Monday, July 14, 2014
What Nifty Little Rugs
Cecil Beaton's circus-themed bedroom has long amused me, so much so that I discuss the room's attributes in my In with the Old lecture. But until I read the July issue of World of Interiors, I had never seen the photograph that captured the room's fireplace wall. (See below.) Yes, the fanciful murals are enchanting as are the drum side tables. But what especially caught my eye was the small leopard-pelt motif rug in front of the fireplace. It reminded me of a similar rug that appeared in the Martin Battersby book, The Decorative Thirties. (You can see a photo of that rug below as well.)
These trompe l'oeil-style leopard rugs fascinate me because I've always been curious of their origins. Could they have been inspired by the now highly-collectible Tibetan Tiger Rugs? Tiger rugs, whose designs feature simulated tiger pelts, hail from Tibet, where the large cats and their skins have long symbolized power. Tiger rugs were traditionally given as gifts to lamas, who did their Tantric meditations on them. Little was known about these rugs until the latter part of the twentieth century, so perhaps their existence was not widely enough known to have been a contributing factor in the design of those 1930s-era faux leopard rugs. And of course, I do realize that the Tibetan rugs feature tiger pelts while the Beaton and Battersby rugs depict leopard skins, but the stylized images of their pelts are rather similar.
By the 1960s, it was Piero Fornasetti's faux leopard pelt rug that was all the rage, gracing the floors of some swank European residences. And the stylized leopard skin rug is still going strong today, as evidenced by Diane von Furstenberg's "Climbing Leopard" rug design for The Rug Company. But still I wonder, just who created the vogue for these chic and amusing leopard rugs?
Images at top: You'll find two examples of Tibetan Tiger Rugs above. The top photo shows a 19th-century Khotan Tiger Rug from Turkestan, while the second image is of an early 20th-century Tibetan rug.
"Climbing Leopard" for The Rug Company.
Beaton image, World of Interiors, July 2014; Battersby photo from The Decorative Thirties; Fornasetti rug photos from Nouvelles réussites de la décoration française, 1960-1966; Climbing Leopard photos courtesy of The Rug Company.