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  • Place of origin:

    Iran (made)
    Isfahan (possibly)

  • Date:

    1600-1625 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hand knotted silk pile, on cotton warp and wool and silk weft, with areas brocaded with metal thread; asymmetrical knot, open to the left; 280 knots per sq. in (5,040 per sq. dm)

  • Credit Line:

    Bequest of George Salting

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This relatively small carpet is produced with a luxurious combination of silk knotted pile design against background areas of metal brocade, creating a shimmering combination. Today the colours are reduced to light blue, pale green, cream and other light pastels, with some dark blue details: it is possible that the silk pile has faded over the centuries. This lightness conceals the refined complexity of the design itself, which is folded across a horizontal and a vertical axis – a quartered design of calculated symmetry. Ordered around a central point, two lobed pendants mirror each other at the upper and lower side. Each features a striped central roundel, embedded in floral surrounds and scrollwork. Half-medallions meet the sides of the carpet design, with large bisected lotus flowers.
Very fine carpets such as this were woven in Isfahan, Iran’s capital under the Safavid dynasty from 1598 until the fall of the Safavids in 1722. Throughout the seventeenth century, international traders from across Asia and Europe were attracted to Isfahan to buy raw silk, following an economic policy introduced by Shah ‘Abbas I. Silk carpets brocaded with precious metal thread, such as this, made impressive diplomatic gifts, as well as trading goods: examples were sent to courts and trading corporations alike, in Venice, Copenhagen and many other centres. Examples survive in international collections to this day.

Physical description

Carpet, Polonaise design, hand knotted silk pile on cotton warp and woollen and silk weft with areas brocaded with metal thread, Persian, early 17th century.
WARP: white cotton (z-spun, new analysis 03/09/15); unable to ascertain spin, ply or twist, 35 threads per inch (140 per dm); depressed.
WEFT: red wool and yellow silk; z-spun, unplied; 3 shoots after each row of knots (1 wool, 1 silk, 1 wool); 16 knots per inch (72 per dm). Brocaded thread: silver strip over white silk and silver strip over yellow silk. These brocaded threads do not go through to the back of the carpet, possibly because of the depressed warp. Seems to have been brocaded over 6 threads.
PILE: silk; 7 colours: yellow, green, dark blue, blue, light blue, beige, black; asymmetrical knot open to the left and tied around 2 threads; 280 knots per sq. inch (5040 per sq. dm)
SIDE FINISH: one cord oversewn with yellow silk
DESIGN: Two ogival medallions each with a striped composite blossom. The ground is filled with arabesques, flowering stems and blossoms.
Main border: blossoms, palmettes in lobed medallions linked by elaborate arabesques.
Inner and outer border: floral meander.
Catalogue date: 9.8.91 (warp re-analysed 03/09/15, identified as cotton not wool)

Place of Origin

Iran (made)
Isfahan (possibly)


1600-1625 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Hand knotted silk pile, on cotton warp and wool and silk weft, with areas brocaded with metal thread; asymmetrical knot, open to the left; 280 knots per sq. in (5,040 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

This carpet was first published in 1885, in the catalogue of a temporary exhibition, "Persian and Arab Art", held at the Burlington Fine Arts Club in London. A press review of the exhibition praised the carpet as follows: "a marvellous carpet, refined in gorgeousness of effect, with light grounds of golden and silver threads picked out with velvet devices in rich blues and delicate greens, bordered with fair blue and yellow arabesques. This specimen is supposed to have been made by Persian workmen in Poland; but the evidence in favour of the supposition does not present itself on the face of the carpet, though there has been considerable effort to restablish the reputation of a doubtful Polish factory" (The Builder, 28 March 1885: 437-8). When the exhibition closed in July of that same year, the carpet was given to the South Kensington Museum (today the V&A) on long-term loan from its owner, the art collector George Salting. In 1910, it became part of the permanent collection, along with many other objects in the Salting Bequest.

Descriptive line

Middle East, Carpet. Carpet, silk knotted pile on cotton warp and wool-silk-wool triple wefts, silver brocaded areas, 'Polonaise' design of two half-palmette medallions along vertical central axis against brocaded ground, Isfahan, Safavid Iran, 1600-1625

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

Burlington Fine Arts Club, Illustrated Catalogue of Specimens of Persian and Arab Art exhibited in 1885 (London: 1885) no.591.
Sheila R. Canby, Shah `Abbas. The Remaking of Iran (London: British Museum Press, 2009) no.119.
Jennifer Wearden Oriental Carpets and their Structure, Highlights from the V&A Collection (London: V&A, 2003) 93, 136.


Wool yarn; Cotton fibre; Silk; Metal thread


Weaving; Knotting

Subjects depicted

Stylized flowers


Textiles; Floor coverings


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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