Pair of Antique Tibetan Painted Cabinets
Tibet, circa 1900
These stunning cabinets were produced in Tibet around the beginning of the twentieth century. Like most Tibetan furniture, they are made from pine, beautifully painted in a typical palette of greens, yellows, blues and oranges. The colours would once have been brighter, but have now mellowed to softer, autumnal hues. Cabinets like these were often produced in pairs, and would have been used to store ceremonial robes, important scrolls and documents or even the yak butter that was used in lamps.
As was customary, the paintings here include several religious symbols that are important in Buddhism. The green frames that surround each of the six painted panels are carved to resemble bamboo. Revered for its strength and flexibility, bamboo is associated with enlightenment, which similarly requires great persistence and adaptability to acheive. The six panels themselves each show a lotus flower set in the middle of a floral shaped outline. The lotus is a symbol for the Buddha's awakening and of purity - a reminder that all beings are able to attain enlightenment.
Above each lotus flower on the upper panels of each cabinet is a separate, individual symbol. The first cabinet shows an elephant to the top right - one of the most important symbols in Buddhism and a sign of strength, honour and wisdom. The white elephant in particular is also associated with divinity and peace. Next to this in the centre is a mythical 'Wind Horse', a symbol often seen on Tibetan prayer flags to transport prayers to the heavens and also believed to bring good fortune. Finally, to the left is a dharma wheel, one of the oldest of Buddhist symbols. This represents the process of death and rebirth and the eventual release from this endless cycle through enlightenment.
On the second cabinet the three upper panels show the 'Buddhas of the three times' (past, present and future), each holding a fruit. These are most likely a peach, pomegranate and lemon, known as the 'three fruits of blessings' and representing happiness, longevity and wealth.
On each cabinet two of the outer panels are fixed (to the left and right side respectively), while the others open as doors to give access to the whole of the inside. A single shelf sits half way up. The top of each cabinet is in the original black finish - now worn over the rustic pine wood to give a wonderful, aged patina. The rear of each unit is in thick, chunky pine, finished in a dark wood stain. Typically, the cabinets are quite basic in their construction but are beautifully decorated. It is now rare to find Tibetan furniture in its original condition and still with the old paintings, particularly a matching pair like these. They would bring real colour, history and character to any interior.
Sold together as a pair, the price shown is for the two cabinets.
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