Sunday 20 April 2014

Leaves of Grass

The Serrated Leaf  Lattice  is one of the most enduring of carpet patterns.Allover designs with leaves first appear in a traditional context in the Ottoman Court workshops of Istanbul,just after the Turkish takeover of 1453.The chief inspiration came from expatriate Persian artists.It will be examined here  through examples from three related groups.
The Saz style quickly permeated all branches of Art at the court.It was eminently suitable for any surface decoration,in particular tilework and textiles.

A section of the Topkapi`s interior hints at the concept in c.1590

1-W.Denny,Iznik,page 107

But the design has crystallised in the Harem embellishments of the 17th

2-W.Denny,Iznik,page 111

On kaftans a favourite motif,it was initially used in conjunction with the Chintamani

3-Topkapi,Öz,plate VIII

Its Imperial prerogative is clear on a garment associated with Selim I

4-Topkapi:Textiles,Plate 8

A later garment from around 1700 shows the atrophied form


In Persia,the design first appears on a group of Vase carpets perhaps influenced by the Saz Style,or possibly a separate development-after all the artistic initiative in the Ottoman Nakshane had come from Persian artisans.

Three examples of 17th century silk Persian textiles are germane

6-Pope,Textiles 1036

7-Neumann Murza 132-89

8-Neumann Murza 155-64

Mention should also be made of a Cairene carpet now lost,but once in Berlin

9-Sarre Trenkwald 53

Exactly where the lost Berlin rug stands in the scheme of things is hard to decipher:is it earlier or later than the following Persian carpets?However the schematic treatment may indicate a nexus between the Kirman rugs and the 18th/19th century models.

Amongst the most beautiful of Vase carpets are two fragments now divided between Paris and Philadelphia

10-Musee des Arts Decoratifs

11-Philadelphia,Lees Williams Collection

This particular group of Vase carpets differs from the main group by its use of the sickle-leaf as a replacement for the customary third vine in the the overall trellis.A typical 3-Plane vase rug looks like this

12-Beselin,Geknüpfte Kunst,page 167

The above diagram demonstrates in exemplary manner how three stems run through the carpet`s layout.In the case of the "Big-Leaf" vase carpets the white stems have been replaced by our thick serrated leaves.Otherwise the surface patterning resembles a standard vase carpet,albeit of the type with non-symmetrical design.In the above two fragments the Philadelphia carpet would have fitted under the Paris piece.Within the compartments thus formed are six large floral forms,sometimes with vases or curious lilies(?)in the form of a pilgrims flask.The ground colour of each compartment changes,as do the vine-stems from Ogive to Ogive.A semi"frozen"border has been considered an indication of a later period,but this must not necessarily be true.

13-Vase Carpet Rockefeller McCormick

14-Indian bronze Pilgrim`s flask

Only one other example has six different floral units in the compartments,an example in the Victoria and Albert Museum with cramped drawing

15-Wearden,page 64

A carpet in the Textile Museum,sewn together from four pieces,is related to a number of other fragments around the world

16-Beattie,Plate 10

Likely from the same carpet is a fragment in the V&A


In the museum`s onlive archive the above has been lain next to the larger TM fragment,and does indeed fit rather well


It also supplies us with a border which can be found on two other fragments,presumably also from the same carpet

19-Sovrani Tappeti 53

Most of this group have a thick backshag of uncut knots on the back


Resembling the Gabbeh carpets of South Persia.

Another fragment with the same border was sold at Sothebys New York on June 1990(Lot 1)

21-Sothebys 1990

A further two "pieces"have been consistently attributed to the TM core carpet,one in the Ryksmuseum and a second large fragment in the Textile Museum


23-Textile Museum

The above fragments and all others of this small group have 4 non-symmetric floral elements within the compartments.Another orphaned piece was purchased by Lessing in Turkey for the Berlin Museum and has a customary "frozen" border with very elegant Spiralranken

24-Heaven in a Carpet,53

A corner fragment offered twice at Phillips(13.10.1999 and 11.4.2000),and then re-sold at Christies London on 28 April 2005(147) for the sum of $17,190(see Hali 141-96) was later with J.P Willborg in Stockholm.It features a stiff arabesque border and interesting inner minor guards

25-J.P Willborg

Only one example exists in a near original condition,and that is the carpet once in the Chinili Kiosk in Istanbul.The 3-plane system has gone astray due to its stems spiralling into nowhere.The drawing is parochial.Nevertheless,it is a wonderful carpet!



A carpet illustrated by Erdmann in his review of Pope`s Survey was once in the Cassirer Collection.It has an arabesque strapwork border similar to the TM fragment and its satellites.A complete Ogive filled with Chevrons is an unusual design element


Two similar carpets show the development towards a whole group of shrub carpets,reaching all the way to Kurdistan and the Caucasus.The first is in the Burrell Collection,with decidely Indian influence.


In how far the Mughal carpets affected production in Kirman is unclear.A number of Indian carpets spring to mind.

30-Francesca Galloway

A last complete carpet was in the possession of the versatile Comtesse de Behague,and was published in due course by Arthur Pope.A school of thought believes the Pope and Burrell carpets were actually made up from one original.


Whether this piece represents a last phase is difficult to say;it has a more floral border than the previous examples and yet a stylistic simplification is apparent.We shall encounter the border in a later group.

A number of fragments remain left over

32-Textile Museum

33-Textile Museum

Possibly the above two fragments are part of the TM`s core rug.A further very damaged item which appeared at Skinners in June 2006 was definitely not


One last very interesting fragment in the Ethnographical Museum Munich paves the way to the 18th,and indeed early 19th Century

35-Museum für Völkerkunde München(14-47-29)

A number of simplifications were necessary in order to modify the Munich fragment for production in a less courtly work-environment.

One such step can be seen in the Kevorkian Shrub carpet,still a Vase group member,although hopefully without jufti-knotting


This appears to take over where the Behague leaves off.Its descendents are a group of "Proto-Kurdish" carpets(thus called by Alberto Levi).Some large and imposing carpets were woven in the wake of the extinguished "Vase" Nova,in North West Persia

37-D.L Blau

The above carpet was published by F.R Martin in 1908.At that time it lay in Stockholm`s Naesby House,as part of the Lamm Collection.It later surfaced with Blau in New York,and was shown at the CINOA in 1974.Subsequently auctioned at the Blau Sale on 14 December 2006(Sothebys NY,Lot 28)it brought $108,000.The carpet is illegibly inscribed but clearly dated 1807


Orendi also published this carpet in 1930.Starting from a centralised rose or Göl form,four trident stems jut out,filling the inner compartment.The four serrated leaves narrow to a point.Remains of the spiral vine leaf system are still tangible at the connecting points that hold the compartments together.It is the Vase Carpet system in a simple form.

39-Orendi 819

With a little imagination it is not difficult to see the origins of the Mina-Khani design emanating from a floral U-Turn

40-Burns,Visions (37)

The border has been extracted from the Munich Vase fragment,but is very common in Red Ground Floral carpets of the 16th-17th century 

41-MAK Vienna

The above version of the Sickle-Leaf Palmette Border is one of the most refined,and it also underwent a series of transformations due in most part to the skill of the weavers and the price paid for the carpet

42-Aita Collection

At least another five white-ground large carpets in the Göl Hennai design are known(as it is called in Persia-See Edwards,The Persian Carpet,page 49)

Described as"Karabag" by Christies in 1990 the next carpet has a border not out of place on a Khorasan carpet

43-Christies 11 October 1990(65)

The English dealer Richard Purdon has owned two such items.One was advertised in Hali 4-4-35,and has an archaic border seen on some 18th century Caucasian carpets

44-Richard Purdon

A broader example went unsold at Sothebys New York in 1991 against an estimate of $10-14,000.Interestingly most of the carpets in large Kelley form follow the Vase Carpet layout of 2-3-2 compartments.Here the format is wider and comparable to the yellow ground Rossi example to be described later.

45-Sothebys 11.12.1991(259)

De-accessioned by the Winterthur Museum in 1996,the following was reviewed by Hali in issue 91,page 156.It sold for $28,375 at Northeast Auctions,New Hampshire on 3 November 1996(lot 807).A very large carpet measuring 4,42 x 7,67 mtrs.

46-Northeast Auctions 1996

An example at Rippon Boswell`s Spring 2001 sale fared less well against an estimate of 20,000 DM and was bought-in

47-RB 19 May 2001(71)

Carpets of this type were manufactured on various ground colours.Six yellow-ground examples have been recorded here.

First and foremost is a carpet once in the possession of the painter Giuseppe Rossi,sold at Sothebys London in 1999

48-Rossi Sale Sothebys 12 March 1999(1539)

At its second auction appearance in 2006 the carpet received a revised attribution to Khorasan,chiefly due to its structure(which is actually not given)and the use of jufti-knotting.The carpet appears to have undergone a severe cleaning

49-Sothebys 20 September 2006(228)

Presumably it has a Persian knot to the left and three rows of weft.Its size also differs from the others in the group,being somewhat wider.It is perhaps the most elegant of all,and may be the blueprint of this design.Sold for £ 13,200.

Stylistically related is a carpet sold at Sothebys New York on 1 October 1998(333) for $44,850(see Hali 103-139)

50-Sothebys 1998

A large carpet sold at Sothebys in 1999 fetched $29,900 and was later with Jay Nazmiyal.It has a simplified lattice,repeated in the borders,but the old connected spiral stems are still present


A carpet described as Kurdish by its purveyor in Hali 112 page 29 has exquisitely drawn serrated leaves and a dense,complicated border


Two last examples from Kurdistan include the famous Lefevre carpet,which was later with Herrmann and recently sold at the Leclere auction in March 2014 for 20,000 euro.First offered at Lefevre`s on 9 February 1979,where it was withdrawn,the carpet re-appeared at Rippon Boswell`s Wiesbaden on 10 November 1990(96)with an estimate of 35,000 DM.It was sold again at Sothebys NY on April 10 1997(237)

53-Herrmann ATT 4(64)

A second quite similar carpet has a more cramped style but sold well at Christies London on 5 April 2011(lot 235),bringing £ 63,650.The catalogue entry is well worth reading

54-Christies 2011

A number of large scale carpets with this design on a blue ground have been recorded.Pride of place must go to a carpet,apparently once at Naesby House,which was discussed by Azadi in the 1986 Catalogue to the Hannover Antiques Fair.


It was auctioned three times in 2009-2010,before re-surfacing in Carpet Collector 4/2013,advertisement Galerie Azadi.It is a very spirited carpet,Heraldic in its approach,and with a classic 19th century Caucasian border.It is fascinating to think of this carpet and the whiteground 1807 carpet occupying one space.

Three blueground pieces share a common border adopted from a type of Indian carpet,of which the most famous is the Trinitarias Carpet in Melbourne


The Indian connection surfacing again via a medallion and sickle leaf carpet once in the Tiffany Collection

57-Tiffany Parke Bernet 456

A fragment sold at Sothebys on 15 October 2003(142) made a surprising £ 4560,and belongs doubtless to the same group as a rug in the James Burns Collection

58-Sothebys 2003

59-Burns,Visions of Nature 35

A carpet published by Bausback in 1983(59) and again in 2000(91)has a date read as 1740 and a Karabag attribution


Going unsold at Sothebys on 24 April 1991(91)the following later sold well in restored condition at the Adam Clayton Sale at Christies South Ken on 10 November 2004 (446)bringing £3107

61-Christies 2004

Interestingly,the only known red-ground example of import,published in Grote-Hasenbalg,has the same field and border design

62-Grote-Hasenbalg 3-64

A third large blue-ground piece was sold at Sothebys London on 26 April 1995(188) for $9465 (see Hali 81-117)

63-Sothebys 1995

An interesting variation with three panels was auctioned at Christies on 18 April 1985 for £ 27,430  

64-Christies 1985

This had been copied at some point from an intermediary Vase-Kurd production of the type de-accessioned by the Baltimore Museum and susequently sold at Sothebys on 5 December 1987 (192) for $5,225

65-Baltimore-Sothebys 1987

At this point a group of Kurdish carpets looms large,sythesising elements from the Vase carpets and Indian Shrub models

A carpet from the Dirk Bass Collection of epic proportions

66-Oriental Rug Review 11-3-29

And a piece from the Adam Clayton Collection brought £ 3107 on the day

67-Christies 10 November 2004(387)

Two smaller scale rugs which display borders from the 18th Century Caucasian zone are presumably NW Persian

68-Sothebys 15 April 1993(3)

69-Rippon Boswell 29 May 2010 (165)

A last group of mostly long rugs from NW Persia rounds off this section,invariably with the entwined birds border as found in the Caucasus

70-Alan du Monceau,Hali 86-120

The theme was touched upon by Michael Wendorf in his exhibition of Kurdish carpets,a part of which can be seen online HERE :- Kurdish Rugs

A selection of carpets with this design,but in a more provincial style,can be seen HERE :-Big Leaf Carpets

Further East,The Turkmen also interested themselves for this design.

A classic example is the "mina-khani",which is a more floral rendition,but whose origins have now become obvious.The typical border on such pieces is a clear derivation from the Indian forebear with sickle-leaf and flower border

71-Herrmann,SOT VII (84b)

The most common use though is on the Asmalyks of the Yomut and the Tekke.

Yomut Asmalyks employ three main designs.Depending on the skilful use of the serrated leaf lattice,the central Göl on a white ground can appear unruly or harmonious.An example sold at Grogan`s in January 2013(25)achieves a near mechanical perfection


The use of a lattice with two serrations instead of the usual three leads to a clearer and more perfect"rose",although many more variations were worked out.

Much closer to the original in their depiction of the Leaf-lattice are the Tekke,whose notoriously rare Asmalyks divide neatly into two groups:the Animal Tree Group(13 examples recorded here)and the "Bird" Group,more numerous with 21 examples listed.The two groups were plotted for the first time by Franses and Pinner in Turkoman Studies in 1976.Since then a few more pieces have appeared.The first example of the Animal Tree Group was published by Felkersam in 1914.Its current whereabouts are unknown


The ethnographer Dudin collected two sets of Bird Asmalyks,but also found an Animal-Tree example which was published by Elena Tsareva in 1984

74-Tsareva,The Russian Collections  45

Apparently the first Animal Tree Engsi appeared at auction in 1979 and subsequently entered the Wher Collection.It sold for £ 12,100

75-Sothebys 25 April 1979 (63)

Two further examples were published in Turkoman Studies

76-Private Collection England

77-George O `Bailey Collection,New York

At the time of writing the Bailey carpet pictured above was set for auction at Rippon-Boswell`s on 31 May 2014,thus its appearance at this time is especially felicitous

78-Hali 179-Rippon Boswell May 31 2014

An example with "yurt" apex was exhibited at the Atlantic Collections show in 1984.It had previously been passed at Sothebys NY on 1 December 1984,despite a bid of $16,000 from the floor

79-Hecksher Collection

An example with an intact flatwoven outer border and small size has been published from an Austrian Collection

80-Antike Orientteppiche ICOC Catalogue 1986(111)

A larger more imposing item was sold at Skinners Bolton on 10 June 1990 for $44,000 and later entered the Wiedersperg Collection


The carpet sold at Sothebys on 16 October 1996 had original side finishes and brought $38,1555.It later entered an Austrian Collection


The next item was purchased by Eberhart Herrmann at Christies London on 1 May 2003 for $24,850

83-Lot 87

But at Rippon Boswell`s sale of the Pinner Collection the following topped all prices for an asmalyk of either type.It sold for $142,700

84-RB 15 May 2004 (78)

A piece uncovered at the Auction Road Show was later with Peter Pap

85-Peter Pap

And the latest of auction pieces ,formerly H.C Sienknecht Collection,was sold at Rippon Boswell`s on 7 May 1988(cover)for 60,000 Deutsche Mark.It was subsequently exhibited at the Hamburg ICOC in 1993.This time around at Sothebys on 31 January 2014 it achieved a price of $100,000

86-Sothebys 2014(82)

Whilst the Animal-Tree Asmalyks have a counterpart in the Ensi world,the Bird Asmalyks stand very much alone.As mentioned,two pairs were collected by Dudin in the early 20th century

87-Tappeti dei Nomadi 33

88-Dudin,Pair 1-Oriental Rug Review 11-1-86

89-Dudin,Pair 2-Oriental Rug Review 11-12-88

The Russian author Gogel expended some time and energy to prove that an example with splayed legs was earlier than the "fat-birds"

90-Gogel,Burlington Magazine 1927

Here are the drawings from a 1950`s Russian book,based on the originals from Gogel



In fact only three examples have the "splayed-leg" Bird drawing,Gogel`s(now lost)and the Dudin Pair 1.It is basically the difference between a seated and a running bird.Presumably both pairs from Dudin are contemporary judging by condition and acquisition date.Why should a running bird be older than a seated one?It is anyway the rarer item.

An example published only in Turkoman Studies,formerly Perez Collection,has rows of birds facing in different directions

93-Perez-Williams Collection

But a blaze of light was the example on the cover of Herrmann`s first catalogue,full of flashing eyes

94-SOT 1

The first piece auctioned in recent memory sold at Sothebys on 29 March 1978(99) for 11,000 Pounds Sterling.It later entered the Wher Collection


The world waited ten years for another auction result,$71,500 at Christies NY on 6 December 1988(35)Note the distinctive Apex

96-Christies 1988

Two years later a carpet sold at Sothebys on 20 January 1990 realised $115,500.In this version the birds face in opposite directions from row to row.It subsequently appeared in Herrmann ATT 2,Nr.57

97-Sothebys 1990

The addorsed bird format also occurs on Sigmund Freud`s famous example

98-Freud Museum London

A piece now in the Rothberg Collection sold at Sothebys on 10 April 1991(114) for $63,250

99-Sothebys 1991

Also in 1991 Eberhart Herrmann published an example which later saw the light of day in the Hecksher Collection,now presumably De Young Museum

100-Herrmann-Hecksher-Atlantic Collections 240

A carpet sold at Christies London on 29 April 2004  was dismissed as a copy by Hali(see Hali 135-107)but still reached $23,267

101-Christies 2004

The latest example to surface at auction was sold at Christies on 8 April 2014 (90) for $56,250

102-Christies 2014

Once with Ulrich Schürmann the following was later published in the first catalogue of the Haji Baba Club

103-McCoy Jones Collection 

Mr.Jenkins also possessed a very smart piece,now of course in the Textile Museum

104-Turkoman Studies 259

A distinguished member of this group is in the Museum of Oriental Art in Moscow

105-Tzareva,Russian Collections 46

And finally the famous fragments stuffed into an armchair at the Smithsonian,discovered by Nicholas Eltz and published in Oriental Rug Review(8-2-4)



It is easier to decide what one dislikes amongst these two groups.One fake has been discarded for this selection.The Turkomans were certainly not aware that the inception of these designs(in carpets)lay far away on the Central Persian Plateau.Another path leads to the Caucasian Dragon Carpets,also influenced by the Vase Carpet makers.The origins must surely be sought in ancient Near Eastern Art.

108-serrated leaves

Thursday 20 March 2014

A group of 18th Century Caucasian Lotus-Palmette Carpets

This post was triggered by David Sorgato`s publication on Facebook,19th March 2014,of a carpet once in the possession of John Eskenazi, advertised in Hali 6,Nr 3,page 47.The carpet had previously appeared at Sothebys Islamic sale on 13 October 1982(Lot 51).

1-Eskenazi-Hali  1984

A similar carpet is in the Keir Collection(Spuhler 1978) A further fragment may be from  one of the two pieces and was published in a Carpet Exhibition in Delft(Het Prinsenhof) in 1949.It later entered the Collection of Jan Timmerman,who is seen displaying it here.

2-Keir Collection 57

3-Delft 1949

4-Jan Timmerman

A further fragment was offered at the AAA Sale of 8 January 1932(55)

5-AAA 1932

A later solitary survivor was once in the James Burns Collection.The split arabesque forks have developed into the birds seen on later 19th century Caucasian rugs(for instance,in the “Karagashli” group)


The group is a sidestep from the main group of Avshan-Harshang design carpets,lacking in medallion forms.The Keir carpet,and presumably the Sorgato-Timmerman pieces are on a cotton warp with red(?)woolen wefts,biasing them geographically toward NW Persia. On the whole the designs were developed in 16th century Persia,with the “Red Ground Floral(RGF) Carpets”