Tuesday 1 January 2013

From the City Victorious

At some point in the 16th Century the Egyptian carpet took a giant step from  Medieval darkness  into Renaissance light



Conventionally the era falls between 1517,when the Ottomans annexed Mamluk Egypt,and 1585,the year in which the Ottoman Sultan Murad III summoned Egyptian weavers to Constantinople.In 1514 Selim 1(aptly named "the Grim"),having defeated the Safavid forces at the Battle of Chaldiran,steered his armies Southwards and annihilated the  Mamluk army at the battle of Marj Dabiq,in modern-day Syria,on August 20 1516.Later,at the battle of Ridaniya in 1517,Mamluk opposition was quashed and the Sultan marched into Cairo.He sojourned briefly,leaving a garrison of just 5000 Janissaries to maintain power.The influence of the Mamluk Beys was as much in evidence in the countryside as before the takeover.The Ottoman Governors were rotated on a regular basis to prevent massive pilfering,which still took place,and the customary Ottoman protection racket was set in motion.

Mamluk power had been waning for years,due to internicine strife and the severe loss of revenue from the India trade caused by Vasco de Gama`s rounding of the Cape.An unlikely alliance with the Safavids might have saved them,but Ottoman firepower proved superior.The Sultan was inordinately interested in the Caliphate,till then in Mamluk hands,and the ensuing prestige which could be bestowed upon the House of Osman.After the Ilkhan Hulagu sacked Baghdad in 1258,the Abbasid Caliphs had moved to Cairo.They were now forced to hand over legitimation to the Ottomans,and the relics of The Prophet were taken to Constantinople,where they can still be viewed today in the Topkapi Museum.

A well-established and lucrative business such as the carpet industry no doubt continued to thrive.Mamluk carpets had long been an export success,especially among Venetian traders.It is not known exactly when the Cairene "Floral" style was created,but it can only have been at the instigation of the Sublime Porte.There are few carpet traditions whose point of departure can be so precisely pinpointed.Persian Artist/designers working at the Ottoman Court and Artist/Weavers in the Egyptian Capital were able to summon the Genie which became the Hapsburg Prayer,one of the world`s great carpets,and a blueprint for all other Cairene carpets to come.

Whether Sultan Murad`s written order of 1587 has weight or not has never been accurately determined.The original source is a late 19th century Turkish historian,whose statement was repeated by an amateur German author at the beginning of the 20th Century.Friedrich Sarre and Ernst Kühnel adopted the idea,perhaps as an art-historical convenience.Erdmann disavowed it as irrelevant.Its veracity has never been checked,and worst of all,there is no proof that the weavers ever arrived.

There are a number of carpets with Mamluk colouring but atypical designs.These have usually been called the"Transitional" Group,although there is no hard evidence as to their age or place in the scheme of things.The preferred term here is "Fusion Group",as they combine elements of Mamluk and Ottoman designs.

One Mamluk carpet,burnt in Schloss Immendorf in 1945,is available only in a poor black and white foto

3-Inv. Nr. T 8347/1922 KB

Erdmann`s repro from 1940 is better

4-outlined corner medallion

Careful study reveals the presence of quartered corner medallions of a type found on the later Cairene Medallion carpets.

Most common is a Lattice lay-out with Lotus Palmettes.

5-Lenbach House,Munich

The Munich carpet is distinguished by its Pineapple-Tulip Border.Traditionally,the design has been interpreted as a Pomegranate or Artichoke,but the design most closely resembles a Pineapple,first brought back to Europe in 1502 by Columbus, which became all the rage amongst the wealthy of Europe.

Pineapple-Tulip Borders

6-Sothebys 27.9.2000-Lot 48

The Mercer carpet,acquired by Bausback,sports a Quatrefoil design composed of Palmettes,and a standard Mamluk border.

7-Textile Museum

A third example features a classic Mamluk medallion.A portrait from 1534 shows a carpet similar to the Lenbach House piece

8-Georg Pencz-Berlin

9-Herbert Ostler

The fragment once with Ostler in Munich is often cited as the archetype of lappet design in carpets.Its field renders allover-star motifs.


The tree carpet above depicts a garden scene topped by four domed pavillions,an architecture also occuring in a group of Cairene prayer rugs.The wooded landscape is reminiscent of the Bij Majnun design on 19th century Persian rugs.

Fusion Group

The awkwardness of the Fusion Group is nowhere apparent in the Court-style Cairene carpets.One medallion type has survived in fragmentary form only.


A field of large Cartouche medallions filled with Tulips,Rosettes and Mamluk Umbrells intersperses with Lotus Quatrefoils outlined in white cotton,on a silk foundation.This is the standard structure for the group.The overall layout is Turkmen in design,and up until the 19th century the Saryk were noted for their use of white cotton pile.



A tremendous cloudband border,of unrivalled elegance,meanders gracefully between Lotus Palmette variations.The minor border with leaf and rosette is characteristic,and a Chintamani can just be made out in the inner guard stripes.

14-Kestner Museum

A till now overlooked piece of this carpet has been slumbering in the vaults of the Art Institute of Chicago

15-Gift of Siegfried G.Schmidt 1964.554

Quatrefoil-MAK Group

Quatrefoil Medallion-others


An exquisite set of fragments from a multi-medallion carpet was chopped up and scattered to the winds



A second composite of many small fragments resides in the V&A `s depot.A companion piece was "destroyed" in the Second World War

18-V&A 337-1892

19-Musee des Arts decoratifs Paris

A further two fragments from this carpet can be identified by the surviving border on the Paris example


21-Textile Museum

Two small border bits are now in the National Museum in Stockholm,presumably from the same fragment which Martin published in 1908

22-National Museum Stockholm N.M 154/1899

23-Cairene frags Stockholm NMK 1244-1885.

C.G Ellis ventured a reconstruction of the entire border in his 1962 Textile Museum article

24-TM Journal 1-1-fig 9

No Turkish carpet ever equalled the draughtmanship of the medallions,although one "Damascus"carpet is a good runner-up


In an important article(Ghereh 43)Murray Eiland analysed the chronology of both Cairene and Anatolian Medllion carpets,concluding that the Turkish models had copied the Egyptian.Eiland follows Julian Raby`s thesis that the Large Medallion Ushaks had their precursors in 15th century Turkish Court Carpets,which automatically posits a 15th century Cairene production of Floral Carpets.It is probably more likely that both Turkish and Egyptian carpet makers borrowed from similar sources to create their medallion carpets,spurned on by Persian models.The Paris-New York-London Cairene medallion fragments are part of a Multi-Medallion carpet,of which only one example is known-But was that enough to foster the thousands of Large Ushak medallion carpets which must have been made?We shall see later that a handful of Cairene column prayer rugs did just that.Julian Raby is careful not to determine a 15th century date for any existing Ushak Carpets,and his source-references are chiefly from the Art of the Book,as were presumably those in Cairo.The whole scenario is only problematic if one accepts a 15th century terminus post quem for the Large Medallion Ushak carpets.Otherwise one would have to concede that the Floral style carpets were being made in Egypt before the Ottoman takeover.

Lotus Palmette medallions are also featured in a legendary series of carpets said by Bode to have come from the Palazzo Corsi in Florence(Bode,1901,page 133)





30-Paris-Jaquemart Museum

Obviously knotted from a single cartoon,the carpets are so similar that even the makers of the 2007 exhibition catalogue "In Praise of God"slipped up when describing the Budapest piece-they used the photo of the Berlin rug instead.This is the most complete set of carpets from a classical manufactory,and demonstrates how life could be breathed into a design by human error-each piece is in some way completely individual.They have been unjustly criticised as mechanical reproductions but that is wide of the mark.The Chintamani form here is different to that used on the Ushak carpets,but the symbol has been intrepreted in myriad ways.A Mamluk carpet fragment(ex-Ballard)anticipates the tiger-stripe Chintamani in its inner border



33-Textile Museum

34-Maktabi-Hali 109

35-Sultan Suleyman I-1524

The corners do not mimic the design of the central medallion.This is not an endless repeat a la Turkmen.Rather they convey the impression of curtains which have been drawn back,as on a stage.

36-Corner piece collage

Another four pieces with chintamani design are on record

37-Völkerkunde Museum Munich

The tiger-stripe also features on a colossal carpet in the Grassi Museum

38-Grassi Museum Leipzig

in which the stripes are perforated by Lotus "twigs"

Two related carpets are in Cracow and the V&A,a third was sold at the Frenkel Auction in 1932(Cassierer Helbig)and was last seen at Cittone`s by Kurt Erdmann

39-Cracow-Hali 163,page 75

40-V&A 1362-1901

41-Frenkel auction 20.10.1932-41

A last fragment in Berlin offers a tantalising view of a column prayer rug equipped with Chintamani,Sentinel Tulips and the same Lotus border as the Palazzo Corsi Group


The Cairene Prayer Carpets can be divided into Four Groups,with some exceptions.

The Kuwait Group.

Named for the example in Kuwait

43-Kuwait Al-Sabah Museum

This is an all-silk foundation piece with blue cotton as a ground colour in the border,and white cotton in the spandrels.It is said to have come from Amberley Palace and was initially purchased by a London dealer,before being acquired by Eberhart Herrmann.The original black and white foto is of interest

44-Sothebys 6 January 1982-Lot 95-sold for £46,200

Writing in the Kuwait Museum catalogue,Friedrich Spuhler notes that the Amberley Palace rug was purchased at Sothebys by an English dealer who removed the "European lettering"(whatever that may be)from the field.In fact the field was embellished with "embroidery in the Turkish style",as noted by Herrmann in his catalogue entry(SOT IV,page 58)
The Kuwait rug is the measure of all things in this category.A similar rug,showing definite stiffening in the borders,is in the Khalili Collection

45-Khalili Collection

The carpet was first offered at Sothebys Islamic Sale on the 15 October 1986(Lot369),but was withdrawn.It later sold at Sothebys on 7 March 1990(Lot 20)for £143,000(see Hali 51-186).On an all-silk foundation,but without cotton in the field.

A third example survives in fragmentary form in the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest

46-Tapis Turc 20

It is not possible to say whether it originally possessed a lamp and divided panel above the mihrab,but this seems likely.On an all-silk foundation with white and light blue cotton,this may well have equalled the Kuwait example-but with green ground border.

A fragment in the Turk ve Islam Museum was brought from the Sultan Ahmet  Mosque with a remark that it had been made in Istanbul("Istanbul işi")

47-TIEM Istanbul

Also a first rate quality,and again hard to say if lamp and panel were originally present.This carpet spawned a number of later pieces.

Once in the collection of William H.Moore,the Cincinnati Art Museum piece was donated by Richard Markarian in 1980


The carpet is on an all-silk foundation with white and blue cotton highlights.Coarsening is visible in the   border.

The first group can be rounded off with two later pieces


50-Christies-J.P Willborg

The Halevim carpet was once in the Wher Collection(Hali4-1,page 56)and sold at Christies London for £91,750  on 14 February 2001-Lot 26.The field is knotted in white cotton,bringing to mind the later Ghiordes carpets.The niche-lamp,according to Daniel Walker,may not be original.The Christies carpet failed to reach its estimate in London on April 19 1979(Lot 22)It was described by Hali as "a beautiful example"(Hali II-1-page 67)Its lamp may also not be original-the area has certainly been rewoven.It surfaced later in an advert from the Swedish dealer J.P Willborg(Hali 69-47)Both examples seem related,and in the death throes of a decadent struggle,later epitomised by a whole school of Ghiordes carpets and the petrified Pandermas.

The Hapsburg and Kuwait Prayer Rug styles were combined in Turkey(i.e Niche-Lamp and Cherry Blossoms)

51-Sultan Ahmet-Tilework

52-Edirne Mosque-Ushak Saf Carpet

At least 19 carpets are known with white plum-blossoms.A visual collation can be seen here

Two pieces,both by chance in Berlin,can be positioned tangentially to the Kuwait Group

53-The Lessing

54-The Pollak

The bordeaux ground Lessing Carpet was purchased by the first director of the Berlin Museum of Applied Arts,Julius Lessing,in Constantinople,1889.He thought highly of it and published the piece in his second carpet book of 1891

55-Lessing Plate 8

The lamp is gone,and the spandrels are now filled with tulips and palmettes,a device which would later find favour in a whole group of "Transylvanian" carpets.The piece is knotted on an all silk foundation with cotton highlights.It is actually a composite,made up of around 15 different fragments.

The Pollak carpet was purchased in Rome,in 1915,and was first published by Kühnel in 1955.It bears a chronogram in its upper borders,which can either be interpreted as 1513/14,or 1610,the latter date being more often accepted


The panel on the left of the tabula ansata is now bare,its contents having been emptied at some point by industrious fingers

57-Berliner Museen IX-1959

There are no other dated or inscribed Cairene carpets(with the exclusion of the Hebrew text in the Textile museum`s Parokhet),indeed no Turkish carpets with believable dates before 1800.Really disturbing however,are the borders with their mismanaged lancet leaves.Friedrich Spuhler was the first to call attention to this in his 1987 catalogue to the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin.His argument is as follows:The Pollak carpet was copied from the example now in the Turk ve Islam Museum,ex Sultan Ahmet Mosque.That carpet,in a fragmentary condition,no longer possesses its original border width


Unaware or lacking reproductions of the other examples,the weavers of the Pollak carpet were forced to improvise,by adding a blue Saz leaf to the inner part of the border

59-The TIEM carpet border,cut on the inner side


61-The Pollak carpet with offending blue Saz leaves(outlined)

Where the Saz leaves intrude,the original design succeeds with a sprinkle of white flowers.

Another anomaly pointed out by Spuhler is the lack of a separating white line between the small S borders and the field-the weavers of the Pollak left them out.Slick and sleek,the Pollak is initially a real blender,but cannot stand up to the other members of the group,especially the magisterial Kuwait example.It has a dubious date;it has a green field colour like the Istanbul carpet,from which it may have been copied(in Istanbul)and it has bungled borders.Finally,there are a number of silk carpets which seem to have been copied directly from the Istanbul fragment,employing the identical mihrab width,which results in some truly grotesque examples


63-AAA Bonner Sale 1928-Lot 553

64-Hereke silk-D.Sevi-Tappeti Anatolici-XV

Only a thorough dye analysis can save the honour of the Pollak carpet. Click here:
 Forgeries in Berlin

Prayer rugs-other

The Multiple Column Group.


Exemplified by the Ballard carpet,now in the MET,this carpet introduces an abstract depiction of modified perspective,first attempted some years before in the Baron Hatvani fragment

66-Collection Hatvani-now lost

Obviously from the same atelier which produced the MAK and Kuwait prayer rugs,the Ballard carpet was the progenitor of numerous later "Transylvanian" carpets

67-The Christian Museum Esztergom,Hungary

The top panel depicts four cupolas,similar to,but more developed,than those on the Bernheimer tree carpet


The Ballard rug is an all-silk foundation piece with blue and white cotton.

Walter Denny was of the opinion that the Corinthian Columns had been inspired by the Court of the Lions at the Alhambra

69-After Kühnel

However similar influences were closer to hand

70-Al-Azhar Courtyard,Cairo(after Stierlin)

71-After Blair

Whereas the triple mihrab in the Mausoleum of Ikhwat Yusuf in Cairo may well have influenced the other members of this group


The above fragment was sold by Teodor Tuduc in 1956 to the National Art Museum of Rumania

73-Bucharest reconstruction

and later reconstructed in OCTS VII.The fragment is on an all-wool foundation,as is its close counterpart in an Italian Collection

74-Bruschettini Collection

With its elegant upper dome and over-large niche lamp,this item sold at Sothebys London on 14 October 1981(Lot 113)for a paltry £3,520-one of the bargains of the century.All wool structure.

A marvellous piece of design is the TM`s Parokhet,or Torah Curtain,with a Hebrew Inscription from Psalm 118:"This is the Gate of the Lord through which the righteous enter"


Once in the Yerkes Collection,the Columns have taken on a festive,barber-pole character,and the tulip-carnation patch at the bottom of the field appears in full bloom.One large cup,quite blazon-like,adorns the field.The border appears in a reduced form,which however does not detract from the overall gaiety.Woolen structure.

76-The Berlin fragment in a more sombre mood.

The Sultan Ahmed Group.

The eponymous member being the carpet now in the Topkapi Museum,said to have been taken from the tomb of either Selim I or the II,although Sultan Ahmed ruled from 1603-17


The inspiration for the prayer arch is the great prayer rug in Vienna,although the spandrels have now become a halo,and the corner pieces are a quartered star medallion

78-Textile Museum Corner Collage

Secure technical information is only available for the Textile Museum carpet,which is all S-Spinning


The Textile Museum rug was first sold at the 1925 Benguiat Sale.lot 95(unillustrated)and was said to have come from a mosque in Southern Spain.

An ex-Bode piece in Berlin,purchased in 1877 has a corroded brown border


Characteristic for the group are the large floral chaplets in the field,and the last example has an accompanying design of Rosettes and Saz leaves borrowed from a group of Cairene rugs with this feature as a field design

81-Liechtenstein Collection.
The four rugs have surely all-wool structure with S-Spinning.

These are the weakest of all the Cairene prayer rugs.Perhaps also the latest.

The MAK Group.

Named for the example,once in possession of the Hapsburg Imperial Family,now museum of Applied Arts in Vienna


The horse-shoe arch was originally developed by the Western Visigoths for their churches,but attained full fruition in Moorish Spain


The field of the Vienna rug is strewn with Saz leaves,ascending Palmettes and tiny white Plum-blossoms.Two similar pieces are known

84-Walters Art Gallery


The Walters carpet has a similar border to the Blumenthal Medallion Carpet


in which a cloudband follows the same winding course between "cabbage-roses" as the Berlin-Vienna border fragments.

The Walters has an all-silk foundation with blue and white cotton,the McMullan carpet is all-silk,but without cotton.Compared to the Vienna example,the vegetation has become lusher,but the impact has begun to weaken.

A fragment in the Cleveland Museum of Art has the same border as the Hapsburg carpet,but the field cannot be reconstructed

87-Cleveland 1927.35

88-Hapsburg Prayer corner collage

A similar design can be seen on a Persian plate dated 1563-64,now in the Islamic Museum Berlin.

89-Gruber,Welt des Islam,page 163

The other six examples of this group are derivative,the first two forming a pair


91-MET-Fletcher Collection

A Pineapple-Tulip border surrounds a field of Saz-Leaves,Palmettes,and Rosette Medallions.The corners are now filled with Star-Quatrefoils.

The Mikaeloff-Khalili carpet,with its dark-green ground,still hangs onto the Hapsburg design scheme,but the Saz-Leaves billow and bulge in the manner of a whole group of large decorative carpets to be encountered later


A venerable old example in the Bardini Museum was unknown to C.G Ellis when he wrote his essay in  1969


and a fragment illustrated by Troll in his "Damaskus-Teppiche" article from 1937 seems to stand right at the end of the development


Cairene prayer rugs rarely appear at auction,so it was with great interest that the last piece here appeared at Skinners in December 2007,to be sold for a rather disappointing $49,938.It went unreported by Hali,and has not been seen since.

95-Skinners 12.2007-Lot 117(S-Spinning)


An early depiction of a Saf is a painting now in the Al-Sabah Collection

96-Kuwait National Museum

One strange carpet,now in the Field Museum of Natural History,Chicago,features white cotton highlights and S-Spinning,plus a border found on the Berlin-MAK-Kestner Museum fragments

97-TM-Prayer Rugs,VI

The arabesque spandrels are a geometricised rendition of those found in the synagogue prayer rug.

A further oddity was sold at Christies in 2011

98-Christies 4 October 2011-Lot 101

Crude in the extreme,the fragment`s importance was nevertheless recognised and it sold for $58,500.


The Cairene Floral Carpets originated in an artistic milieu known as the Hatayi Style (Cathay Style),a combination of large (Persian)leaves and Lotus Palmettes(in themselves originally an Egyptian invention which traversed half the world before re-appearing in the Mediterranean Basin)Tulips,Hyacinths and Carnations are always on board.By the 1560`s this was in full swing,as some oft-cited examples show

99-After Rogers,18a

100-After Denny,Iznik Nr.73

The Kaftan in the Topkapi Museum is realistically attributed to the reign of Bayazid or Mustapha,during the 1560`s.The bowl,now in the British Museum,is from the heyday of Iznik when the ovens and chimneys smoked night and day to feed the Royal appetite.A monument to Ottoman Corporate Identity is the Rustem Pasha Mosque in Istanbul.

101-Rustem Pasha

Apparently much earlier is the tiled Mihrab from the Imaret Mosque in Karaman,said to be 15th century


The decorative Cairene carpets with their Saz leaves,palmettes and rosettes develop from the microcosm of the Hapsburg Prayer Rug


104-Benguiat Sale 1925-Lot 9

105-Linden Museum

107-Musee des Arts decoratifs

108-Pi-Bahran,Linjan,early 13th century

There are two main types of Medallion design rugs,classified according to their evolution from either the field or border of the Hapsburg Prayer Rug.

Hapsburg Field Type.

The best of this type are connected through an underlying trellis,i.e they are spiral-vine carpets.This is not always obvious,and in the more prosaic examples the scrolling vines have been omitted and the  Saz-forms simply placed onto the field.In fact the billowing feather-boa Saz forms are actually part of the scrolling vine system-they grow directly on top of it.Best of type is the mighty blue-ground example in the Musee des Art decoratifs,Paris,apparently one of only two blue-ground Cairene carpets,perhaps a nod in the direction of Persia?


Many of these carpets achieve epic proportions


The central medallions are either embellished with tulips or tiger-stripes.There seems no way to classify them through this.

A well known group of fragments is probably from a Large Saz Medallion carpet,the impetus for which can already be seen burgeoning in a 9th Century stucco Panel from the Jazira

111-Museum of Islamic Art Doha

112-Kühnel-Bellinger 36

113-Kühnel-Bellinger 35

114-V&A 39-1897

115-Sothebys 2 June 2010-Lot 37

They are all woven on a silk foundation with white cotton highlights.The Sothebys item sold for $11,875.

End of the line is a piece in Göteborg

116-Hali 26-49

Hapsburg Field Type

Many medallion carpets were woven in 16th Century Persia,and a good number with Saz leaves,but a medallion carpet with Saz forms such as the Paris example is an Egyptian speciality.A certain amount of vectorisation cannot be excluded,although an exact parallel chronology is lacking.Is the Hapsburg Prayer older than the majority of Polonaise carpets?By a few decades perhaps.The following examples of Safavid weaving are presented for comparison.Interestingly,the first two pieces are silk Polonaise carpets,a convergence point reached by Ellis in 1969.


Note the spiral-vine tendrils and imagine them as billowing feather-boa Saz.

Another Polonaise carpet,one of the most elegant,is the Rainy Rogers,which does actually showcase Saz and Medallion

118-The Rainy Rogers Polonaise

119-Benguiat Sale 1925-Lot 35

The Saz leaves in the above carpet resemble the Egyptian models,as does the ascending "Spine" of Lotus-Palmettes.

A carpet in the Imam Reza in Mashad has a border vaguely reminiscent of the Hapsburg Prayer


The greatest of all sickle-leaf carpets is the Corcoran,whose mighty leaves swing like scythes.The "Spine" of the carpet with its amalgam of Lotus Palmettes went on to a 300 year career.The light-footedness of the Egyptians seems very far away.

121-Corcoran Art Gallery

The Hapsburg Border Type.

These medallion carpets are distinguished by their employment of the Saz-leaf forms found on the borders of the Hapsburg Prayer Carpet.The Saz-leaves are drawn in a more focussed way than in the previous group,often forming Quatrefoils in a complex field design


A carpet exhibited in Chicago in 1947 is notable for its blue ground and Chintamani medallions

123-G.Cohen,Fascino 1983,plate XXVII

124-from Milestones

Another example from the Rothschild Collection has exploding palmette spokes and rosette mandalas


A third example with interlocking Saz leaves and little or no trellis was once in the possession of Ulrich Schürmann,and exhibited at the 1978 Munich ICOC Exhibition

126-Munich 1978

Burnt in Berlin 1945,Kurt Erdmann described the Dirksen rug as the most beautiful of type


Hapsburg Border type

Saz Rosette Type.

These carpets have rows of large rosettes placed prominently amongst the Saz leaves.Sizes are often large and relatively narrow.

128-Yerkes-Ballard Collection-now MET

129-Ballard MET 2210056

130-Linden Museum

Two last carpets have a Spiral-Vine construction,but amateurish and quite unsuccessful

131-Berlin,private Collection

132-V & A-491-1899

Saz Rosette Type

Four and One Medallion Group.

With rosette medallions arranged as on a dice-cube.There may be more rosettes hidden in the field.

133-Rippon Boswell

The above sold at R&B`s on 17 November 2001-Lot 63,for $74,580.Ex Baron Tucher,ex Judge Gary,previously sold at Lefevre on 25 May 1984.With the Pineapple and Tulip border,see Hali 121-133.

134-MET 22.100

The above from the Ballard Collection,now online,but an adequate colour reproduction is lacking.With an unusual 8-pointed central medallion.Note the interlocking Saz leaves.


The above sold at the Kevorkian sale,Sothebys London in december 1969 for £1250,and again at Sothebys New York on 7 April 1992 for $ 66,000.See Hali 63-131.

Quartered Medallion Group

Most of the last type have an inkling of corner medallions,but the last major group features quartered medallions in the corners


Head and shoulders above all others in its group,the Kevorkian carpet was first auctioned at the 1925 Benguiat Sale and eventually went to the Wher Collection(or "Siesta" Collection according to Broniman)Technical information is not available,but it may have a silk foundation.It has the same high quality corner solutions as the Hapsburg Prayer,plus interlocking Saz leaves.

137-Kevorkian corner collage

Frequently published is the ex-Bernheimer piece


The Bernheimer has been auctioned twice:at Christies London on 14 february 1996(Lot 83) for $78,540,and again at Christies London on 29 April 2004(Lot 101)for $59,225.Now in Doha.

Two other members of this group both feature a Pineapple-Tulip border and a "notched" medallion

139-Textile Museum

The above sold at Sothebys on 13 December 1986 for $13,200


So much blue is unusual and pleasing in a Cairene carpet

141-Corner collage

Corner Medallion Type

Multi-Medallion Group.

The eight pieces in this group are of outstanding quality.

The Blumenthal carpet in the Metropolitan Museum New York is a reprise of the Hapsburg Prayer rug




This large carpet(18.8 x 11.3 feet)is not even woven on a silk foundation,yet has real Court attitude.The above pictured medallion is about as close as anyone ever came to reproducing one of Amy Brigg`s Timurid Göls

145-Briggs 58

And the Shahname illustration from 1429

146-Briggs 58

had already been anticipated in 11th Century Fatimid Kairouan

147-Painted ceiling in the Great Mosque at Kairouan,11th Century-after Blair

Another masterpiece,now unfortunately lost to us,was burnt in the carpet inferno of Berlin 1945


With its medallions formed into a lattice of diagonally placed tiger-stripes,this carpet has no existing counterpart,thus "its complete destruction is a bitter loss"(K.Erdmann).However the design went on to a further career in the 18th/19th century,again demonstrating the influence of Egypt upon Persia

149-F.R Martin-Naesby House

The Naesby House rug is dated 1806.A further example surfaced in the Munich trade

150-E.Herrmann ATT 4-64(sold Sothebys 10 April 1997)

There are many village versions of this too,Persian dealers have christened the design"kebab"

151-Nagels 29 April 1998-Lot 56

Already mentioned,the Chintamani lattice carpet in the Grassi Museum Leipzig is still awaiting publication by Hali

152-Das Wiener Werk

A second carpet from the Blumenthal Collection in New York uses the same notched medallion as the Ryksmuseum corner solution

153-MET 41.190.272

154-Blumenthal Collection,now MET New York

It shares a common border with the Chintamani carpets and a delicate field of  lotus palmette tracery often attempted in Ushak,but rarely achieved.

An allover medallion carpet once in the possession of Prince Paar employs a medallion used on the large Blumenthal carpet,also with big Saz forms.It has only been published once in colour,by Arthur von Scala in 1908

155-Prince Paar

A fascinating carpet from the 1925 Benguiat Sale shows allover-Quatrefoils and a series of"substrate" cross-like medallions.It has since disappeared

156-Benguiat 1925 Lot 63

Discovered by Albert Boralevi in 1983,the Pitti Palace carpet entered service as a gift in 1623 and was described in an inventory as a "Cairino"

157-Pitti Palace

This impressively monotonous carpet weighs in at 3,30 x 9.95 metres(!)and was exhibited at the Hayward Gallery during the London ICOC in 1983,but also-alongside a Mamluke carpet-in the Pitti Palace in 2002

158-Islamic Art VI-Bruschettini Foundation

Proof indeed that the Cairene carpets constitute a "Mamluk Baroque"

Small Saz-forms as allover-Quatrefoils feature on a three-medallion carpet auctioned at Sothebys New York on 3 December 1988 for $93,500.It went unsold some years later at Christies London,on 19 April 1993,after reaching a miserly £22,000


Saz Carpets.

The next group of carpets features an allover Saz design with a centralised Quatrefoil


The appearance of three such carpets at auction in 2003 was a special treat

161-Christies London 1 May 2003-Lot 29 

162-Lot 30

163-Lot 31

Lot 29 and 30 each sold for £11,950.The carpets were said to have been sourced in Florence.
This group repeats the Hapsburg Border Medallion carpet design,but without the medallion.

Saz Quatrefoil

A less common medallion-less Saz group features the large feather-boa Saz leaves

164-De Young Museum

There is always the possibility that the above has lost a central medallion.Many of the carpets illustrated here,as with so many other Classical examples,have at one time or another been re-configured.

Saz without Medallions

Three further carpets share the same scarab-like border with different field designs.A carpet in the V&A,on a silk foundation and with a repeat design taken over from the Hapsburg prayer was considered by Walter Denny to be amongst the oldest of all Cairene-Ottoman carpets

165-von Scala 1908-nr.23

A similar rug,known only from three fragments,is another piece with an ornate Mamluk border,but shares the Quartrefoil-Cartouche Medallion field of the MAK-Berlin Kestner rugs

166-Berlin Museum

167-Hali 4/1-1981,page 56

168-Sothebys 14 September 2001-Lot 1

The above fragment,from the Wher Collection,sold for $3000.

A further carpet with the same border was sold a number of times in the last few years(Christies 13 April 2000;Sothebys 4 April 2001;and Bonhams 27 September 2005)It combines the cartouche border with a Saz-rosette field,and demonstrates the inherent difficulty in categorizing these carpets through field design alone.

169-Bonhams Moheban Sale 27 September 2005-Lot 2133

Runners or fragments?

Three carpets have a runner format

170-Jacquemart Museum Paris

171-Wulff Collection nr.19

The Wulff piece has been woven in the width,perhaps the Paris piece too.The Textile Museum example appears to have been woven lengthwise.

172-Kühnel-Bellinger 37

Two other fragments are in "runner form",but they may also be part of the MAK-Berlin Kestner fragment family(although the Textile Museum piece illustrated above apparently is not)


174-Sothebys 20 September 2006-Lot 42

The above sold for $ 45,360.

A third fragment comprising two large border pieces sewn together is the Goldschmidt carpet,last shown at the ICOC Exhibition in Munich,1985


Table Rugs.

There are five "shaped" carpets which were made as table covers.Most well-known are the San Gimignano and V&A pieces



The San Gimignano piece employs the concept of a rug-within a rug;the middle piece appears to have been lain on top,and the borders continue beneath it.The effortless transition between field and border is typically Cairene.The London rug is a more aristocratic production.

A foto demonstrates such a rug in situ


But the cruciform shape is clearly not unintended.

One round carpet is known,now in the Corcoran Gallery

179-Valentiner-Early Oriental Rugs 21

which was recently part of another post here

Two fragments round off this selection

180-Franchetti Collection


The fragments from the Ca D `Oro appear to be two reconfigured side-flaps(size 125 x 130 cms)

The Berlin fragment is an interesting example of the Fusion Group with a characteristic amalgam of Mamluk and Ottoman Floral design.

The structure of Cairene and Mamluk carpets is identical,as a comparison of photos of both (from Kühnel-Bellinger) demonstrates.


Direct scans of two Cairene rugs demonstrate the delicacy of weave



Just as an "International" carpet style existed,so too did its accompanying International Structure:4-Ply cotton warps and a three-shoot weft.The Egyptian weavers wove some of the largest all-wool carpets ever made:sizes up to 10 metres are on record.With a woolen warp this is no mean feat,and why they never took up the use of cotton has yet to be explained.The wool would have come from Bedouin fat-tailed sheep,of which there are three kinds: Rahmani,Osseimi,and Barki,which then as now were bred in the Western desert.A lack of white wool led presumably to the limited colour palette of the Mamluk carpets,but sharp dyes such as Lac and Dyer`s Weld,when applied to light-brown or grey wool yield pleasant pastel shades.

186-Berber sheep

Perhaps the use of a woolen warp is a clue to the original creators of the Mamluk carpets in the 15th century.From a Central-Asian background,they never made the jump to classical cotton-based technology.Why should they have?their working methods were perfect,resulting in a paper thin but extremely durable fabric.

Designs moved around the Mediterranean.An Ushak carpet in the V&A spearheads a group utilising the Cairene repertoire

187-after Migeon

  A piece sold at Finarte`s in 2003 combines all design elements in a highly successful way

188-Finarte 18.11.2003-Lot 59

Although it is hard to say how old the Finarte piece is,there is no mistaking the elegant brute force of the Ballard Star-Ushak variant,which is much earlier but curiously parallel

189-Ballard Collection St.Louis

 Ushak-Cairene Type

Commenting on the Kevorkian medallion carpet,Hali`s house expert had the following to say:

190-Hali 63-131

Such carpets were the progenitors of the Herati design as we know it from the 20th century.A trans-national carpet chronology pinpointing influence and development between the major production areas is a project which will surely concern carpet researchers in the years to come.Taking the Persianate Red ground Florals as a starting point for the "Spinal"Saz and Lotus Palmette Gestalt,then a carpet such as the Rothschild would have led to the creation of the Hapsburg Prayer rug via a fragment such as the Grassi carpet and its direct descendents

191-The Rothschild

192-Grassi Museum Leipzig

An example formerly in Düsseldorf demonstrates the compression of separate elements


The Herati finally emerges in Khorasan at the beginning of the 19th century,in the form which has come down to us through countless re-incarnations

194-Sothebys April 1983-Lot 390-dated 1806

195-Christies 1 November 1995-Lot 37-dated 1807

Between the late Cairene and early 19th century Khorasan carpets exists a hiatus of approximately 150 years.

The final crystallisation appears at the beginning of the 20th century in a kind of "machine-gun Herati"pattern


The Cairene carpets are unthinkable without the Lotus symbol,an ancient Egyptian device which occurs in virtually all classical carpets of the last 400 years,and whose basic symbolism-even for those who had never seen the original-was perfectly clear:a plant whose quotidian ascent and flowering mirrored the inexorable path of the sun.

Aslanapa-Turkish Arts,1961
Arsevan-Les Arts Decoratifs Turcs
Bennett-the Hapsburg Prayer Carpet,Hali 31-18
Beselin,Anna-Geknüpfte Kunst,Berlin 2011
Blair,Jonathan-Art of the City Victorious,2007
Bode,Wilhelm-Vorderasiatische Knüpfteppiche ,1901
Boralevi-The Cairene Carpets of the Medici-Hali 5/3 1983,p.282
Boralevi-Three Egyptian Carpets in Italy,OCTS II/205
Boralevi-Geometrie d `Oriente,1999
Denny,Walter-Ottoman Court Carpets-OCTS II/243
Denny,Walter-Osmanische Keramik aus Iznik
Denny,Walter-Origin of the Designs of Ottoman Court Carpets-Hali II/I,p. 6
Denny,Walter-Is this the Carpet of the Lord?-Hali 126/89
Denny,Walter-The Classical tradition in Anatolian Carpets
Denny & Walker-The Markarian Album,1988,p.54
Dunca and Gherginescu-Tuduc`s Coupled-Column Prayer Rug Fragment-OCTS VII
Eiland-Ottoman Court Rugs,Ghereh 43,7
Eiland-Early carpets in the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco,-OCTS I,p.100,1985
Ellis-Gifts from Kashan to Cairo-Textile Museum Journal,Vol I,Nr.I,1962
Ellis-The Ottoman Prayer Rugs,Textile Museum Journal,Vol II,NR.4,1969
Enez,Nevin-Uno Studio Sulle Antiche Tinture-Ghereh 4-51
Enez,Nevin-Analysis of the Dyes used in Ottoman Court Carpets,OCTS V/1-p.18
Erdmann-Kairener Teppiche,Teil I Ars islamica Vol.V,1938
Erdmann-Kairener Teppiche Teil II,Ars islamica,Vol VII,1940
Erdmann-Weitere Beiträge zur Frage der Kairener Teppiche-Berliner Museen November 1959,p. 12
Erdmann-zur Frage der Kairener Teppiche,Ars orientalis V,1961
Erdmann-Oriental Carpets,Crosby Press 1976,pp.47-51
Ettinghausen,Richard-Prayer Rugs,Textile Museum
Jacob,Georg-Türkische Urkunden,Kiel 1920(for the Story of the Egyptian Masterweavers under Murad,taken from:Ahmet Rifik,La Vie a Stamboul,1915)
King,Donald-The Eastern Carpet in the Western World,1983,pp. 79-84
Klose,Christine,Ein Ägyptische Teppich,Weltkunst 8,pp. 1198-1201
Kühnel-Bellinger-Cairene Rugs,Textile Museum 1957
Mackie-A Turkish Carpet with Spots and Stripes-Textile Museum Journal IV-3,1976
Migeon and Koechlin,Cent Planches en Couleurs D `Art Musulman,1928
Mills,John-East Mediterranean Carpets in Western Painting,Hali 4/1-1981 pp. 53-55
Oriental Carpet & Textile Studies II-London 1986
Okumura,Sumiyo-The Influence of Turkic Culture on Mamluke Carpets,Istanbul 2007
Paquin-Chintamani,Hali 64-104
Pasztor,Emese-Ottoman Turkish Carpets,2007
Pinner & Franses-The East Mediterranean Carpet Collection,Hali 4/1,1981,pp. 37-52
Rogers,J.M-The Topkapi Saray Museum-Textiles,1986
Rogers,J.M-Empire of the Sultans,pps.200-203
Sabanci Museum-In Praise of God,2007
Sarre,Friedrich-Die ägyptische Herkunft der sogen.Damaskus-Teppiche,1921
Sarre,Friedrich-Die Ägyptischen Teppiche,1924
Spallanzani,Marco-Carpets at the Medici Court,Islamic Art IV 2008,pp.99-113
Spuhler,Friedrich-Oriental Carpets in the Museum of Islamic Art,Berlin 1988
Spuhler,Friedrich-2 neuerworbene Kairener Teppiche,Tribus,1990
Spuhler,Friedrich-Carpets from Islamic Lands,2012
Stierlin-Splendours of an Islamic World
Suriano.A Mamluk Landscape,Hali 134/95
Thompson et al-Carpets and Textiles in the Iranian World,Oxford,2010
Troll-Damaskus Teppiche,Ars Islamica IV,pp 201-231,1937
Valentiner,Wilhelm-Early Oriental Rugs,1911
Völker,Angela-Die Orientalischen Knüpfteppiche im MAK
Wearden,Jennifer-The Saz Style,Hali 30,1986,pp 22-29
Whiting,Mark-The Red Dyes of some East Mediterranean Carpets,Hali 4/1,1981,p.55
Ydema,Onno-Carpets and their Datings in Netherlandish Paintings,1991

197-The End

Thursday 13 December 2012

An Eagle Group Chuval

Over at Rapistan Review,George Gilmore reports the discovery of an Eagle Group Choval at an outoftheway Auction House in Radford Virginia,the appropriately named Ken Farmer Auctions.

Gilmore Chronicles

A good foto is unavailable at this time,but the piece ended up selling for $8050.

1-Ken Farmer Auctions 30 September 2012-lot 301

At least 12 other examples are known.The ornate Elem is the chief characteristic.In the above form it is more typical of the design on the Eagle Group Torbas with Palmette design,of which five pieces have been published

2-Werner Loges

The more standard design is a row of distinctly bird-like bouquets

3-Elmby III-16

In another variation one can almost hear the flattering of wings

4-Sienknecht Collection

Not all the group members would attract much attention without their flashing skirts,appearing then as rather humdrum Yomut Chuvals.

Available technical information on the Eagle Group 9er Chovals:

Persian knotted to the right:The Baker,Sienknecht,Smith,Wiedersperg and NERS pieces.

Turkish Knotted: Elmby III-16 and the Farmer piece.

No Info available: Edelman 1981,Elmby V-24,Frauenknecht,Pinner Sale 79,RB 47-25,Newman Collection.

A Group Portrait can be viewed HERE

This compendium is doubtless incomplete.The author would be grateful for reproductions of further pieces,and the missing technical info.A complete rundown on this Group is planned for next year.

5-New England Rug Society

Wednesday 5 December 2012

An unusual Transylvanian


Published on rugrabbit by anatolianpicker,this Turkish carpet sports a carpet-within-a-carpet design scheme.The "inserted" mihrab has been woven with a beige brown wefting connecting diagonally to the red weft of the remaining carpet.The ground is a bright yellow,whereas the upper niche and border areas are a typical salmon colour.The yellow areas follow the lazy-lines so carefully that one must rule out the possibility of re-piling.Although worn to a kilim-like consistency,the double-mihrab must have been conspicuous when new.Another example,however,bears a similar secondary design visible only from the back

2-Rippon Boswell 17 May 2003-Lot 70a-sold for 45,600 euro

Weaving the RB example must have been particularly difficult as it entailed creating a kilim within a carpet.Presumably a second weaver would have controlled the work`s progress from the back,or the contours could have been sketched out on the warps.The effect on both carpets is unusual and mysterious.Perhaps more examples exist?The author has often wished for a software which would turn over the corners of rug photos,in order to study their structure.

See Hali 129,page 15,and APG Hali 130-123.

Update 25.11.2017:the author has recently discovered an illuminating lecture delivered at the ICOC by Stefano Ionescu and Ali Riza Tuna  in 2007,and published in 2011.It deals with structure in Transylvanian carpets and also cites three examplesall from the Black Church in Brashov.