TYPE: Chain-stitched embroidered Kashmiri leopard pelt

CIRCA: Last quarter 1900’s

Leopard, Leopard! Vintage wool-embroidered soft and supple (snow?) leopard ‘pelt’ bought from a Tibetan shopkeeper in Ladakh, but almost certainly woven in Kashmir in the 2nd half of the 1900’s. Mix of dyed and undyed fine wool chain-stitched* embroidery backed by a layer of medium-thickness black felt. The super-fine wool used for the embroidery purportedly comes from Tibetan sheep farmed in the highland region of Ladakh or Zanskar, a region to the north and west of Kashmir once primarily inhabited by people of Tibetan stock. To get an idea of how fine the wool is, and the tightness of the weave, the close-up ‘framed’ photo shows just one square inch around one of the leopard’s eyes. The size is 215cm long, x 121cm wide at front legs, x 70cm wide across stomach. In very good condition and somewhat ‘rare’, as the Kashmiri’s usually wove embroideries like this as tiger pelts – https://warpandweft.club/portfolio-item/kashmir-item-1/ –  (and some auction houses often sell them – when they arise rarely on the market – as coming ‘from Tibet’, when these weaving’s simply do not).

*The use of the chain-stitch is an ancient craft; examples of surviving Chinese chain-stitch embroidery worked in silk thread have been dated to the 5th – 3rd century BC. It is a sewing and embroidery technique in which a series of looped stitches form a chain-like pattern.

The last photo of an ancient snow-leopard petroglyph (i.e. a rock art record, or prehistoric carving in stone) was taken by “John Vincent Bellezza, a Senior Research Fellow at the Tibet Center, University of Virginia, and Charlotteville, Virginia. A highly esteemed scholar and explorer, John has spent more than two decades studying Zhang Zhung, the ancient culture of western and northwestern Tibet, which was associated with the Bon religion, before the introduction of Buddhism.

Mr Bellezza goes on to say, “…….the snow leopard is noted in Tibetan ritual literature as belonging to the entourage of important mountain gods. These ancestral and protective deities are said to keep fierce carnivores such as the wolf, brown bear and the snow leopard like ordinary mortals keep sheep and goats. The oldest cultural record for the snow leopard is found in Upper Tibet, a land of vast plains crisscrossed by lofty mountain ranges that run perpendicular to the Himalayan Range. This is the rock art record, prehistoric carvings in stone of snow leopards (as seen in the last photo bottom right above). In Tibetan the snow leopard is called sa’u. It is the undisputed king of the alpine and aeolian biomes of Tibet. It is not clear if these petroglyphic depictions of solitary snow leopards represent biological or numinous (that is the spiritual) forms of the animal. Perhaps this great carnivore was rendered in both guises.”

SIZE: 215cm long,  121cm widest pount,

          70cm narrowest point

Embroidery: Chain Stitched wool

Backing:  Felt