Carpet

1600-1625 (made)
Carpet thumbnail 1
Carpet thumbnail 2
+3
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
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)
Brief Description
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
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

END FINISH: cut

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)
Dimensions
  • Weight: 13kg
  • Top edge width: 1484mm
  • Bottom edge width: 1485mm
  • Proper right length: 2077mm
  • Proper left length: 2086mm
Style
Gallery Label
Carpet with Brocaded Background Jameel Gallery Iran, probably Isfahan 1600–25 The most opulent Iranian carpets are made with a pile of silk rather than wool. Here the coloured pile is combined with brocading in silver thread, an even more expensive technique. In parts of the design, the silver-wrapped thread has a yellow silk core, making it appear gold. These luxurious carpets were often exported. Some were found in Poland, and it was once thought they were made there. Cotton warp, wool and silk wefts, silk pile with metal-wrapped thread Museum no. T.404-1910 Bequest of George Salting (06/2019)
Credit line
Bequest of George Salting
Object history
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.
Subject depicted
Summary
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.
Bibliographic References
  • 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.
Collection
Accession Number
T.404-1910

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record createdAugust 29, 2002
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