Friday 11 January 2013

A carpet fragment in Berlin

Felix Elwert`s current photo posting on rugrabbit features many of the carpets on show at the Islamic Art Museum in Berlin. Link Amongst the justly famous examples it is gratifying to see the authorities exhibiting lesser known fragments.

1-Photo:Felix Elwert

One such is a spiral vine carpet which was part of the cache of some twenty pieces destroyed by fire after a British bombing raid in 1945.Despite their academic prowess,neither Erdmann nor Kühnel were able to fold the carpets properly for transport to the Grasleben saltmine,so the rolled pieces were deposited at the old Berlin Mint,where they took a direct hit.

The carpet in question was published by Erdmann in “700 Years”(page 130,fig 159) 


The photo from Felix Elwert is thus the first colour reproduction.

There is  no other piece quite like this,its giant scrolls are amongst the most dominant ever committed to carpet,and the skewed Fleur-de-Lis border is a variation on the Chelsea carpet/Lees William Animal-Medallion carpet border.A similar border can be seen on a fragment once in the Kelekian Collection


The scrolls enter and exit from a strange floral grinning skull.The corners are filled with quartered medallions,so perhaps this was originally a medallion carpet.Erdmann saw an influence from the Polonaise Group,but the piece is surely much older.Large Spiralranken do occur on many Safavid carpets,such as the NW Persian Medallion Group

4-Sothebys 14 September 2001-Lot 2

the magnificent Lees Williams Carpet

the great borders of the Anhalt

6-After Sarre

and indeed on the occasional Polonaise

7-The Drey Collection Polonaise,Munich 1910,Nr 58

A reconfigured fragment in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum is said to be from Khorasan


but in the majority of examples-with the exception of the Polonaise-the Scrolls curtail with a split arabesque,whereas in the Berlin piece the knotty boughs end in cloud-grapes,as in the border.Acquired as a fragment,if the cut end was the centre,then the carpet measured some 8 metres in length(by 3 wide)

The carpet was not mentioned by Volkmar Enderlein in his review of the Berlin Exhibition “Casualties of War”(Hali 68,page 127)This was held to coincide with the 1993 ICOC,and featured a number of rescued fragments in reconfigured status alongside enlarged photos of the originals. 

For years Berlin`s carpets were divided between East and West,and a complete catalogue raisonné(such as Angela Völker`s on the Vienna carpet collection)has never been attempted.There are surely many more treasures in store.

browsing the Museum`s website revealed an insignificant Press Release from 13 July 2012 to the extent that the Keir Collection has now returned to England.After so much hype(the creation in the Pergamon Museum of a special Exhibition area,two major shows with a fifteen year loan promise,and a full catalogue)one can but wonder why.

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