About the Collector LY 6 7 8 16 32 Acknowledgements W EV IE O N Introduction A Collector's Odyssey Notes on the Collection the piccus collection of tibetan rugs tigers and leopards tantric 40 76 80 92 126 140 164 176 190 196 214 248 262 272 286 288 294 dragons medallions squares geometrics minimalist textile patterns runners saddles warp face back nomadic tsukdruks nomadic woven Visual Glossary Glossary Annotated Bibliography Photographic Archive Resources First published in 2011 by Serindia Publications Serindia Publications, Inc. PO Box 10335 Chicago, Illinois 60610 USA firstname.lastname@example.org www.serindia.com � 2011 Robert P. Piccus and Serindia Publications British Library images � The British Library Board. All Rights Reserved. Pitt Rivers Museum images � Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. British Museum images � The Trustees of the British Museum. All rights reserved. All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in any part, in any form, without permission from the publishers. Photography of the Collection: Don Tuttle Design and graphics: Natthaphat Meksriwan ISBN 978-1-932476-55-2 Printed in China Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Front and back covers: Detail, tiger rug and crossed vajra, Plate 2. Back cover inset: Detail, tiger rug, Plate 3. FO Piccus, Robert Peter. Sacred and secular : the Piccus collection of Tibetan rugs / Robert P. Piccus. -- 1st ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 978-1-932476-55-2 (hardcover : alk. paper) 1. Rugs, Oriental--China--Tibet--Catalogs. 2. Piccus, Robert Peter--Art collections--Catalogs. 3. Rugs--Private collections--United States--Catalogs. I. Title. NK2883.A3T5265 2011 746.7'515074--dc23 2011025030 R PR about the collector acknowledgementS For Alice and me, collecting has always been a social activity that brought us together with many friends who share our passion. while it would be difficult to credit everyone, I want to highlight a few individuals who have helped and inspired us, with apologies to those I have missed. LY O N W EV IE Bob and Alice Piccus. Photo by Lilian Tang. First my thanks to Alice, beloved wife, mother and best friend, who has put up with so many years of distraction and financial indiscretion with the good spirit and humor for which she is famous. For this book, I am grateful in particular to Tom Cole, pioneering scholar of Tibetan weavings and friendly critic, who has helped in many ways including technical analysis, such a burden to me; and to Don Tuttle for his masterful photography and artistic suggestions. My thanks also to a long list of collector, scholar and dealer friends: Monisha Ahmed, Tony Anninos, Debby Ashencaen and Gennady Leonov, Terese Tse and Bruce Bartholomew, Bob Brundage, Anthony d'Offay, Annie Dorsey, Arthur Kan, David Kamansky, Arthur Leeper, Mimi Lipton, Bill Liske, Stephen McGuiness, Dan Miller, Jeffrey Moy, Kumi and John Ruddy, Tom Rutherford, Mohan Sakya, Danny Shaffer Joe Spitzer and Lillian Tang, Thomas wild, Nick wright, and my late and much lamented friend Robert "Dutch Bob" van Grevenbroek. Last but by no means least, I want to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts by Shane Suvikapakornkul and his Serindia team to make sense of my often vague and disjointed input resulting in a book I hope readers will recognize as a worthy expression of the artistic achievements of those unnamed artisans of the Tibetan plateau. Robert P. Piccus San Francisco, June 2011 Bob Piccus embarked on an international business career that took him and his forty years from 1960 to 2000. Shanghai-born and US-educated wife Alice to Europe, the US, and Hong Kong for substantial collections of classic Belgian stamps, Indian postal history, maps, and antiquarian books while living in Belgium and New York City. Moving to Hong Kong in 1968, the two immersed themselves in the vibrant local art scene, collecting Vietnamese ceramics, Tibetan silver ritual objects and manuscript covers, Indian and Southeast Asian sculpture, Chinese rugs, and classical Chinese furniture. Piccus's interest in Tibetan rugs was sparked by the appearance of early examples during the mid-1980s, when Chinese authorities first allowed foreigners to visit Tibet. From the time of his first purchase in 1988 until his move to San Francisco in 2000, Piccus matched his passion for collecting Chinese furniture with an equal passion for early Tibetan rugs, an art form that reflects the culture and heritage of the weavers from the high plateaus of Tibet. This volume is his attempt to share the beauty and history of these artistic treasures with others who admire Tibet, its history and culture. FO R PR Collecting having been a passion since schoolboy days, Piccus began to amass 6 SACRED & SECULAR ACKNOwLEDGEMENTS 7 introduction T PR EV IE R FO he period from approximately 1985 to the present has provided a unique opportunity for collectors to build serious collections of Tibetan rugs. This book is meant to recognize and chronicle the efforts of the dealers, scholars, and collectors to identify, understand, and collect the work of Tibetan weavers. An awareness of the complexities of Tibetan history, religion, geography, and political factors helps us understand the influences on Tibetan culture and art, in particular rug production. The high Himalayan plateau is a natural fortress that has allowed the Tibetan people to isolate and defend themselves from the surrounding regions.1 The Tibetans, however, are natural traders who found welcome markets for the fine lustrous high lanolin content wool produced by the Tibetan herders.2 The Tibetans, trading their wool to India, China, and Central Asia, were influenced by what they observed in their travels, and brought back materials and ideas that expanded their 1. Denwood, 1974, pp 1-8. Introduction. Also see historical works listed in the bibliography by Beckwith, Bell, Grousset, Richardson, and Stein. 2. Olsen, 1996 W O N A photograph taken by Sir Charles Bell in the collection of the British Library (left, bl 1112/5 (352) � The British Library Board. All Rights Reserved) illustrates Tibetan women weaving a runner rug on a vertical loom. One of the rugs in the Piccus Collection (right, Plate 113) shows a similar design after textile patterns. rug design pool. we have only to consider the medallion and g�l design elements3 derived from Central Asian sources that are featured on so many Tibetan rugs, or the adoption of Chinese textile patterns, to appreciate the impact of trade on the Tibetan rug designs. Although isolated and protected over the centuries in their remote mountain fastness, the Tibetans did have trade and religious relations with their neighbors, both of which contributed to and influenced their cultural, economic, and artistic development.4 Jesuit missionaries, active in China during the reign of the Kangxi emperor, visited Lhasa in the 17th century, as did a few intrepid and generally unwelcome travellers such as George Bogle in the 1770s, who mentioned in passing seeing carpets in use.5 Rugs of various types have been woven on the Himalayan 3. Taken from the Turkish word for "rose," this is a kind of medallion-shaped design element found on many Central and western Asian rugs. Tibetans adopted this design element through trade relations. 4. Denwood, 1974, pp 3-4, 7-8 5. Denwood, 1974, p 83 LY 8 SACRED & SECULAR INTRODUCTION 9 EV IE TIGERS AND LEOPARDS Plates 1�29 W plate highlights Wall hangings: Plates 1, 3�5 Squares: Plates 2, 15�21, 29 Khadens: Plates 6�12 Runners: Plates 13, 14 Throne back: Plate 24 Saddles: Plates 22, 23 Horse Trapping: Plate 25 Panels: Plates 26�28 40 sacred & secular 1. See Robert Beer, The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs (London: Serindia Publications, 1999) p 78. FO Tigers are not native to Tibet but their presence in neighboring India and China accounts for their importance in Buddhist iconography and usage in Tibet. The tiger, in the sense of the lion as the king of beasts, is seen as the symbol of power, strength, and fearlessness.1 A full tiger pelt was often depicted as the seat or throne of various deities and was therefore used as a throne, meditation seat, or place of honor for a high-ranking lama. The leopard, even rarer than the tiger, occupied a similar iconographic role as symbolic of female wrathful deities. The scarcity of genuine pelts resulted in the weaving of tiger rugs as well as the rare leopard spot rugs in the 19th century. R PR O N LY I have concentrated on pieces featuring abstract patterns that are typical of the early production made to substitute for rare genuine pelts. I have avoided more recent pieces that depict single or paired tigers on their own or frolicking in bamboo groves, often referred to as "happy tigers" (Fig. 1). It is difficult for me to imagine how these pieces fit into the way Tibetans view tigers as protectors and symbols of strength. The same logic applies to the representation of leopards or lions as "dancing snow lions" (Fig. 2). My conclusion is that such later pieces were made to be sold as decorative objects rather than to be used in any traditional sense. Tiger rugs in the collection as well as the single leopard spot example range in age from the early 19th to the early 20th century. They include wall hangings, khaden, runners, khangama seating and throne covers, throne backs, and panels used in monastery halls as well as saddle pieces and horse trappings. Design elements, along with tiger stripe or leopard spot patterns, include crossed vajras indicating monastic use as well as medallions, Chinese characters and the variety of border treatments including key fret, pearl, and rosette patterns derived from Xinjiang and Central Asian rugs. Small rectangular panels were often sewn into tubes, filled with straw, and hung as protective totems on both sides of the entryways to temples and monasteries. Fig. 1 "Happy Tigers" Photo by Arthur Kan. Fig. 2 "Dancing Snow Lions" Photo by Arthur Kan. tigers and leopards 41 1 TIGER RUG 19th century or earlier Acquired: February 1995 Exhibited: ACOR 4 Denver, 1998 Catalogued: Liske, Denver, 1998 This abstract tiger rug is woven in a rare horizontal format. The limited natural color palette, large loose knotting and archaic key and pearl borders suggest an early date. The ivory ground is unusual, adding presence to the composition. All factors have combined to make this an exceptionally rare and pleasing rug. weft: 2 ShedS dark grey wool (5): ivory, brown, light blue, medium blue, light yellow colors knots: 3-, 4-, 5-ply wool 4.5 h � 3 v = 13.5 kpSi knot count: FO R PR EV IE W O N 71.1 cm (28 in) 179 cm (70.5 in) size: 179 cm � 71.1 cm (70.5 in � 28 in) Z2S light grey wool/goat hair warp: LY 42 sacred & secular tigers and leopards 43 2 TIGER RUG Early 19th century Acquired: November 1991 This square rug is a rare example of a crossed vajra design applied over an abstract tiger stripe pattern. This was most likely a throne cushion meant for a high lama. warp: weft: Z2S ivory wool 74.9 cm (29.5 in) 2 ShedS ivory wool; 3 ShootS one ivory & two yellow; 3 ShootS one ivory & two light blue (5): walnut brown, dark brown, light yellow, light blue, ivory colors knots: 6-ply wool knot count: 8 h � 6 v = 48 kpSi FO 95.3 cm (37.5 in) size: 95.3 cm � 74.9 cm (37.5 in � 29.5 in) R PR EV IE W O N LY 44 sacred & secular tigers and leopards 45 4 TIGER RUG 19th century Acquired: November 1991 LY O N 63.5 cm (25 in) 96.5 cm (38 in) size: This example combines a partial pelt design over a plain field. A similar example is published in a catalogue by the Milan dealer Nilufar, 1996, page 12, who speculates this unusual size rug was meant to encircle a pillar. Another possible usage could be to frame a raised platform that formed the throne of a high lama. 96.5 cm � 63.5 cm (38 in � 25 in) Z2S wool 2 ShedS ivory wool (3 ShedS at the endS) (6): dark brown, golden brown, black, yellow, red,light red, ivory warp: weft: colors knots: W 3-, 4-ply wool 7.5 h � 4 v = 30 kpSi knot count: 3 TIGER RUG Early 19th century Acquired: November 1991 95.3 cm (37.5 in) 55.9 cm (23 in) size: 95.3 cm � 55.9 cm (37 in � 23 in) Z2S ivory/grey wool (5): 2 ShedS grey/ivory wool 3-, 4-, 5-ply wool 8 h � 4 v = 32 kpSi warp: weft: colors knots: golden brown, dark brown/black, dark blue, light blue, ivory knot count: FO R This rare example combines a finely woven abstract tiger stripe pattern similar to Plate 2 with a key border. PR EV IE 46 sacred & secular tigers and leopards 47 Plates 31�39 DRAGONS plate highlights EV IE Wall hangings: Plates 31, 32 Khadens: Plates 33�38 Throne back: Plate 39 The dragon-phoenix combination appears often in 20th-century production in dynamic multicolored rugs (Fig. 1). This is not the case in the earlier 19th century examples in this collection, which are more closely based on the Chinese Ningxia-style rugs from which they are derived. PR FO R Fig. 1 Twentieth-century rug with multicolored dragons and phoenixes. Photo by Arthur Kan. Fig. 2 Ningxia dragon rug. Photo by Arthur Kan. Fig. 3 Ningxia pillar rug. Photo by Arthur Kan. W O N Tibetans have adopted the dragon, a most powerful symbol, from Chinese iconography. In Chinese terms, the dragon represents male strength and energy to complement female attributes as represented by the phoenix. In royal terms, the dragon and phoenix that represent heaven and earth symbolize the emperor and empress. Tibetan monasteries and temples are noted for their bright and rather exotic decorations. Kul�y noted that in the case of "political" Tibet ruled by the Dalai Lama, decorations were mostly in the form of wall and pillar paintings as well as hanging banners made of textiles. The Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and temples located in the Tibetan cultural areas of western China and Mongolia were often decorated with pillar rugs and wall hangings produced in the rug-weaving areas of northwestern China and Mongolia. Tibetan rugs of this type are relatively rare compared with their Ningxia counterparts (Figs. 2, 3). Similarly, Ningxia dragon-design seating and throne back rugs (Fig. 4) for high-ranking monks are fairly common but Tibetan examples such as those in this collection are relatively rare. The selection here also features what might be called "Tibetan dragon rugs in Chinese format." These are conventional three-medallion khaden size rugs, which feature particularly exuberant field and border design. The Tibetan examples are clearly derived from Chinese types, which is a further indication of the influence of Chinese rug iconography on Tibetan production. In conclusion, Tibetan 19th-century dragon rugs demonstrate close affinities with their Ningxia counterparts. They probably had similar usage in temples and monasteries and are not particularly common. This is in contrast with later, lively 20thcentury pieces produced more likely for their commercial appeal. LY Fig. 4 Ningxia seat and throneback. Photo by Arthur Kan. 80 sacred & secular dragons 81 31 DRAGON RUG 19th century Acquired: November 1991 77.7 cm (30.6 in) size: 125.7 cm � 77.7 cm (49.5 in � 30.6 in) 4-ply cotton 2 ShedS ivory wool (10): dark blue, light blue, pale yellow, khaki green, blue/green, ginger brown, brown, pale roSe, red, ivory warp: weft: colors knot count: 9 h � 6 v = 54 kpSi Similar to Plate 31, this piece features a pair of dragons amongst cloud patterns. 79.4 cm (31.25 in) warp: weft: 3-ply cotton (10): 2 ShedS ivory, grey and brown wool colors 182.9 cm (72 in) knots: 3-, 4-ply wool 9 h � 6 v = 54 kpSi knot count: FO size: 182.9 cm � 79.4 cm (72 in � 31.25 in ) dark blue, medium blue, light blue, red, light roSe, pale yellow, ginger brown, burgundy (faded), light red (faded), ivory R PR 32 DRAGON RUG 19th century Acquired: January 1992 EV IE W 125.7 cm (49.5 in) knots: 3-, 4-ply wool O N LY Tibetan versions of Ningxia wall hangings where a flying dragon is depicted chasing flaming pearls surrounded by cloud motifs and Buddhist symbols. 82 sacred & secular dragons 83 R PR Medallion-design khaden are woven for both monastic and domestic use. The following selection includes more typical pieces featuring a variety of field and border treatments, while EV IE This section groups the medallion rugs in khaden format. Medallions are the most common design motif in Tibetan rugs. Kul�y believes medallions have been used on nearly half of all Tibetan rugs.1 The designs are of Central Asian as well as Chinese origin and provide the weaver with a wide range of creative opportunities. The creative ability of the weavers is apparent in the wide range of medallion design as well as the varied treatment of the borders and field. I have collected a range of examples that illustrate the level of creative design demonstrated by the weavers. FO 1. See Hallvard K. Kul�y, Tibetan Rugs (Bangkok: Orchid Press, 1982) p 64. W O N plate highlights other examples are clearly monastic, such as the early example in plate 40 with crossed vajras in all three medallions. Other examples are rare such as plate 41 with eternal knot in square format. I have included here a set of plates of what I call "minimalist medallions," which are medallion rugs but with empty fields and restrained design and color. This small group of rugs highlight the contrast between a relatively conventional border treatment with typical medallions and essentially empty fields. In my view, these rugs are excellent examples of the creative achievements of the weavers. Using few design tools and limited colors along with empty fields, conventional medallions, and corner and border designs, they have created pleasing examples. Crossed vajra: Plate 40 Square medallion: Plate 41 Arrow border: Plate 42 Rosette border: Plate 43 Single medallion: Plates 44�50 Two medallion: Plate 51 Three medallion: Plate 52�62 Five medallion: Plate 63 Minimalist medallion: Plates 65�69 LY Plate 40�69 MEDALLIONS 92 sacred & secular medallions 93 40 MEDALLION RUG Early 19th century Acquired: May 1995 This outstanding rug is distinguished by the crossed vajra appearing in all three medallions, an exceptionally rare design. The deeply-saturated red field combined with the simple border design indicate an early 19thcentury date. size: 129.6 cm � 73.7 cm (51 in � 29 in) Z2S brown/tan wool 2 ShedS brown/tan wool (7): dark blue, light blue, mottled blue, red, green, tan, brown overdyed blue 73.7 cm (29 in) warp: weft: colors 129.6 cm (51 in) knots: 6-ply wool 5 h � 4 v = 20 kpSi knot count: PR EV IE 41 MEDALLION RUG W O N LY 19th century Acquired: August 1994 Exhibited: ACOR 4 Denver, 1998 Catalogued: Liske, Denver, 1998 R FO The well-drawn single medallion in this rug is a unique example of the eternal knot design. 75.6 cm (29.75 in) size: 148.6 cm � 75.6 cm (58.5 in � 29.75 in) Z2S brown wool 2 ShedS medium brown wool, light brown wool (5): dark blue, medium blue, light blue, red, ivory warp: weft: colors 148.6 cm (58.5 in) knots: 6-, 7-, 8-ply wool 5 h � 3 v = 15 kpSi knot count: medallions 95 Geometrics, in the main in "checkerboard" patterns, are among the most popular and sought-after designs. Decorators love them because they are able to use them in almost any d�cor. These geometric designs also challenge Tibetan weavers to use their creative instincts to weave unusual examples. The selection here contains a number of typical checkerboard rugs woven in a variety of colors, some with visual enhancements, such as borders and diamonds. Also here is a rare example of a large floor carpet, typically used for sitting or sleeping. plate highlights 140 Room-size checker: Plate 81 Regular checker: Plates 82�86 Enhanced checker: Plates 87, 88 Diamond pattern: Plate 89 Rounded-end checker: Plate 90 Check border: Plate 91 Mini-checker: Plate 92 Stepped-diamond: Plates 93�98 Cushion stripes: Plates 99 sacred & secular Cushion checks: Plates 100, 101 FO R PR EV IE W Plate 81�101 GeoMeTRIcS O N LY geometrics 141 82 checkeRboARd RUG The use of green as a primary design color is unusual. Circa 1900 Acquired: March 1998 82.6cm (32.5 in) size: 157.5 cm x 82.6 cm ( 62 in x 32.5 in ) Z2S tan wool 2 Shed brown and grey wool, Some blue wool (3): tan, dark green, medium green 8 h x 4 v = 32 kpSi 2, 3 ply wool warp: weft: A rare room-size checkerboard pattern woven with a notch, presumably for a post. In a dwelling, rugs of this size are exceptionally rare and were intended for a wealthy family. 196.8 cm (77.5 in) size: 238.8 cm x 196.8 cm ( 94 in x 77.5 in ) Z2S ivory wool warp: weft: 2 Shed ivory wool (5): dark blue, medium blue, tan 7 h x 4.5 v = 31.5 kpSi geometrics 143 colors 238.8 cm (94 in) knots: 3, 4,5 ply wool knot count: 142 sacred & secular FO R 81 checkeRboARd RUG Circa 1900 Acquired: September 1996 PR EV IE W O N LY 157.5 cm (62 in) colors knots: knot count: plate highlights Lattice pattern: Plates 110, 111 Tigma tie-dyed: Plates 112, 113 Swastika: Plate 114 Brocade textile: Plates 115�119 FO R PR The lattice pattern examples are particularly attractive and occasionally are so tightly woven as to appear a flat weave. The well-known tigma pattern often seen in tie-dyed textiles is a classic example of Tibetan weavers producing a rug in the design of a domestic cloth textile. The pieces here are not from nomadic production, but rather from sedentary workshops. EV IE W Tibetan rug weavers are very adept at transforming textile patterns, usually Chinese, into woven rugs. These range from representations of Chinese lattice and brocade silk textiles to Tibetan tie-dyed patterns. Some of the examples here are based on reproduction of an imported textile design, and are good examples of the Tibetan weaver's ability to deal with foreign design. O N LY Plate 110�119 TexTILe PATTeRNS 176 sacred & secular textile patterns 177 110 TexTILe-PATTeRNed RUG 19th Century Acquired: January 1990 An example of translating a complex Chinese lattice pattern textile into a woven rug. warp: weft: Z2S ivory wool 2 ShedS ivory wool (2): red, golden brown 8 h x 5 v = 40 kpSi 3 ply wool colors knot count: EV IE W 111 TexTILe-PATTeRNed RUG O N PR Circa 1900 Acquired: September 1991 163.8 cm (64.5 in) knots: FO R In this example, the lattice pattern has been produced in an exceptionally fine weave. 57.9cm (22.8 in) 76.7 cm (30.2 in) LY size: 85.1cm (33.5 in) size: 163.8 cm x 85.1 cm ( 64.5 in x 33.5 in ) 76.7 cm x 57.9 cm ( 30.2 in x 22.8 in ) Z2S ivory wool (2): aubergine, roSe red 10 h x 9 v = 90 kpSi warp: weft: two ShedS ivory wool colors knots: 4 ply wool knot count: 178 sacred & secular textile patterns 179 W O N visual glossary tigers dragons medallions buddhist symbols geometrics other designs FO R PR EV IE LY MeDallions geometric and endless knot patterns floral patterns visual glossary FO R PR EV IE W O N LY