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Carpet

Carpet

  • Place of origin:

    Iran (made)

  • Date:

    1475-1525 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hand knotted woollen pile, on woollen warp and weft; asymmetrical knot, open to the left; 175 knots per sq. in (2,800 per sq. dm).
    Warp: white wool; Z2S; 25 threads per inch (100 per dm).
    Weft: white wool; Z2S; 3 shoots after each row of knots; 14 knots per inch (56 per dm).
    Pile: wool; 12 colours: red, orange, dark yellow, yellow, dark green, green, light green, dark blue, blue, light blue, black, white; asymmetrical knot tied around two threads and open to the left; 175 knots per sq. inch (2800 per sq. dm).
    Side Finish: not original
    End Finish: not original

  • Museum number:

    326-1894

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Much worn, this enormous carpet is actually a fragment of an even larger example: the side borders are complete, but the upper and lower sides are missing their borders altogether. The grand design therefore continued even further, lengthways. This was purchased in 1894. Perhaps surprisingly, the V&A museum also owns another fragment originally from the very same carpet, donated in 1959 by the scholar collector Joseph McMullan, who spotted the connection.
The design is dominated by a magnificent star-medallion, with reciprocal cartouches radiating out from a central octagon at its nucleus. Along the central axis of the carpet, smaller cartouches stack above and below this star-medallion, all against a red main field. Two superimposed systems of spiralling scrollwork fills this red field, dotted with lotus flowers and beautifully-rendered palmette motifs in black and pale blue. The main border is a larger scale half-palmette scroll, punctuated with large blowsy lotus flowers outlined in leaves.
Few extant carpets are attributed with total confidence to before the start of Safavid rule (in 1501), although it is certain that a mature craft technology was at work before then: the dated carpets of the initial Safavid decades are highly-accomplished, confirming at least a generation of professional skilled craftsmanship in this medium. Many other fine examples similar to this enormous fragment are known, demonstrating a similar ambition to render two-plane leafy scrollwork for example, and with the same somewhat angular result (once described as “severe austerity”). By contrast, the palmette and half-palmette motifs here (often in black outlined in light blue) are rendered with neat precision, in tight curls. This is a craft tradition adjusting to new demands for more curvilinear pattern – most probably drawing from contemporary arts of the book.

Physical description

Medallion carpet, trimmed at top and bottom, wool knotted pile on wool foundation, reciprocal borders at sides only, Safavid Iran, 1500-1550. T.267-1959 is one of the corner pieces.

Design: Field: Red ground with a large segmented medallion in the centre, almost filling the width of the field. In the middle is an 8-pointed red star from which radiate four white alternating with four yellow curvilinear segments on a dark blue ground. All the segments -white, yellow and blue - are covered by scrolling stems and blossoms which change colour over the white and yellow segments. The medallions is edged with a wave-like pattern in light blue. At the top and bottom of the medallion is a light green (?) cartouche and a dark blue pendant, both edged with the same wave-like pattern in orange and both containing stems and blossoms. To the right as displayed along both sides there is part of a white ground compartment cut off by the borders, containing floral sprays. The ground is covered with three layers of stems which are difficult to analyse while the carpet is glazed and on display. However, the layers appear to be:
1. The lower one consists of an angular orange stem which forms diamonds, one of which contains a white blossom and another of which contains 2 white buds and orange interlacing. A large palmette in light blue and black is positioned at each corner of the diamond.
2. The middle one is a curling green stem which seems to be discontinuous; it bears palmettes and buds.
3. The uppermost one has yellow spiralling stems bearing green and light and dark blue split leaves.
In the upper right hand corner is a quarter medallion: it has a blue ground edged with dark yellow. It contains two large cloud bands - one orange and one yellow - with blossoms, palmettes and split leaves on dark yellow stems.
Borders: there are five decorative borders, from the middle these are:
(1) black ground with angular yellow meander outlined in orange bearing alternately light blue and yellow blossoms.
(2) White ground with a fine orange angular meander bearing orange and yellow blossoms.
(3) Dark green ground with a fine, angular meander in yellow with a variety of different blossoms and leaves.
(4) Dark yellow ground with strapwork. There are three discontinuous elements in orange, blue and dark blue each containing floral stems and linking one white and orange diamond and one white and dark yellow palmette.
(5) Reciprocal trefoils in blue and white outlined in orange, each containing a stylised plant motif.

Date catalogued: 6.12.00

Place of Origin

Iran (made)

Date

1475-1525 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown (made)

Materials and Techniques

Hand knotted woollen pile, on woollen warp and weft; asymmetrical knot, open to the left; 175 knots per sq. in (2,800 per sq. dm).
Warp: white wool; Z2S; 25 threads per inch (100 per dm).
Weft: white wool; Z2S; 3 shoots after each row of knots; 14 knots per inch (56 per dm).
Pile: wool; 12 colours: red, orange, dark yellow, yellow, dark green, green, light green, dark blue, blue, light blue, black, white; asymmetrical knot tied around two threads and open to the left; 175 knots per sq. inch (2800 per sq. dm).
Side Finish: not original
End Finish: not original

Dimensions

Length: 607 cm, Width: 397.5 cm, Length: 602.5 cm, Length: 611 cm, Width: 396 cm, Width: 395 cm

Object history note

Carpets in this group are arguably dated around the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, and have often been attributed to northwestern Iran, and Tabriz in particular. This hypothesis would associate the group with the Aqqoyunlu court in Tabriz, but no inscribed or dated examples survive.

Descriptive line

Middle East, Carpet; Medallion carpet, trimmed at top and bottom, wool knotted pile on wool foundation, design of central shamsa medallion with pendants on red ground, reciprocal borders at sides only, Iran, possibly 1475-1525

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

Friedrich Spuhler, Islamic Carpets and Textiles in the Keir Collection, London, 1978, p. 133.
A. F. Kendrick and C. E. C. Tatersall, Handwoven Carpets: Oriental & European (London: Benn Brothers 1922): 16, 104, and pl. 9.

Materials

Wool

Techniques

Weaving; Knotting

Subjects depicted

Medallion; Stylized flowers; Cartouche

Collection

Middle East Section

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