Saturday 25 August 2012

Red Indians

Fragments can open up new avenues of research.One such case is the Mughal item sold at Christies on the 24th of April 2012.

1-Lot 117

Previously offered in this form at Sotheby`s Islamic in October 1982(Lot 75),it had actually first appeared at Christie`s sale of 19th April 1979,as two lots.

2-Lot 24 and 25

Somewhere between 1979 and 1982 it was cut and remounted.Perhaps more pieces will be parcelled  out in the future.The Hali APG(Hali 172-121)notes the presence of a middle red silken weft,as found on the Lady Baillie piece sold at Sothebys in 2006 for 257,660 Dollars.(see Hali APG Hali 149-105)

3-Sothebys October 2005+September 2006,Lot 40

The inference being that the fragments actually form part of the missing extensions to this "Shaped"  carpet.At a length of 2.90 mtrs,the Christie`s fragment would have endowed the Lady Bailie with a   maximum possible size of 4.30 by 4.60 mtrs This is unlikely,as all the carpets in this group are wider than long,in the customary panorama view.Unless the fragment itself has been reconfigured....The lappets are also described in the Christie`s 2005 and 2006 catalogue as having been reworked into the field(which is incorrect)It thus seems that the Christie`s fragments were not part of the Lady Baillie.Be that as it may,judging by the warp direction the fragments were from the right-hand side of a Shaped carpet.

However,what is a "Shaped"carpet?The expression was coined by the German Collector Franz Sindermann.As often,the description is a misnomer,as not all of the Mughal Floral Carpets (MFC`s)are thus woven.They can be divided into two groups:

1 ) The arched carpets,with asymmetrical "lappets" forming an oval or indented shape.

2 ) The "Landscape"carpets in rectangular form,woven vertically,but to be viewed horizontally.

There are two types of arched rugs,with either rounded or straight indentations.Of the 12 complete examples of arched carpets shown here,6 have an oval indentation,and 6 have a straight one.The extensions are both pointed and blunt-it would be interesting to know why.They are all on a red ground with green narrow borders of blossoms and leaves.The Landscape style rectangular carpets have wider borders with smaller scale repeating flowers.They are also on a red ground with green ground borders,but exceptions occur,as in the Jaipur fragment( 8.55 mtrs long!)

4-Jaipur-Albert Hall Museum-105

This is a  simple way to identify and classify fragments from shaped carpets.Another is the appearance in the field of diagonally placed floral sprays,which are used to rotate the design(arched style)

5-Getty 7

The same device is employed in the borders of the Landscape carpets.


The carpets were presumably woven by weavers working from Talims,as suggested by Jon Thompson(In Quest of Themes and Skills,Marg 1989).Each flower would have had its own little plan.However,the Talim notation was probably not read out loud-the weavers had to decypher it individually.Mistakes are commonplace when employing the Talim system.A critical point for things to go wrong is the axis where the flower-sprigs rotate.On the Jaipur example the right-hand side has serious "bumping"

7-Jaipur-after Gans-Ruedin

8-Talim writer -Chattopadhya-80 + 81

9-Talim-Chattopadhya 82 + 83

The Arched and Landscape carpets are always reproduced in the panoramic view,but in fact,they appear to have been woven vertically,i.e the designs were knotted sideways.This is akin to weaving a Saf,and the few Indian Safs known were also knotted vertically,with the design turned on its axis.Prayer Dhurries were also woven in this way.
10-Keir Collection

It`s a logical working method-otherwise looms of up to 5 meter width would have been required.This salient point has not  been emphasised  in the published literature.Of the fifteen good quality closeups available for study(Arched and Landscape)all have been knotted"sideways".Misunderstandings can occur when a portion of rug is shown from the rotating axis area,as in the closeups used by Sotheby`s for the Lady Baillie.

11-Sothebys 2005 + 2006
Here is the area of carpet from which the closeups were made:

12-Lady Baillie

Finally,the warp direction is clearly visible on the Michaelian Landscape carpet:

13-The Michaelian

The carpets were woven on cotton warps,with up to ZS 10 recorded.Some examples have a red silken middle weft,otherwise a 3 row cotton weft is normal.Knotting ranges between 144 to 156 knots per square inch.It is unclear how the side finishing was carried out in the area of indentation.Presumably the warps were simply cut and fixed.The carpet of course was rectangular on the loom,the area of indentation covered by weft.

The tedious discussion concerning the original function of the arched carpets need not be gone into here.Needless to say,all the plausible explanations can just as easily be refuted.The best overview can be found in Daniel Walker(Flowers Underfoot,page 105)

Here is Walker`s drawing of two rugs placed together,resembling a re-entry prayer niche:


The Getty Arched Pair were purchased by Billionairess Doris Duke for her Museum mansion on Honolulu.Here they are in situ:

15-at Shangri-La

Generally considered to be a pair,placed together they look like this:

16-Getty Auction 7 + 8
Carpets of unusual shape do occur in other areas such as Turkestan,where they were used as animal trappings for festive occasions(i.e the Turkmen wedding)

17-Atlantic ICOC Nr.138
However they are always symmetrically shaped.


By general agreement the most beautiful example is the carpet now in Cincinnati.This piece,or its double, was also used by Hendley in a drawing,to map the different plants.

19-Flowers Underfoot 10

20-Hendley Plate 1A

This Cincinatti was also published in Erdmann,700 years,fig.254,and in Hali 4-3,Nr.253.

Purists may prefer the noble simplicity and order of the Getty pieces:

21-Getty 7

22-Getty 8

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts carpet was acquired in 1966,from John Goelet:


The Textile Museum piece seems never to have been published in colour.

24-Textile Museum

The Maharajah Sawai Man Singh II Museum has two examples:

25-Jaipur 1

26-Jaipur 2

Made for the Amber Palace and purchased in Lahore in the mid 17th century,one of a pair remains in the Albert Hall Museum.

27-Woven in Kashmir?

It looks quite petite in this foto,but in real life resembles a captured beast of prey

28-Foto Franz Sindermann
Campbells inventory reveals that Jaipur was a happy hunting ground for dealers,already at the time of Hendley.May Beattie`s inventory notes a number of items which were sold at Sothebys in the `70s.
Campbell`s 176 is a case in point.

29-Campbell 176
This was later cut up and divided.Eskenazi published the left hand side in 1982


But the other half had been sold at Lefevre`s in 1978,and is now in the LA Meyer in Jerusalem

31-Lefevre 3.2.1978-lot 5

At least a further 4 examples are known from the Campbell Photo Album,now slumbering in the V&A Library:

32-Campell 125-City Palace Museum-Foto Franz Sindermann

33-Campbell 140

34-Campbell 127

35-Campbell 159
Finally,a carpet in the Banaras Hindu Museum has only been published in closeups:


37-Published in Marg 1965

There are another five fragments of arched-shaped carpets:

38-Lisbet Holmes-could be a Landscape carpet

A fragment auctioned at Bonhams connects up to another in the Calico Museum

39-Bonhams 12.10.2004-Lot 52

40-Montage:Franz Sindermann

41-E.Herrmann ATT-1-71

42-Bavarian Collection

43-Simon Ray,London

The Landscape carpets are obviously connected to the arched examples,but how and why is another piece of the Philosopher`s Stone.The consensus favours the Michaelian carpet sold at Edelman`s New York in 1980,as best of type.

44-Edelmann 25.10.1980-lot 203

It was later restored and went to the Al-Sabah Museum in Kuwait,where it survived the Iraqi invasion.

45-Kuwait Catalogue 144

Some wondrous fragments from the Michaelian were later auctioned at Sothebys New York:

46-Sothebys 3.6.1989-lot 1

And a Dhurrie fragment,similar in feeling,was on show at the Milan ICOC:

47-Sovrani ICOC Catalogue Nr.16

Thought by many to be a pair are the Keir and Tabibnia pieces:

48-Keir Collection

The Tabibnia example has an illustrious provenance:Kevorkian-Getty-Mirzakhanian (sold at Sothebys in 1969 for 4800 GBP):


A large fragment sold in 1975:

51-Christies 12 .6.1975-lot 60-could be an arched carpet
The Gulbenkian carpet,first published by Kendrick and Tattershall,from the Harris Collection,which may be a re-configured carpet( Hali 114,page 82):

52-Gulbenkian Museum

Campbell`s 165 has some intriguing cut-outs:

53-Campbell 165

The above-mentioned Jaipur fragment(8.5 meters)in a less formal pose:


Finally the Ballard example:


There is a small group of carpets,numbering at least 6 pieces,with addorsed floral designs.

56-Flowers Underfoot

One cannot be sure if some of these carpets have not been re-configured.The Christies carpet has an arched style border and rotating cornerpieces:

57-Christies 13.10.05-lot 101

58-Imre Schwaiger


A carpet in the V&A has a counterpart in the Calico Museum:

60-V&A 188-1927

61-V&A+Calico Museum-Montage Franz Sindermann


A fragment said to spring from Campbell`s 37/49,or from its pair,was carbon-dated to no earlier than 1656(Ghereh 38,page 14)
It had been previously sold at Sothebys on 12 October 1999,preceeded by an album of carpet photos taken by Colonel Hendley.

63-Campbells 37-49

64-Campbell`s 37-49

65-Sothebys 12.10.99-Lot 92

Assorted bits have shown up at auction in the last years:

66-Christies 29.11.1989-lot 53

67-Sothebys  Islamic April 1985-145

68-Lefevre 1980-Sothebys Islamic October 1982 Lot 76

69-Lisbet Holmes-Hali 2-1-page 26

Another bit is perhaps from Campbell:
71-Phillips 1988 and Sothebys 20.09.2006-Lot 1

And finally the recent discovery by Steven Cohen of a splendid Landscape fragment at the Burrell:

72-Burrell Museum-Hali 172-48

Another fragment,probably from the same carpet,was published in the ICOC catalogue,Pacific Collections:

73-Nr.237-Fong Collection
Another possible contender could be the Bernheimer fragment with its cotton/red silk weft and Z7S warp

74-Bernheimer,Christies 14 february 1996-148

In a letter to Hali(173-19),Penny Oakley suggested that a fragment sold during her time at Bernheimers was a border piece to the above.The fragment was purchased by J.P Willborg and now resides in a German collection

75-Hali 59-Willborg advert

The Oakley Willborg Fragment was collated by Campbell,registered as his number 209.It is the part on the upper left-hand corner.The fragment had disappeared by the time of May Beattie`s inventory of 1972

76-Courtesy Sindermann

There are also two round carpets,both in the Albert Hall Museum in Jaipur.One has an arabesque design,the other our familiar botanical theme:

77-Albert Hall Museum Catalogue 106

78-Albert Hall 105-addorsed design

One last group of conventional shaped carpets carries on with the large flower format(without lattice)

The best known is the Kevorkian carpet,now in the MET:


It`s twin is still in Jaipur

A fragment auctioned at Sothebys may or may not belong-it could also be a bit of re-configured Landscape carpet:

81-Sothebys Islamic sale October 1982-lot 74

And a jovial shrub carpet now in Kuwait:


To conclude,some reproductions of Mughal carpet flowers,from Colonel Hendley`s great Opus.


83-The Crown Imperial Lily



Franz Sindermann zugeignet

Saturday 4 August 2012

A Group of Caucasian Carpets with Book-Cover Design

Since its publication in 1976,the Markarian Prayer rug with Medallion and Pendant design has assumed an iconic status.

Suitably dated 1857,the remaining examples of this group with a prayer design represent a downwood spiral.

2-Nagels 291-164


The Nagel`s carpet seems replete with synthetic dyes,and the Dehati example may even be a modern carpet,as it is so exactly like the Markarian.However the copyist seems to have run out of energy at the field-top,having been unable to imitate the inscription.

A characteristic of these carpets is the frequent use of Boteh motifs,and three examples have a typical  Kazak S-Meander border.



6-Private Collection

The "pinwheel"arms above or below the central medallion are a transfer from the non-prayer examples.

7-Sotheby`s 1985


The ultimate degeneration can be seen in pieces lacking the Pendants.

9-Hali 3-3-20

Non-Prayer Examples.

At least 11 examples are known,of which the two most prominent were the Herrmann and Battilossi examples.

10-SOT 7-30
Herrmann was unable to decipher the inscription,but it seems to be an improbable 1222,i.e 1807.Perhaps 1907 would be nearer the mark.The lined-up Botehs are typical.


Less remote are two further examples,ex-Tony Hazeldine,and a piece currently available on Rugrabbit.


13-Chris Hunt

Photo Gallery

As with the prayer rugs,weaker pieces lose their pendants and become simplified medallion carpets.An example from the Ulmke Collection is typical.

Photo Gallery

There are many Caucasian versions of the medallion-pendant theme,but leaving aside the obvious Persianate models,here are some more of interest:

The animal medallion group has its pendants buried amidst a field of Memling Guls,and in fact if the large medallion is removed,one is left with a standard allover Memling design.

16-RB 31-128
Mention should be made of the Caruso-Rudnick,still bearing vestiges of the Lotus Palmette.

17-Hali 79-72
A small group made famous by McMullan:

18-Hali 44-11-Herbert Ostler
Two models with 8-pointed star medallions are interesting in comparison to the Markarian prayer rug.

19-Sothebys 7.4.1992-51
The pincer arms are identical to those on the Markarian.An older piece clearly demonstrates that the medallion appendages are in fact split-palmettes from the classical Safavid repertoire.

20-Christies 13.6.1983-69(later Herrmann)

Peter Bausback`s mighty Lori Pambak from 1983 cannot be overlooked:

21-Bausback 1983-47
It`s predecessors have survived the accidents of time:

22-Rugs as Art 4.2.1973-120

23-Yetkin 101

And finally,a piece which is either 18th century or an extraordinary atavism:

24-Sotheby`s 11.6.2008-66

The origins of the medallion pendant design are obscure.No one can say when it first emerged,although its origins in book jacket design seem to derive from border illustrations in early Korans. Crystalised models appear in Korans of the Baghdad school,which also influenced contemporary Mamluke artisans.Tooled-leather covers are robust,surviving when pergament or paper have perished.Their shape and convenient size made them ideal blueprints for carpet design. Once thought to be a Safavid invention,they are now known to be much older,appearing on carpets in 15th century miniatures.The design was presumably tried out much earlier,in textiles.If Raby`s  15th century dating for the earliest LMU`s(Large-Medallion-Ushaks)is correct,which is not outlandish considering the veritable age of the Ottoman dynasty,then Medallion-Pendant carpets were certainly produced contemporaneously under the Turkmen rulers of East Anatolia and West Iran.The whole developement could not have by-passed Persia,and is another ground for proposing the 15th century origins of some NW Persian carpets.

A medallion may be depicted with two attached pendants,or with the pendant separated and presented in tandem(i. the Turkmen carpet)

What we see now are fragments of the exploded Timurid Galaxy.

The intimate connection between the art  of the carpet and the art of the book.

25-Herat 1438

26-Bernheimer sale 82



29-Baghdad 1286

30-Cairo 14th century

31-Jalayrid 14th Century

32-Shirvan 15th century

33-Timurid,15th century

34-Bukhara or Herat,16th Century

35-from Oljaitu`s Koran

Wednesday 1 August 2012

An Endangered Species:Dragons

There can be no worst expression in our society than the epithet"late".-"Arrived late","late to pay","my late grandmother",etc.Connotations of slowness,weariness and tardiness are implicit.With carpets,the inference is usually that of creative exhaustion,but some examples seem to have gathered themselves at the end of a long reign for one last explosive burst.

Christie`s sold such an item on April the 24th,2012,in London.


The Hali APG (H.172-117)rightly draws attention to the Grote-Hasenbalg piece


whilst forgetting the Burrell Collection.


Two examples mentioned by Serare Yetkin,one of which was published in the Istanbul ICOC Catalogue


and a carpet once in the possession of Anglo-Persian London,which has been published at least ten times(why?)


The group is characterised by a meander border,and dragons which have been reduced to squiggly snakes.One last example,in which the dragons valiantly attempt a return to form,was in the possession of Udo Langauer


More fotos

A group of dragon carpets whose Gestalt has been based on Sumakh carpets,although hardly contemporary with the above mentioned,can be included here

7-RB 38-126

The Hali APG for the above piece is misleading,as half the pieces mentioned do not really withstand a critical assignment to the Sumakh-inspired group(Hali 70-140)

It was presumably modelled on such a Sumakh

8-Lefevre 26.11.1976

Rippon Boswell is clearly the place to sell such things,having had 3 in the last 21 years

9-RB 11 May 1991-143A

Described in Hali 58 as a Kurdish carpet,the Zadah Dragon rug comes close to the original in style and panache

10-RB 14 May 1994

The Jerrehian carpet could certainly give Christies 2012 example a run for the money

11-Sotheby`s 8.10 1999-46
A last member of this group,clearly well into the 19th century,was published by Schürmann in 1976


Finally,if the greatest of all Dragon Sumakhs is the one most closely approximating its progenitor,then the award certainly goes to the carpet sold at Christies on 12th October 1989,-

13-see Hali 48-89
More fotos

Few examples of these types have survived.More will surely appear,sooner or later(oops!)

2012-Year of the Dragon