A very rare painted ashwood figure of a seated tiger

約朝鮮十八至十九世紀   雕水曲柳木老虎坐像

The tiger is superbly carved seated on its haunches on a ring-shaped oval element atop a larger rectangular base. The head is turned to the right with the mouth open, showing the well carved and painted red tongue and white teeth. Nail-heads around the mouth suggest the original attachment of whiskers. The protruding eyes, typical of Korean painted representations of tigers, are made of red-foil-backed glass hemispheres, beneath the wrinkled brow and tab-like ears. The body is well-muscled, with the skin rucked at the nape of the neck. The head, body and legs are all painted in black on an orangey-brown ground with a realistic depiction of stripes, leaving the chest a paler colour. A hole in the back of the ring-shaped element suggests the attachment of a tail, probably curled around and through the feet. The rectangular base, which has a section cut from the lower rear part, perhaps for attachment to some larger grouping, is painted green with a red edge.
Joseph Stanley Ltd., Philadelphia, 1973
Collection of Mrs Peggy Rea Joyner, Sewickley, PA

No comparable large carved wood figure of a seated tiger appears to have published. However, the similarity both in the seated position and the somewhat goggle-eyed facial appearance between the present tiger and those depicted in traditional folk art paintings known as jakhodo, typically showing a tiger seated beneath a tree with a magpie or magpies in the branches, is very compelling. For a good example of a jakhodo painting, see '91 Korea Antiques Composite Exhibition, catalogue, no. 174, p. 83. 

The presence of the cut-away section on the rectangular base suggests that the tiger was part of a larger group, perhaps beneath a tree in a jakhodo-like tableau. 

The range of the Siberian or Amur tiger reaches into Korea, and though its presence today is based largely on tracks and local sightings, there is no doubt that throughout history the existence of this majestic animal within their country has had a profound effect on the minds of the Korean people, to the extent that the tiger can be considered the national animal. 

A xylological test was carried out, which determined that the material of the tiger's construction is Manchurian Ash (Fraxinus Mandshurica var. Japonica), a timber tree whose range extends from Japan, through the Korean peninsula to North China and Eastern Russia.

Dimensions: Height: 86.5 cm, 34 inches

Date: Probably Korean, Joseon dynasty (1392-1910), 18th or 19th century

Stock No. 1765

Price: On Request