The Art of Tibetan Carpets

The Rubin Museum, New York, holds an exhibition “Patterns of Life: The Art of Tibetan Carpets” from 8 April – 22 August 2011. The museum holds one of the world’s most important collections of Himalayan art.

Floral Carpet; Tibet; early 20th century; wool warp and weft; 31.5 x 21.25 in.; Collection of Dr. Robert W. Baylis; 478

The exhibition includes some forty carpets that showcase the variety and  uses of Tibetan carpets. Small pile rug pillows and woven covers for cushions or pillows, represented in the exhibition, were reserved for the affluent or members of the clergy. Sleeping rugs, called khaden, were found in every Tibetan home and  monastery, regardless of class and the exhibition offers a number of examples of these.

Four Auspicious Animals Carpet; Tibet; early 20th century; wool warp and weft; 23.75 x 29 in.; Collection of Robert and Lois Baylis; 294.1

Tibet’s horse culture has inspired a number of types of utilitarian weavings and among them the saddle carpets. The vast majority of  saddle carpet pairs are separated, but Patterns of Life includes two rare intact sets.

Though originally created for domestic utility, the ruling clergy began sponsoring carpet production for their own use, and carpets served also important functions in monastic communities. The colors red, orange and yellow were reserved exclusively for monastic weavings.

Many Tibetan homes would have owned seating mats, or khagangma, reserved for visiting lamas passing through communities  while on pilgrimage.

Phoenix and Dragon Carpet; Tibet; early 20th century; wool warp and weft; 30 x 58 in.; Collection of John and Jessica Baylis; 221

Animals are frequently represented in Tibetan carpets. Phoenixes  are often paired with dragons, considered a demonic creature in other Central Asian cultures, but  considered a benevolent one by Tibetans.

Location and more information: The Rubin Museum of Art, 150 West 17th Street, New York

Source: Press release The Rubin Museum

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