Eastern Tibetan or Chinese for the Tibetan market
Iron, gold, silver, wood, leather, and textile; H. 10 3/4 in. (27.3 cm), L. 22 1/2 in. (57.2 cm), W. 11 3/4 in. (29.8 cm)
Purchase, Rogers Fund and Stephen V. Grancsay, by exchange, 1997 (1997.214.1)
This saddle represents a particular form found in Tibet, which was Chinese or strongly influenced by Chinese types, and within that form it belongs to a small group of closely related saddles that may either stem from a single workshop or reflect a specific type developed in a particular region. The possible Chinese origin of these saddles is suggested by the presence of the Chinese characters xià above shì chiseled on the interior of the pommel plate, and wàng on the interior of the cantle plate of the Museum's saddle. Other notable features are the lively dragons, which are chiseled free from their scrollwork background as a demonstration of the craftsman's skill. Also unusual is the use of a technique involving damascening the entire surface of the saddle plates in silver, and then mercury gilding select elements of the designs over the silver. Equally distinctive is the use of three layers of decoration: the outer layer of pierced scrollwork, with long tendrils deeply undercut to give an appearance of depth; a second layer forming a subsidiary ground underlying each saddle plate and consisting of an iron grill damascened in silver to create a stylized cloud pattern; and, directly on top of the wood, a layer of colored fabric.