Wednesday 21 March 2018

Club Med III: Chessboards

We dislike the 
attempt to revive the 'Damascus' 
appellation, which is used pre- 
sumably on the basis that they 
may have been made there, and 
prefer the term 'chessboard, 
which at least misrepresents 
nothing but chessboards-Halı

The third group of carpets in the East Mediterranean group appear in paintings between the late 16th  and late 17th centuries. 

Marcus Gheeraets` portrait of Queen Elisabeth I,painted after 1570,might even show  a carpet appropriated from Cardinal Wolsey,if such carpets were already being made at the beginning of the 16th century.


Said to be the earliest depiction of a Chessboard carpet,"The Circumcision" from Marco dall `Angelo,1586.


Leandro Bassano,portrait of Leonard Herman,1595.


1600-1650,portrait of Cleopatra by Varotari


Selected portraits by the re-discovered British painter Larkin,from 1615-16.






Simon Kick`s delightful self-portrait from 1645-50


Another self-portrait,by Pietro Paolini,around 1650.


Gabriel Metsu`s "Music Party"now in the MET,from 1659.


Evarista Bascheni,Musical Instruments.From around 1660-70.


A basic design of plaited stars encircled by Mamluk tree and flower "darts" was produced in two qualities:a large scale model employing hexagons to produce a simultaneous effect,and an allover octagonal form more reminiscent of an infinite Turkmen repeat.The Hexagonal form-Type A- appears strictly  connected,whereas the Octagonal group-Type B-is free-floating. 



In both types the cartouche-medallion border predominates.It is a kind of satirical version of the Mamluk style,with the proportions reversed:here the medallions are larger than the cartouches.Some wild arabesque borders were also invented,or possibly taken over from Anatolian models.Disparate models were also on offer,as will be shown later.Again,we are dealing with Persian knotted Anatolian rugs,which often attempted to ape the more classical styles,both Iranian and Turkish.The structure is more uniform than the para-Mamluks,employing asymmetric Persian knots open to the left,white woolen 2-ply warp and wefts dyed pink to red with two shoots.The wool is Z spun.The overall production is as consequent as the Mamluk,with virtually no technical diversity.

We begin with the Type A,hexagonal-connected,or hour-glass style.Arabesque border.

First published by LaScala in 1908  when it was then in the van Loo collection,this was auctioned at Christies on 17 October 1996(Lot 417) for a  record price of $419,490.One of the most compellingly drawn of all Chessboard carpets.The border is clearly bespoke,and was copied in a more dishevelled fashion,ultimately ending its days in a schematic form on certain Lotto rugs.Now in Kuwait.

016-al-Sabah,Kuwait 291 x 185 cm

Acquired by G.H myers in 1927, the largest of this group.The border represents a further abstraction.The carpet seems more colourful.

017-Textile Museum 377 x 243 cm

From the Bardini Collection,a small version with crudely drawn borders.Due to the separated diaper forms,this should be considered a transitional piece between the A and B groups.

018-Bardini 158 x 139 cm

From the Pharaon Collection and published in the Sursock Museum catalogue,this first sold at Christies London on 11 October 1990 (Lot 17) for $ 68,640.It was at Sothebys in 1993 and Christies in 2001.J.P Willborg included it in his "Textile Treasures" of 1995.The impressive border is derived from  Iranian Vase carpets,and encloses a Mamluk altar-flower motif.

019-J.P Willborg 335 x 196 cm

Found at Divrigi in Eastern Anatolia,this carpet shares the border of the Kuwait carpet albeit in a simplified form.Other members of the Chessboard group were sourced in Elazig,and it is possible that the area between was the birthplace of such rugs.


Type A,Medallion-Cartouche Border.

As initially mentioned this type of border has a reversed Mamluke-style border with medallion-rosettes which are more dominant than the cartouche forms between.Both components have extra arabesque appendages which serve to balance out the diminutive cartouches which are turned on their axis at the top and bottom borders.Only two large carpets in the A-type group are known with this more common border.

021-Bardini 388 x 236 cm

022-Bardini-after Curatola

023-Bardini-Hali 108-84

A world-record price at Nagels in 1991,this carpet,now in the Zaleski Collection,sold for $339,250 to a "well-known Italian" dealer.The author`s catalogue notes Sorgato,but it was later seen with both  Mirzakhanian and  Tabibnia.A beautiful carpet in good condition with accurately turned corners.

024-Zaleski 275 x 194 cm

Smaller versions were also manufactured, as with the Lotto carpets.These comprise two vertical rows of plaited stars.

A classic example attributed by Herrmann to Damascus.With Z4S warp(?)

025- Herrmann,ATT 2-3   185 x 132 cm

A fragment in the Ballard Collection St.Louis,cut on the right hand side and expertly joined;a fact which seems to have escaped the cataloguer.

026-Ballard Collection St.Louis 167 x 91 cm

Published by Viale,this rug from the Barbieri Collection is the only example with a 2-1-2 layout.

027-Barbieri Collection  170 x 120 cm

The Bernheimer carpet sold at their House Sale at Christies on 14 February 1996 for $24,800;great was the amazement when it fetched ten times as much at Christies on 16 October 2003 (lot 126) selling for $269,000.

028-Bernheimer Sale 178 x 142 cm

A rug from Cittone with bisected stars was advertised in Hali 5-4,1983.

029-Cittone  148 x 132 cm

Fresh to the market and now in Doha,a rug with faded re-woven ends.

030-Doha 175 x 130 cm

Exhibited in Hamburg in 1950,this ex -Huelsmann Collection piece was purchased by Eberhart Herrmann at the legendary Dörling Auction in Hamburg on 14 May 1985(lot 410)for 149,500 Deutschmark,and subsequently offered in Munich for 286,5000.The use of a dark blue in the border is unusual,but also occurs in the large Bode carpet in Berlin,and in a rug in the Burrell Collection.

031-Dörling 190 x 137 cm

A rug formerly in the Hirth Collection,and now lost,is unusual for its 2 and 1 half elongated Hexagons.

032-Hirth Collection 183 x 136 cm

An example with pastel colours in the MAK,Vienna,is said to have been in the possession of the Kuefstein family since the middle of the 17th century.

033-MAK,Vienna 196 x 140 cm

A rug in the Lees Williams Collection,Philadelphia,has been cut and rejoined through the center.The olive green border colour is unusual,and the palette resembles the large rug in London.

034-Philadelphia Museum of Art  180 x 137 cm

Purchased at the 1925 Benguiat sale,and now in the Textile Museum (R7.9)Ends and sides re-woven.

035-Textile Museum 217 x 140 cm

First offered at the Cassirer & Helbing Auction on 8 December 1925 (lot 23)from the Collection of Baron Tucher,this piece appeared at Rippon-Boswell on 16 November 1996 (lot 131) where it sold for $90,390.Its re-woven ends,already apparent in the 1925 photo,were now completely faded.Eleven years later it re-appeared at the same venue fully restored,but failed to sell.

036-Cassirer & Helbing,1925

037-Tucher 197 x 133 cm


TYPE B-Arabesque Border.

First sold at Lefevre`s for 32,000 GBP on 6 October 1978(Lot 39) the following subsequently appeared in Chris Alexander`s “Foreshadowing” opus,having spent the interim with Eskenazi.At the Alexander Sale  at Christies on 15 October 1998 it seems to have been passed,only to resurface once more at Christies on 10 April 2008,selling for 43,700 GBP.The carpet has been cut in both directions,however it probably retains its original layout.As with the type A, only four large rugs have survived.Alexander noted the placement of the white plaited stars to form an outer and inner circle.

038-Chris Alexander  271 x 198 cm

Published by  Bode, and then by Riegl in the 1892 Vienna Book (when it was freshly restored) by 1930 the repair to both ends had become apparent.Its border resembles the Pharaon-Willborg example,but is more elegant,with an inner guard of Selendi-like Birds.It was presented to the Berlin Museum by Geheimrat Bode in 1905.


040-Berlin 414 x 217 cm

A sadly disfigured large carpet exhibited at the Munich ICOC in 1985,with the same border as the van Loo-al Sabah carpet.Perhaps proof that both types were produced concurrently,as Kühnel assumed.A small Chintamani border once surrounded the fragment.

041-Munich ICOC 1985 211 x 137 cm

An original border of roses and palmettes on a 4 by 3 layout.The carpet,now in the Textile Museum Washington,was acquired from A.Loewi,Venice,in 1926.

042-Textile Museum R7.8  202 x 137 cm

TYPE B-Medallion-Cartouche Border.

A carpet from the Marschall collection fetched a lowly $71,230 at the Austrian Auction Company on 16 September 2014(Lot 98)In the catalogue,and later in Hali 182,it was incorrectly ascribed to Ulrich Schürmann,who never published it.

043-AAC  183 x 140 cm

Herr Schürmann did in fact publish a Chessboard carpet (twice) but it was not the AAC rug.The carpet,once in the Mounsey Collection and published by Tattershall,sold earlier in the same year for almost double the amount,indicating perhaps that ennui had set in,or that the true Schürmann rug was superior.It now graces a wing in the Louvre having brought $133,310 at Christies on 8 April 2014 (Lot 21)

044-Christies 184 x 140 cm

At Sothebys on 12 October 1978 (Lot 57)this rug later resurfaced in the Austrian Rug Society`s Anatolian Carpets volume from 1983,and was again published in the ICOC Austrian catalogue of 1986.It was sold at Christies on 14 October 1999(Lot 141) for $66,120.A sterling example where no real attempt has been made at a mitered corner solution.A row of Mamluke cypress trees,rare in the group,adorns the top end.


With Bausback at the 2015 Tefaf,this weathered but elegant rug was sold at Koller`s on  13 September 1986 ( Lot 141 ) for $ 66,120.

046-Bausback 190 x 135 cm

A rug from the Manilow Collection with an unusual border of connected medallions was on offer at Sothebys on 7 April 1992(Lot 69) for $40,000-60,000.

047-Sothebys 155 x 112 cm

A fragmented example published by Eskenazi in 1982 reappeared at Christies in 2011 and 2013,but to no avail.

048-Christies 175 x 127 cm

The Burrell Collection rug with rare dark blue border.

049-Burrell Collection 154 x 121 cm

A second carpet published by F.R Martin in 1908 from the defunct Düsseldorf Museum of Arts and Crafts.

050-F.R Martin figure 282

Approximately 40 % of the small carpets shown here are of the two row variety.The others are three by three,with a few variants. The Jaquemart-Andre Museum in Paris is fortunate to house three such pieces.

051-Jacquemart-Andre Museum-Inv.1003-164 x 118 cm

052-Jaquemart-Andre-Inv. 1004- 155 x 120 cm

053-Jacquemart-Andre Inv.1002- 155 x 120 cm

A rug in the Textile Museum has an interrupted break in the border pattern.No colour photo seems to exist.

054-Textile Museum R 1.87 195 x 176 cm

The same border repeat with the McMullan example now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art,but in the three row version.

055-McMullan 186 x 129 cm

The Victoria & Albert Museum`s large version,very damaged,with an olive blue-green,acquired in 1884.


057-V&A 455-1884  261 x 181 cms

Acquired by the Kunstgewebemuseum Berlin in 1876,this fragment may have had the layout of the Bode carpet with Ushak-Vase carpet border,but its original size is impossible to calculate.Some possibilities are presented here.

058-Berlin 200 x 103 cm



A two row fragment from the Keir Collection.

061-Keir Collection 136 x 96 cm

Published by the Textile Gallery in Hali 37.

062-Textile Gallery

A rug in the Wher Collection has a strange pattern break in the upper and lower borders,also seen on the Mounsey-Christies piece from 2014.

063-Wher Collection 190 x 130 cm

Aside from the main group a few more examples may be included .Most prominent is a   carpet in Berlin with a pseudo-Isfahan design in which large arabesques seem smeared over a red ground.

064-Berlin 409 x 169 cm

Equally rare is a carpet once with Alex Zadah(1993,ICOC Catalogue Berlin) and also Eberhart Herrmann(1994-95,ATT V),but which also made an unfortunate appearance at Sothebys in 1994.It resembles the Ballard Ushak rug minus its Quatrefoils.


066-Ballard,St Louis

A similar fragmented example is in the Keir Collection.

067-Keir Collection

A degenerate example was at Winthertur in the du Pont Collection,via Benguiat.



Two superlative example found at Divrigi,both Persian-knotted,may qualify for a place in the group.



Two magnificent Ushak-style carpets,known to Ellis in 1988 but published  by Ertug(1996 & 1999) were retrieved from a mosque in Elazig.





Very few fragments exist;four items are known from the Keir Collection,two of which have pendants in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

076-Type A-left:V&A,right:Keir Collection

077-Type B-left:V&A,right: Keir Collection

078-Keir Collection

079-Keir Collection

A border fragment from the Jon Thompson sale,Sothebys 16 December 1993,lot 70,was described by the doctor as having good pile

080-Thompson Sale 

Another border fragment from the V&A



A virtually unreadable piece was at Sothebys on 12 October 1978,Lot 58.


At Mangisch on 20 June 1992(Lot 613,sold for 10,000 Swiss Francs)Nagels  on 4 November 2003(Lot 44,sold for 8500€ ) and Rippon Boswell on 20 May 2006(Lot 001,sold for 7500€) 


Lately with Peter Bausback,said to hail from Wallenstein castle,with a border similar to the lost Düsseldorf rug.


Now in Doha,a border fragment from one of the most remarkable Chessboard carpets


One very small prayer rug exists,which may have formed part of a Saf.

087-Wher Collection

A  fragment from the Wolf Collection,once with Friedrich Spuhler and now in the MET,has a Caucasian style allover palmette design paired with a Cairene Chintamani border.

MET 1990.169 343 x 125.7 cm

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