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Carpet fragment

Carpet fragment

  • Place of origin:

    Iran (made)

  • Date:

    1550-1600 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hand knotted woollen pile, on woollen warp and weft; asymmetrical knot, open to the left; 208-240 knots per sq. in (3,120-4,080 per sq. dm)

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Despite the frail condition of this sixteenth-century carpet fragment, the very fine design may still be read and enjoyed. The section comes from the one side of the original carpet, with the dark green border on the right, and the main field in dark red. The central design is filled with hunting animals, stalking or pouncing upon their prey: lions, tigers, leopards, lynxes, foxes and wolves, all of them hunting after deer. These creatures are not depicted in a natural landscape though, but placed within two spiralling systems of flowering plant scrolls, against a vibrant red background. The largest flowers are lotus blossoms, drafted with bright colours and complex forms, and sometimes outlined against a large lotus leaf. The dark green borders are also filled with spiralling plant scrolls, with long-tailed birds perched on the curving stems.
Even fragments of historic carpets were widely traded in late nineteenth-century Europe, among artists, designers, scholars and private collectors unable to afford the huge market prices reached by whole carpets from sixteenth or seventeenth century Iran. Deeply admired, such fragments could reveal just enough of the design and structure to be of value to a specialist. Two known fragments of this carpet are in design museums (this example in the V&A, and another in Paris at Musee des Arts Decoratifs). The V&A fragment was bought in Italy, from the estate sale of one William Wentworth Buller, in 1884. Buller researched textile history, and collaborated briefly with the British designer William Morris. He had built up a significant study collection of both European and Middle Eastern textiles (including carpets). He bought this beautiful fragment just before his death in 1883, from the auctioned estate of the painter Attilio Simonetti in Rome. Unable to pay for his carpet fragment straightaway, Buller had deposited it with the art-dealer Castellani: he died before he could take possession of it. Simonetti in turn had used his carpet fragment as a prop in at least one of his paintings: it is depicted in a scene (“The Musical Interlude”) laid out as a table carpet. Noticeably Simonetti has depicted the fragment, perhaps with wishful artistic licence, as a whole carpet.

Physical description

Carpet fragment, Hunting Carpet design, wool knotted pile, silk warp, wool-cotton-wool triple weft.
WARP: cream silk; Z2S; 26-30 threads per inch (104-120 per dm); depressed.
WEFT: cream wool, light red wool and white cotton; Z-spun, unplied (wool); Z-spun, unplied 2 parallel threads per shoot (cotton); 3 shoots (wool, cotton, wool) after each row of knots; 16 knots per inch (60-68 per dm).
PILE: wool; 16 colours: red, dark orange, orange, yellow, light yellow, dark green, green, light green, dark blue, blue, light blue, pink, dark brown, brown, light brown, very light brown; asymmetrical knot, open to the left and tied around 2 warps; 208-240 knots per sq.inch (3120-4080 per dm).
NB: report on dyes shows: red = lac, yellow = luteolin, green = luteolin and indigo, orange = madder.
SIDE FINISH: Left: incomplete; Right: missing
END FINISH: missing.
DESIGN: Field: red ground with foliate scrollwork, the dominant green stems with large lotus flowers and leaves. The secondary pink stems with smaller blossoms, flower heads and buds. In a row in the centre of the fragment are: from the top, two pairs of leopards attacking a large deer, a lion chasing a horned goat, a tiger attacking a spotted bull, and a wolf chasing a deer. Other small animals are spaced among the flowers: fox and lynx.
Borders only along left-hand side:
Main border: dark green ground with red floral meander bearing composite blossoms and light green curving stems bearing smaller flowers. Pairs of birds sit among the stems.
Inner border: yellow ground with double floral meander of orange and dark brown stems. Red and blue flowers alternate with a spray of 3 pink flowers.
Outer border: red ground with double floral meander in pink and green. Blue and yellow blossoms alternate with a spray of three very light brown flowers.

Catalogue Date: 1.12.97

Place of Origin

Iran (made)


1550-1600 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Hand knotted woollen pile, on woollen warp and weft; asymmetrical knot, open to the left; 208-240 knots per sq. in (3,120-4,080 per sq. dm)


Weight: 13 kg, Width: 1060 mm Top edge, Width: 1050 mm Bottom edge, Length: 1990 mm Proper right edge, Length: 1955 mm Proper left edge

Object history note

Purchased from the estate of William Wentworth Buller. According to V&A archival records, this carpet fragment was "bought by Mr Buller at the Simonetti sale and left by him on deposit with the late Signor A. Castellani" (V&A Archives, Central Inventory). This refers to the collection of the painter Attilio Simonetti, which was auctioned in Rome in 1883.

Descriptive line

Middle East, Carpet, fragment. Carpet fragment, wool knotted pile on silk warp and wool-cotton-wool weft, 'Hunting Carpet' design of animal combats on red ground, Safavid Iran, 1550-1600

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Christine Klose, "Imperial Puzzle. Sixteenth-Century Persian Spiral Vine Carpets with Animals", HALI 170 (2011) pp.76-85: fig.30.


Wool yarn


Knotted pile

Subjects depicted

Gazelle; Tiger; Lion; Deer; Cheetah; Animals; Birds; Stylized flowers


Textiles; Floor coverings


Middle East Section

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