Artefact of the month - May
There is an estimated 6,000 artworks held in ZSL’s Library and at Whipsnade. Every month one of these pieces will feature here as Artefact of the month.
|Brian Houghton Hodgson’s Painting of the Tibetan Antelope, or Chiru, c 1840.|
This fine painting of the Tibetan Antelope, Pantholops hodgsonii, was ‘discovered’ while carrying out a survey of the art collection in the Library.
In watercolour and gouache, it measures 83.5 x 63.5 cm and has a distinctive black border. Brian Houghton Hodgson commissioned it while he was working in Nepal - probably with the intention of having it framed and put on the wall.
It is unsigned and the identity of the artist is unknown but Hodgson is known to have employed several talented Nepalese artists. We do not know if the artist drew from the living animal or from specimens or a combination of both, or was guided by Hodgson’s zoological knowledge.
It probably dates from around 1840 and it is one of the earliest paintings of the Tibetan Antelope.
The Tibetan Antelope was recently in the news again as it is one of the five mascots chosen by China for the Olympic Games to be held in Beijing in 2008 and this publicity may help the species’ survival.
It lives only in Tibet and parts of India where its numbers are seriously threatened by poaching for its undercoat which is used to make luxury woollen shawls known as shatoosh.