Wednesday 21 March 2018

Club Med I:the Geometric Gardens

“ It seems worth one's curiosity too, to see them make Carpets; for a great many fine ones are made at Caire, and are called Turkie-work Carpets: Many People are employed in that work, among whom are several little Boys, who do their business so skilfully and nimbly, that one could hardly believe it; their Loom stands before them, and in their left hand they have several ends of round bottoms of Woorstead of many colours, which they place in several places; in the right hand they hold a Knife, wherewith they cut the Woorsted, at every point they touch with the Knife. The Master comes to them now and then with a Pattern, and looking upon it, tells them what they are to do, as if he were reading in a Book; nay, faster too than he could read, saying, So many points of such a colour, and so many of such another, and the like; and they are as quick at their work, as he is in directing them.”

Jean de Thévenot ,Travels Part I,Book II.1657.

Beyond the records of visiting ambassadors we have little evidence of carpet manufacturing in  Cairo until Thevénot.There are earlier reports of a break-in by an angry mob at the Emir al-Nasiri`s palace in 1341,which lists 20 Cairene  carpets as looted;and Barbaro`s comment that Turkmen carpets were superior to Cairene.Erdmann collated 31 references to Cairo as a carpet center,from Barbaro in 1474 to the early 18th century,after which the trail goes cold.A significant inventory of Katharina  Medici from 1589 lists 28 Cairene carpets.The citations are a circumstantial parade of evidence, and as Jon Thompson has pointed out, many of the paintings noted by Erdmann with Mamluk carpets actually display para-Mamluk and Chessboard types.Nevertheless Erdmann`s rigorous presentation is convincing.But were travellers from the distant past really looking at carpets from Cairo?They were hardly experts.  

Already very wealthy before he became Sultan,and a patron of art in all fields,Qaitbay would surely have required his own representative carpets to compete with the Ottoman and Turkmen courts.Fortunately,we can track the projected beginning and end of Mamluk carpet history due to the discoveries made by the Italian expert Alberto Boralevi:a large fragmented carpet from the Bardini Collection with the Blazon of Qaitbay,and a very large item in well-preserved condition from the Medici estate.The Bardini carpet(part of which surfaced beforehand,at the Textile Museum, Washington) cannot be earlier than his reign of 1468-96;the Medici carpet entered the Palazzo Vecchio in 1567. 

001-The Blazon of Qaitbay,Mamluk embroidery,MET

Paintings,so useful in the dating of Turkish carpets,are of little help  here.There are few depictions,perhaps because Mamluk carpets avoid sharp outlining,or a clear division between field and border. 

1488-1500?The famous painting in the Louvre,depicting the reception of the Venetian ambassadors in Damascus,shows an Emir seated upon a wooden podium which is covered in a large medallion carpet.The Blazon of Qaitbay is omnipresent.


Less well-known is the tapestry made from the painting at Powis Castle(c.1545)

003-Powis Castle

1495-1500.Carpaccio`s Departure of the Ambassadors seems influenced by Mamluk carpet decor,with its large medallion fresco and borders.


1499. Marziale´s "Circumcision" probably depicts a Mamluk embroidery,of the type held by the Ashmolean Museum.


1515. Carpaccio`s Sposalizo portrays either a Mamluk carpet,or local production.


1534.The Presentation of the Ring to the Doge is probably the first  reproduction of a Mamluk carpet.It recalls the Barbieri Blazon carpet,now in the MET,and in the painting seems to have been cut.Such carpets were often made in halves and sewn together,which may be the case here.


1540. Although some believe they may have been local productions,it is clear that the ladies of the House of Martinengo are proudly displaying their  Mamluk carpets.


1570. The clearest reproduction of a Mamluk carpet,from Ambrosius Francken,with Christ`s head haloed by a classic Octagram.The elem is of the Cogwheel-Star-Tree type,but the border is atypical.


1579. The de Coligny Brothers,Mauritshuis,The Hague.Note the long silken warps.


1612. Leandro Bassano`s portrait of Alvise Corradini,replete with papyrus umbels.


A late 17th century portrait of Alexander Duff of Keithmore.Illustrated by May Beattie in 1964.


1776. A portrait of Leopold II.It is possible that this is the Mamluk silk carpet,which the Emperor took with him to Vienna.In which case the painter (Johann Zoffany) has taken some liberties with the colouring,or the green ground border has now faded.



Amongst his Fustat findings C.J Lamm recorded two fragments in Egyptian technique with “a right-handed twist” They are 6 and 4 weft structures with shiny wool and rubbish-dump colour.One piece shows an attempt at Kufesque not unlike the V&A `s great fragment.And yet they cannot convince as pioneers.If they were 17th century,would we know the difference? Erdmann saw Mamluk colouring in a fragment from Fustat,now in Berlin;a coptic Arbeit with loop pile.Yet it lacks green and employs   white.Were it not for its ZS spinning, the Benaki Museum`s famous fragment(found in Egypt?) might have qualified,with its plaited knot design,square weave,and dyed warps.



016-Fostat fragment,Berlin

017-Benaki Museum


A new carpet genre instigated a hybrid structure, crossing the Persian knot with depressed warp and three weft shoots  with the all-woollen build of Anatolia.Why they employed woollen warps,and not cotton,is a mystery:only these carpets employ a 4-ply woollen warp.The weft is also eccentric:a multiple,non-plied yarn,which is sometimes used in Turkmen carpets. In general the   Mamluk carpets have a square weave,facilitating the transfer of geometric designs.So characteristic is the S (and SZ) spinning that it must be considered as integral to a design concept of exorbitant symmetry. The S spin can be taken as a clear sign of Egyptian authorship,having been adopted from the tradition of linen spinning.Probably yarn production was controlled by the Copts.The wool,with its particular high sheen,could have been imported,but it is more likely that special herds were kept for this.Often,the wool is noted as having been sourced from goats,and in fact the Barbary sheep is a breed positioned genetically between sheep and goat.A domesticised strain is kept by Bedouins in Northern Egypt,and known as “Barki”It is not clear if wool can be extracted from wild Barbary sheep,which produce small quantities of glossy  fibre.The fat tails of the animals were often so large that they were outfitted with small carriages.


With their limited colour palette the Mamluk carpet colours could easily have been dyed onto natural coloured light brown,beige,or grey wools.Even a decent yellow can be produced on a beige wool,if the pigment is intense enough.To dye yellow,both Luteolin(Weld) and Isparek(Delphinium semibarbatum) were employed,often combined with Dyers Sumach(Fisetin) for added durabilty(Okumura,page 53,and Enez OCTS V-1-18)The Persian Isparek may have been grown locally.The king of red dyes,Lac,produces the fastest insect colouring,and would have been readily available:the Mamluks controlled the Spice Route.The red areas have often corroded leaving the blue in relief.Indigo was cultivated in Egypt,but it may also have been produced from Woad,the chief source of blue in Pharaonic times. Attempts have been made to divide the carpets into two groups based on either three colours,or more.But even when Mamluke carpets have more than the mandatory three shades,these are mostly white,brown,or yellow,in variations.The Mamluke carpet remains a tricolour production,consistent in wool,dyes and weave for at least a hundred years.



The Mamluk carpets were created by professional designers using a subordinating medallion style, unlike the majority of Turkish carpets whose design is generally a repeat  element travelling on beyond the borders.  The Mamluk carpet is a Medallion carpet.The foremost examples of Mamluk carpet art are the large 3-medallion pieces,and the 5-medallion Simonetti carpet in New York.The medallions are a combination of Roman floor mosaics,Coptic purple tapestries and the Koran illustrations of a previous century,just as the re-introduced papyrus-umbel designs are both Pharaonic and arabesque, the cartouche borders an ancient Egyptian invention later taken up by Islamic illustrators,and the lancet leaves within the medallions an echo of the Ushebtis found in myriad Egyptian tombs.Particularly striking is the Eye of Horus symbol in many medallions,half disguised as a rams-horn figure.It functions apotropaically,against "the evil eye" Meaning piled on meaning:for the visiting ambassadors a trip to the pyramids was de-rigeur.The designers of the Mamluk carpets lived in the shadow of a great Egyptian legacy.

021-Eye of Horus


023-Bath of Apalausis,Syria

Whilst three basic design elements were employed(standardised border,umbel -ground decoration and lancet/Ushebti radial medallion)a large palette of small octagrams and polygons was employed,often freshly designed for each project.


025-Chris Palmer

The smaller Mamluk carpets can be divided and traced through their medallion designs.The larger carpets have individually designed medallions.

There are 4 types of Medallion in use on the smaller rugs:

1) An Eight-Pointed Star.

2) An Octagon Medallion,which is the Eight-Pointed Star deprived of its outer points and halo.

3) A cusped,or scalloped Medallion,also used frequently on the larger models.

4) The Medici Medallion,very rare,named after the large carpet in the Pitti Palace,which is a cusped medallion with eight spokes added.

026-The four types of medallion

The three main types are employed together on the Simonetti carpet

027-Simonetti carpet,MET

The term “Elem” has been adopted to describe the frieze-like areas at the start and finish of the smaller sized Mamluk medallion rugs.Kühnel described them as “transverse bands” They resemble the device on Turkmen main carpets, but are contained within the field proper,and not outside the main border.
There are seven different types of Elem used in Mamluk carpets.Some have none,especially the square rugs,and the larger carpets with three medallions.

In terms of frequency,the following examples have been recorded.

1) Cogwheel-Star-Tree (9 items) Composed of two cypress trees flanking a palm tree and stars with cogwheels.The cogwheel appears frequently in Mamluk carpets,but it is a moot point as to whether its occurence is earlier than in Turkey.

028-Cogwheel-Star-Tree Elem

2) Umbels (7) This motif is also commonly used to adorn the field and border,and is presumed(since Brigitte Scheunemann`s article)to represent the papyrus plant,symbol of Lower Egypt.Johanna Zick,however,interpreted it as a  vine.

029-Umbell Elem

3) Cogwheel-Star (5) Can be interspersed with umbels,candelabra,or star polygons.

030-Cogwheel-Star Elem

4) Star-Roundels (4 )

031-Star-Roundel Elem

5) Para-Mamluk design (4) The candelabra tree and floral elements,as used in the para-Mamluk carpets.

032-para-Mamluk Elems

6) Diverse designs (4) Amongst others a cogwheel and roundel frieze from the Pogliachi carpet,and a rare version from the Brooklyn rug.

033-Diverse Elems

7) Cogwheels (3) The repeating simple cogwheel,a rare feature.

034-Cogwheel Elems

8) Octagon Elems (2) Including the frieze from the Kuwait carpet.

035-Octagon Elems

9) Tree-Star (2)

036-Tree-Star Elem

10) Tree-Roundel (2) The Arhan carpet and a rug in a Canadian Collection.

037-Tree-Roundel Elem

11) Tree (2) cypress and palm trees.

038-Tree Elem

The following  Catalogue divides these carpets into 1 and 3 medallion types.The  single medallion rugs are first divided by medallion type,and then by Elem design.By way of an introduction the Blazon carpets will be first discussed.Two examples have been published,and a third is in a private collection in Genua,presumably Bruschettini.


Displaying the Blazon of Qaitbay four times in the field,this carpet would have measured approximately 11 x 4.5 meters in original condition.One corner first appeared in a Swiss collection,and was purchased by the Textile Museum in 1965.

040-Textile Museum

A further eighteen fragments were found by Alberto Boralevi in 1996 at the Bardini Palazzo(14 shown)

041-Qaìt Bay`s carpet,Bardini Museum

The large area of plain red field surrounding the  medallions is unusual,a style shared by another very early fragment of a three-medallion carpet in the V&A,aquired in 1908 from Salvadori in Florence,an associate of Bardini.This is certainly one of the oldest surviving Mamluk carpets,famous for its sampling of Anatolian design elements.The basic medallion plan is similar to the Bardini Blazon rug,and also features the standard para-Mamluk repertoire of cypress trees,candelabras and floral ornaments.153 x 218 cm.

042-V&A 150-1908(reconstruction)

A set of two carpets,very worn,but in the Egyptian technique,are stored at the Archaeological Museum in Granada.Erdmann believed them to be Spanish copies,but analysis from May Beattie proved otherwise.C.G Ellis devoted considerable space to them in his 1968 article.Better photos are not available,but here are border closeups of the two and a repro of the Bardini Blazon border.They are of the same stock,but the stars are placed diagonally.


044-The Granada fragment,illustration 13 from "Milestones"

A very different approach was taken by the makers of the Barbieri Blazon carpet,now in the MET,New York.Measuring 415 x 341 cm,this was also probably made in two halves,like the Bardini example,and subsequently joined.It is structurally abberant with 5 to 9 shoots of weft,and clearly a different palette.The main border is derived from the Blazon pane-surround of the Bardini.It was probably made elsewhere,and despite S spun wool,could be a much later copy.Nothing is known of its history before it entered the Barbieri Collection in Genoa,and the lack of attention it receives on the MET website is curious.

045-MET 1970.135


Square type.

Carpets in this shape  are mooted to have been woven for use on tables.An inventory of 1584 from Lorenzo Correr in Venice lists"Un tapedo cagiarin de tavola quadra("a Cairene carpet for a square table")

046-Boston Museum of Fine Arts 61.939

The Boston MFA`s carpet spearheads a small group of square pieces,in the style most resembling a Muqarnas domed ceiling,such as was drawn out by Shiro Takahashi


The carpet is notable for its superb condition and sheen,and was sold at the Benguiat auction in 1932.279 x 290 cm.

048-Boston MFA 61.939

One of the few rugs to have been published in the Vienna Book(1892) and Sarre-Trenkwald(1926)the Baillet-Latour was with Franz Sailer in the 1970`s before entering the Lehmann-Bärenklau Collection.It was sold at Christies London on 8 April 2014,for $1,297,840,and purchased by the Louvre Museum.Simple in design,with a great deal of papyrus umbels,it features a rare lateral inner guard stripe.240 x 258 cm.


From the Imperial Hapsburg Collection,this was published by Sarre Trenkwald in 1926(plate 48)Banks of papyrus fill the void between areas of strict geometry,but where space is left over dotted crosses have been injected into the scheme,a frequently encountered device also seen on the Baillet-Latour.The inward facing triangles were once part of an infinitely repeating major and minor Turkmen style Göl pattern,only vaguely hinted at here.252 x 316 cm.

050-MAK T8345/1922 KB

Published by Grote-Hasenbalg in 1922,the following was once in the possession of Friedrich Sarre.It is a further simplification with more consistent use of dotted crosses and a pronounced Eye-of-Horus in the medallion.Sold for 67,000 GBP on 23 May 1980.198 x 231 cm.


Once in the Siesta-Wher Collection,and now in Doha,this carpet has an extremely corroded ground lac dye causing it to appear brown-grounded.Without an Elem of roundels and trees,it would fit in the square group.A band of Chintamani decorates the inner and outer border guards.251 x 308 cm.

052-The Arhan carpet,Doha

Cogwheel-Star-Tree Elems.

Sold at Lefevre,London on 27 April 1979 for 11,500 GBP,this carpet has been reduced by 7 cms in the length,having been cut exactly through the center.It was published and discussed in the Eskenazi catalogue of 1982,and later re-emerged at the ICOC Fair exhibition in 1986.Last seen at Christies London on 14 October 1999(lot 142)where it sold for $84,305.132 x 180 cm.


A carpet in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection was first published in black and white by Roger Bechirian(Tarica,Paris)It seems to employ an unusual amount of yellow,especially as a halo effect around the central star.The trees point in one direction.Said to be in good condition.136 x 206 cm.


A carpet from the Palais Rohan in Strasbourg could also belong to the "Square" type,were it not for the Elems,which include palm trees.The size is 260 x 230 cm.It arrived in Strasbourg from the Museum of Fine Arts,Berlin,in 1889.It is of the three colour type(red,blue,green) initially thought to be the earliest;but then rugs with more colours were judged to be older;and now no one is sure.The choice of colour has to do with an artistic imperative,not with chronology.

055-Musee des Arts Decoratifs,Strasbourg

A three colour rug in the Textile Museum was purchased in 1920 from Vitale Benguiat.It seems more filigraine than a similar item in the Philadelphia Museum.In good condition with one stripe of repile.

056-Textile Museum R16.1.4(previously R7.1)206 x 283 cm

057-Philadelphia Museum of Art 43-40-63-135 x 198 cm

Probably from the same workshop as the McIlhenny rug in Philadelphia is an item in Budapest with the same cogwheel center.137 x 207 cm.


A carpet published by Erdmann in 1961 from the Rheinische Bildarchiv is now missing.Unusually it incorporated a second Elem of trees and papyrus.

059-Rheinische Bildarchiv

Cogwheel Elems.

A further simplification reduces the Elem band to a row of cogwheels.Unsold twice at Sothebys in 1999 and 2000,a carpet from the Metcalfe Collection seems representative of the group(Sothebys 17 December 1999,lot 116,estimate $ 80-100,000;Sothebys 27 September 2000,Lot 50,estimate $ 40-60,000.The disturbing bright areas are perhaps restoration,although they were already visible in the Metcalfe catalogue of 1929(Brooklyn Museum) 140 x 211 cm.


A red-blue-green type with yellow wefts and green warps sold at Lefevre,London on 6 October 1978 for 18,500 GBP,and was later given to the Islamic Museum,Berlin, by the Engelhardt Company.135 x 205 cm.


Published by The Textile Gallery in Hali 29,page 75,and later in the Stern & Johns Collection.129 x 173 cm.

062-Stern & Johns

Reduced to a design minimum,and lacking,as the other pieces in this cluster,the lancet-leaf Ushebtis,this example was estimated as an early rug(end 15th) by Kühnel & Bellinger,who incorrectly believed that no other similar piece was known.Purchased by The Textile Museum from K.Beshir.1.77 x 1.33 cm.

063-Textile Museum R 16.1.1(previously 7.22)

Cogwheel-Star Elems.

From the Davide Halevim Sale at Christies on 14 February 2001(Lot55)this heavily repaired carpet sold for $244,690. 2.2 x3.3 cm.


A carpet from the Jacquemart-Andre in Paris successfully defied reproduction;it is difficult to know why the upper border is so dark.130 x 208 cm.

065-Andre-Jaquemart Museum

A similar piece is also in the Musee des Tissus in Lyons,acquired in 1887 from the Parisian dealer Fulgence.134 x 192 cm.

066-Lyons 24.394

A pretty carpet from the Ballard Collection in St.Louis.Although only three colours were used for the pile,warp and weft,the warp and weft were dyed a trade-mark green and yellow. 135 x 190 cm.

067-Ballard Collection,St.Louis

Acquired by Mr.Myers at the 1926 Benguiat Sale("a Damascus Gothic Carpet") and exhibited at the 1947 Chicago Exhibition,this carpet breaks with the usual standard format.Not long enough for a 3 medallion carpet,the field has been elongated between the Elem and the central medallion.420 x 273 cm.

068-Textile Museum R 16.2.4(previously R 7.5)

Another large single medallion carpet is housed at the Pogliaghi Museum in Varese.It is unusual in many ways,from its ornate,almost cusped medallion to the unusual border treatment with quatrefoils,and the intruding triangular shapes at the sides of the field.Size 214 x 385 cm.


070-Pogliaghi Museum

Octagon Elems.

The Berlin Museum`s  KGM 83/571 was removed from the Pergamon Museum by Russian forces at the end of the Second World War,for "safe-keeping"It may one day return.It is an example of a standard design transferred to a larger format.Note the closeup with Turkmen-like Tekke Göl.315 x 230 cm.

071-Berlin-missing presumed lost

A second example in this group also features a large size single medallion decor.At Sothebys on 18 November 1976,estimate 15-25,000 GBP.Now in Kuwait,al-Sabah Collection.442 x 269 cm.


A worn,repaired and badly photgraphed piece from the Schorscher Collection.136 x 197 cm.

073-Schorscher Collection

Tree Elems.

As if to show that Mamluk carpets can be lucidly photographed and reproduced,this Textile Museum rug was published by Esin Atil in her standard work,Renaissance of Islam:Art of the Mamluks.This forthright example features Elem bands with adroitly drawn trees pointed inwards and a dotted cross ground. Acquired 1951 from the Kelekian estate;previously with Tiffany.188 x 135 cm.

074-Textile Museum R16 1.3(previously R7.13)

A second carpet in this vein at the TM was at the 1925 Benguiat sale(Lot 16),and was purchased for the TM in 1949 from K.Beshir.The trees are vertically aligned and seem to depict yellow hanging dates.The red field appears completely corroded.A solitary star dominates the medallion.Size 201 x 140 cm.

075-TM 16.2.5(previously R7.1.1)

Once with Heinrich Wulff in Copenhagen(published 1934),by 1946 the following had entered the Ryksmuseum and was exhibited the same year.It is now in the Gemeentemusum in the Hague.The only known rug with a Tree-Star Elem combination.The trees point inward.The three colour scheme is said to mirror precious gems:rubies,emeralds and sapphires,the cut pile creating a "chatoyance"195 x 136 cm.

076-Den Haag

Papyrus Elems.

Eight red-ground spokes project from the central medallion of a carpet advertised by Davide Halevim in Hali 65,1983.195 x 200 cm.


A three-colour carpet at Christies in 1994 was said to have belonged to Friedrich Sarre.Estimate $ 40-60,000.247 x 168 cm.

078-Christies 20 April 1994(55)

Hardly beautiful but certainly the strangest Mamluk carpet in the Textil Museum Washington is a carpet completely without red.It is said to have a brown ground,but as half the carpet is repaired,this is questionable,and the brown colour may have mutated.Once with Tiffany,purchased in 1952 from K.Beshir.153 x 135 cm.

079-TM R7.17

Two last carpets in the 8-pointed Star group remain to be catalogued.

A very large carpet from the estate of Paulette Godard Remarque was offered at Sothebys on 18 November 1976 (lot 13) estimate 6-8000 GBP;again at Sothebys on 18 April 1984(Lot 205)estimate 15-20,000 GBP;and a third time at that venue on 12 October 1998(Lot 421) estimate 8-12,000GBP.Size 384 x 240 cm.

080-Godard-Remarque Collection,Sothebys

One of the most immaculate Mamluk small carpets was once in the possession of Endre Unger and was sold at Sothebys in 1992 for $275,000.Its medallion stands uncluttered on a simple field,with candelabra Elem and other para-Mamluk accoutrements.Its complex arabesque border is related to the Graf Moy carpet now in the Bruschettini Collection,if somewhat stiffer. 188 x 145 cm.

081-Sothebys 10 December 1992(Lot 67)



Sold at the legendary Dörling auction on 14 May 1985 (Lot 409) for 145,000 DM,this was exhibited in Hamburg,1950.Three colours and brown.A rare cross fills the central medallion with vestiges of plaited Kufi.Last seen with Bausback at the 2016 TEFAF.176 x 120 cm.


A surviving pair to the Dörling-Bausback carpet is in the Louvre.172 x 125 cm.

083-Louvre 73582

A heavily restored,archaic-looking item with cogwheel center still managed to sell for $33,000 at Sothebys on 7 April 1992 (Lot 54) From the Manilow Collection,it had previously been offered at Sothebys on 14 April 1976 (Lot 37) 152 x 180 cm.


Cogwheel-Star-Tree Elems.

Ambassador Aita`s very pretty rug sold for $47,705 at his Collection sale on 18 October 2001 (Lot 205)121 x 190 cm.

085-Aita Sale

With a classic cypress-palm tree depiction a Ballard carpet in St. Louis (formerly with C.F Williams) has a center medallion encircled by eight roundels.Perhaps the frequently appearing eight circle and octagramme motifs represent the moon`s phases,as represented in a diagramme from Ibn al-Shatir.132 x 193 cm.


Damascus,14th century

At Rippon-Boswell`s in 2001,and again in  2016,where it sold poorly for €16,000, perhaps due to excessive restoration.Published by Schürmann in 1979.125 x 180 cm.

087-Wollheim Sale,Rippon Boswell 3 December 2016 (Lot 37)

Papyrus Elems.

Published by Elio Cittone in Hali 4-3-44.The best of this small cluster.225 x 290 cm.


Donated to the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum,Berlin,by Wilhelm Bode in 1905.Exhibited in Munich at the great MMK exhibition in 1910.139 x 200 cm.Museum für Islamische Kunst,Berlin.


Spacious and moody,a carpet from the Cassirer Collection utilises the same schematic papyrus Elem as the Bode carpet.Now returned to Berlin after a long sojourn in Detroit(see Hali 123-27)


Tree Elems.

Donated to the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1942 by Frank Wood,the following first appeared at the 1925 Benguiat Sale (Lot 51)Its panels are particularly beautiful.Exhibited 2015 at the Textile Museum of Canada. 215 x 291 cm.


Now in the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha,the following was sold at the  Bernheimer Sale, Christies 14 February 1996 (lot 103) for 10,925 GBP. 137 x 204 cm.


Other Elems.

Published by Achdjian in Le Tapis,Paris 1949,page 141.The Elem employs stars and roundel.Size is given as 480 x 770 cms.(sic)


Probably the largest of all single medallion Mamluke carpets,this appeared twice at auction.First at Christies on 17 December 1996 (Lot 36)where it sold for $96,000;and in 2001 at Sothebys New York where it plummeted to $24,900.It is notable for its size, 427 x 618 cm,and the inclusion of two human figures,something unknown in this genre.If it were not for the s- spinning it might be taken for a later copy,although the large area of plain colour around the center echoes the oldest pieces.



First published in Eskenazi`s fragments book in 1982(plate 1) this elegant carpet was offered at Rippon Boswell`s on 18 November 1989 (Lot 124)and two years later at Anthony Thompson`s sale where it appears to have reached 28,000 dollars(?)Its current whereabouts are unknown.Very well-drawn para-Mamluk Elems.The inner blue band around the medallion employs the same Kufi script as the MAK`s great 3 medallion fragment.147 x 196 cm.


A rug with Tree-Star elem appeared at Lefevre`s on 28 November 1975 (Lot 26) selling for 3800 GBP;what seems to be the same piece was offered against an estimate of $ 31-49,00 at Christies on 7 December 2016(106),but failed to sell,perhaps due to the effects of severe water-damage. 134 x196 cm.


Published by Kurt Erdmann,and discovered by him during his 1936 foray through the German Museum landscape on the lookout for undiscovered items,the following is still kept in store at the Lenbachhaus in Munich,where it was said to heve been used in the painter`s atelier.It is a strange and exotic thing,truly kalaedoscopic,and it is to be hoped one day a proper reproduction will be available.


Kept in storage at the Victoria & Albert Museum,presumably due to its condition,no museum should be ashamed of this example.Even 400 years of wear could not destroy its beauty.138 x 189 cm.


100-V&A 920-1901

A number of examples with Octagon medallions have no Elems,or merely an indication.The most impressive of these is a carpet in the MAK,Vienna,in almost square shape and with three colours.As with many Octagon medallions,the original 8-pointed star,formed by laying a square over another and turning it,have been reduced to tiny "ears" located at the eight points of the outer blue flange.Two large Blazon-like roundels flank the central medallion and appear to have been transferred from a larger three medallion model.The inner furnishing of the otherwise standard border is unusual,with Quatrefoils and Khatam plaited orbs.244 x 268 cms.

101-MAK T8346/1922

A carpet in Philadlphia from the Lees Williams Collections is a hybrid medallion form between 8-pointed Star and Octagon:the outer halo has been removed and we see the outline of two conjoined isosceles triangles.Strangely,it features one Tree Elem only.Perhaps the weavers ran out of warp,or it is intentionally directional.Describing this rug,Ellis was at a loss to identify a clear ground colour.Time,repair, and the choice of a very light yellow-green impart the rug a monochrome look.221 x 243 cms.

102-Philadelphia 55-65-7

A third squar-ish   carpet was donated to the MET  by George Blumenthal.It too lacks the inner diamond form necessary for a coherent star,although the cloud-collar outlining is present.History has not been kind to it,and the MET`s reproductions are poor.Yet a closeup reveals the advanges of a limited colour range:with what simplicity and ease forms could be varied by keeping outlining to a minimum.The result is a misty,ambiguous blur.248 x 241 cms.


104-MET 41.190.263

Another donation from Blumenthal,again poorly treated at the MET,has an undifferentiated Tree-Elem with dripping yellow dates,which segues into the field.Rare pretty colouring combined with an interesting Kufi latticework at its center.130 x 203 cm.


106-MET 41.190.266

The Islamic Museum`s 6920,acquired from the Berlin Textile School in 1942,was minutely described by Erdmann in 1943.Thomas Tunch also used it as a reference in his ICOC Hamburg lecture of 1993; for the Berlin School it has true pedagogic value.However it seems tired and prosaic,although the plaited kufi cogwheels at the field`s corners are a rare feature.For Erdmann,the presence of 8 cups arranged around the central medallion was a crucial point:it symbolised the position of a food-taster,one of the most important courtly posts,and thus cemented the belief in a Mamluk origin.We may see this today as  oversimplified,but at the time the Egyptian origin of such rugs was not firmly established.It may just have been intended for a convivial round in a Palazzo.There are no good photos available.131 x 188 cm.

107-Berlin,Museum of Islamic Art 6920


Many of the most elegant Mamluk carpets employ the cusped,or scalloped medallion form.It perhaps arrived in Egypt from the Turkmen areas controlled by the Ak-Koyunlu,and later the Safavids;or it may have travelled East from  Egypt.The elements characteristic of the para-Mamluk group are chiefly found on  carpets with large roundels;two exceptions are the Eskenazi carpet,and the Unger Endre,which is a category of its own.The forms were probably created for the Hapsburg 3-medallion carpet in the MAK Vienna,which exhibits them in their most perfect form.

108-Siegfried Troll-"Damaskus" 1937

One of the earliest carpets in this category  entered the Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin in 1896 from the Minutoli Collection.The center is filled with a kufesque star of the type which also adorns the tessellated para-Mamluke style,and a rare border of plaited medallions within roundels.The reproduction here is a reconstruction.Three drawings from Lessing`s first book are shown as a visual aid.179 x 217 cm.


110-Berlin 3479

A second carpet in the Islamic Museum,Berlin is so elegant that Karl Lagerfeld once chose to be interviewed in front of it.As with many of the circular medallion examples it displays an unusual border; often the Elems have been integrated into the field without a clear separation,as here,where the classic para-Mamluke fillers can be seen.The middle border exhibits plaited stars.This is again a photographic restoration,as one border has been removed.Such "restorations" are quite successful due to the strict symmetry of the group.130 x 196 cm.


112-Berlin 91.26

Last seen in the Siesta-Wher Collection.Again, with a central plaited star and borders,but here the papyrus Elem has been marked off from the field.143 x 197 cm.

113-Wher Collection 14564

Once in the Hirth Collection,and later with Ulrich Schürmann in 1965, this piece now belongs to the David Collection, Copenhagen.It is the third member of this small group,and like the Berlin "Lagerfeld" piece,its medallion rests on a field strewn with para-Mamluk elements.A border of umbels and thick palmette leaves has been selected,which also occurs on the TM`s Medici-medallion rug.145 x 195 cm.

114-David Collection 1/1987

Little can be said about a carpet once in the Barbieri Collection,as its whereabouts are unknown and its two appearances in print are undistinguished.It adopts an anatolian-style "Stars-and-Bars" medallion,on a field filled with roundels and star polygons of the para-Mamluk type.The border is again the umbel-palmette-leaf variety.

115-formerly Barbieri Collection

Not a present from the East to the West,but as it turns out from the Kunstgewerbe Museum Berlin to the Palais Rohan,Strasbourg,in 1889.An archaic-looking rug with plaited medallion borders on dark green and para-Mamluk Elems.138 x 178 cm.


A cross between an 8-pointed star and a cusped medallion,the TM `s 16.2.3 was acquired from the Kelekian Estate in 1951,and had been at a Benguiat Auction in April 1932.Its very delicate para-Mamluke Elems are  separated from the field.In good condition.148 x 200 cm.

117-Textile Museum 16.2.3(formerly 7.12)

The second cusped medallion rug in the TM is squatter,with a thick outer band of cogwheels.An umbel and palmette-leaf border with surprising abrash,and para-Mamluk field. A large reweave through the center.181 x 209 cm.

118-TM R 16.22 (R 7.16)

Purchased by the Berlin Kunstgewerbemuseum in 1873.Three small roundels interrupt the border at its center.Photographic reconstruction.109 x 183 cm.

119-Berlin 73,1209

From the Pratt Collection,a carpet in good condition with unusual Elem panels and long size,located at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.131 x 199 cm.

120-Brooklyn 43..42.3

The Mounsey carpet in London`s Victoria and Albert Museum is notable for its arabesque frieze situated in the upper and lower Elem panels.It seems to have been requisitioned from the Simonetti carpet.With a delightful blue;but the medallion looks squashed.153,5 x 191,5 cm.

121-V&A T.26-1943

122-The Simonetti carpet,MET,New York

One of three Mamluk carpets in the Philadelphia Museum of Art,this rug resembles the Mounsey  with its flattened medallion.Lotus palmettes have been inserted into the border cartouches,but the cypress-tree-umbel Elem appears exaggerated.When Wilhelm Valentiner published this rug in 1910,he was the first to attribute such rugs to Egypt.143 x 201 cm.

123-Lees Williams Collection 55-65-8

124-Early Oriental Rugs,Catalogue 1910

A sub-group of the Cusped Medallion type employs an Octagonal Medallion within the central roundel.


Once in the possession of Graf Moy in Germany,and later with Ulrich Schürmann,the most salient example of this group. From a small central plaited star surrounded by Ushebtis,two thick bands,in red and blue,complete the medallion.A rare five petal version of the papyrus-umbel has been employed.Three large roundels of exceptional Nobless support the great medallion,quite blazon-like.The minor guards with a red meander on green ground accentuate an arabesque-kufi border not unlike the more geometric version seen on Berlin`s prayer rug,whose corners, like most Mamluk carpets, turn perfectly.Four medallion-pendant forms,not unlike those on the Brooklyn carpet(but more ornate) appear in the upper and lower frieze areas.As with all Mamluk carpets,nothing has been left to chance,the plan carried out from beginning to end.172 x 205 cm.

125-Bruschettini Collection

Like a little brother to the foregoing,a carpet once with Jerrehian in America also presents us with a challenging border.It was deciphered in an article by George O`Bannon and depicts a halved medallion.Its composition is surely related to the carpet fragments in Granada.132 x 178 cm.


127-drawing: Harold Elliott

A titanic work is the carpet originally in the Hirth Collection (1916)  and later with Peter Bausback(1999) via Bernheimer (1959).It appeared unsuccessfully at Christies on 4 October 2011,and again on 2 October 2012,being passsed perhaps due to an excessive estimate: $ 1,2000,000-1,800,000 (in 2011)It is in excellent unrepaired condition.The estimate is perhaps not unrealistic when considering the $ 1,297,840 paid for the Baillet-Latour in 2014.The carpet`s central node is an International-style plaited medallion,and although only the papyrus motif has been used for the ground covering,it is an elegant display of  force.The four panels connected to the central sun assist its revolution.An unusual border of roundels,in which the cartouches have been eliminated.It is said to have come from the Scots Church in Regensburg. 193 x 223 cm.

128-Private Collection

Not much can be said about the carpet at the 1930 Benguiat Sale (3835) Lot 590,except that it has completely disappeared.Although described as a "Damascus" carpet it is referred to in the description as "Cairene"-quite radical for the time.220 x 257 cm.

129-Benguiat 1930-590

The only known Mamluk carpet in Cairo is at the Museum of Islamic Art.With Elems of eight-pointed stars.


At Christies in 1975,and sold at Sothebys on 11 October 1990 (Lot 658) for $171,600,this later appeared in Eberhart Herrmann`s ATT IV catalogue (Nr. 4)For Herrmann the design corpus and structure originated with the Kipchak Turks,who brought it to Cairo.He presented a Ninghsia carpet in the same catalogue(Plate 2) with S-spinning to support this theory.140 x 207 cm.


In Hali 54 the Herrmann rug was compared to the Berlin example;the Berlin rug came out on top due to its more elaborate palm-tree border,which was probably an expensive extra at the time of purchase.Acquired in 1882.132 x 210 cm.


Published by Sumiyo Okumura in her Catalogue raisonné,and said to be in Harvard`s Berenson Library.136 x 203 cm.

133-Berenson Library

Now in the Museum of Five Continents Munich (formerly the Völkerkunde Museum)this rug is said by Okumura to be from the Basserman-Jordan Foundation.It was published in a poor reproduction on the Museum`s CD inventory(32.52.13)


A very large single medallion carpet from the Keir Collection,once with Sherif Sabry,Beirut.The colour seems washed out and poorly reproduced.An added dose of contrast was necessary to bring out the detail,revealing a well-drawn medallion with mechanical Elems.220 x 306 cm.

135-Keir Collection


Named after the Medici Carpet, discovered by the indomitable Alberto Boralevi,this group encompasses four examples; another four will be examined in the section on larger carpets.

136-The Medici

Only one other rug closely resembles the Medici carpet,a piece sold at Lefevre`s on 17 June 1983 at Lefevre`s,for 38,000 GBP.It appeared at Herrmann`s Gallery in 1983,on offer for 225,000 Deutschmark.A return at Sothebys London on 19 July 1989 realised $84,770.At some point between its Munich and Sothebys exhibition it had presumably been washed,or repair had been removed,which did not enhance its appearance.Obviously it does not have the clout of the larger carpet,where the design fully expands,but it is a harmonious design with the desirable cypress-palm tree Elem repeated in all four corners of the field.137 x 187cm.


A good condition rug which was chosen to open the Textile Museum`s catalogue of Cairene Rugs.In his description,Kühnel deals at length with the cups situated at all four major points of the central star octagon,which perhaps only fulfill a decorative function:they appear to be the vases from which the papyrus undergrowth emerges,and not necessarily a courtly adjunct.The cut-off corners form the major octagram.It was thought by Ellis in 1974 to represent"The Wheel of the Law"137 x 186 cm.

138-TM R16.1.2(formerly R7.2)

Once with Benguiat,a foliate vision of papyrus and thick lancet leaves adorns a border similar to the carpet in the David Collection.From the central medallion,eight spikes shoot out to support the revolving papyrus octagrams.Ivory and yellow have been added to the palette.152 x 197 cm.

139-Textile Museum R16.2.8(formerly R7.7)

Previously with David Sylvester,this apparition was donated to the Henry Art Museum in Seattle by James Burns.(Sold at the Sylvester sale Sothebys 26 February 2002,Lot42,for 4200 GBP)178 x 253 cm.



Once with French & Co,this unusually small piece was sold at the Rainy Rogers Auction on 19 November 1943 at Parke-Bernet in New York,and is now in the L.A Mayer Collection,Jerusalem.It was originally a three medallion rug with five colours.

141-L.A Mayer-190 x 71 cm(estimate)

Late of the Goldschmidt Collection and since 1956 in the Museum für Kunst & Gewerbe,Hamburg,this piece encapsulates all the characteristics of a large carpet on a small scale.Unfortunately,no colour reproduction seems to exist.210 x 135 cm.

142-Hamburg 1956.135 St.15

Despite a full page advert in Hali 28(page 81)this went unmentioned in the following issues` APG section,so presumably did not sell at Sothebys on 16 October 1985( Lot 643,estimate 10-15,000 GBP)It had formerly appeared at the same venue on 18 October 1976.In the Hali advert it is shown sideways,which makes more sense optically;but the colour ads in the catalogues show it longways in runner style.It does not appear to have been cut,and is perhaps just another anomaly.269 x 140 cm.


Discovered by Erdmann in 1960,this was formerly in the possession of Prince Fugger von Glott at Schloss Kirchheim,hence its nickname,”The Fugger”It is reported by Friedrich Spuhler to appear in an inventory from 1615/18,and is now at the Linden Museum,Stuttgart.The central medallion is in the Medici style with eight Wheel of the Law spokes.The medallions are connected by bridges containing cups or vases from which a papyrus sprig emerges.This is repeated within each spoke.The field design is schematic but assured,with octagram stars and roundels embedded on papyrus.The border of alternating roundels and chipped squares is unusual,but occurs on the TM`s fragmentary 3 medallion carpet(R16.3.1)340 x 213 cm.


145-the Fugger

Once with Demotte,and exhibited at the 1926 Chicago show,where it changed hands afterwards to Mr.Myers.In good condition,with a large repair to the upper border.Very beautiful and constantly changing colour in chattoyance effect.The central medallion is the most perfectly formed cusped type known,simpler but more effective than the Simonetti.The upper and lower medallions are contained within an extra octagonal frame.Borders with quatrefoils and lotus on an arabesque ground and extreme abrash.Consequent outlining of major ornaments with yellow.359 x 220 cm.

146-TM R16.2(formerly 7.3)

The better of the two Mamluk carpets in the al-Sabah Collection, this middle size carpet has a lot in common with the Fugger.The size is similar;the minor medallions are quite rounded;the same yellow outlining,which was also used on the TM`s R16.2;and the connecting bridges between the medallions filled with cups and papyrus.The Kuwait carpet excells due to its superior condition,although the Fugger is a more idiosyncratic example.Sold at Sothebys on 29 March 1978(Lot 86) for 121,000 GBP. 378 x 220 cm.


148-Dar-al-Athar al-Islamiyyah-LNS 14 R

A carpet from Schloss Immendorf,Austria,which was destroyed in 1945,is principally interesting for the corner intrusion of a typical Cairene medallion,and is presumably an interim piece made after 1517.472 x 273 cms.

149-T8347/1922 KB

A carpet formerly in the Pisa Collection once hung in the Bardini Gallery,and was auctioned in 1937.Only Bardini`s  photo seems to exist,and no information concerning colour is available.Unusually it boasts three octagonal medallions,the only example with this arrangement.The main border replicates a marquetry style,whereas the outer border is similar to that used on  Berlin`s Mamluk prayer rug.Bardini was one of the first dealers to employ photography as a promotional device,and became highly proficient.478 x 275 cm.

150-Pisa auction

151-Bardini gallery

Grand and battered,the Ryksmuseum`s example was exhibited at the Museum `s exhibition in 1946,the first of its kind after the war.Formerly with Countess von Oberndorf-de Stuers,Lausanne.It is a conservator`s nightmare,as the backing has been painted all round to fill in the missing border design.The carpet however appears untouched.Apart from the tricolore,it also employs a light salmon pink for highlighting.The border features quatrefoils in the cartouches.Described by Friedrich Spuhler as "one of the three most outstanding examples in the world"480 x 235 cm.

152-Ryksmuseum 14545



Exhibited at the Hamburg carpet show in 1950,this Bernheimer carpet was sold at their House Sale on 14 February 1996 (Lot 100) for $375,000.An elegantly proportioned piece,it is the only example with two octagram medallions and a central cusped roundel.Carbon dated to between 1460 and 1640.490 x 228 cm.



A truly majestic carpet is the Hapsburg silk rug,presumably brought to Vienna by the Emperor Leopoldo II.Mention has been made of the painting by Zoffani from 1776,which depicts the Royal family with what is presumably a rendering of the silk carpet.Interestingly,the scene was painted at the Pitti Palace.It is not clear whether the carpet is 100% silk,as differing analysis record either cotton(Flemming) red wool(Sarre,Troll,Schlosser,Völker) or silk(Hein) for the weft.A silk carpet with woolen weft would be a rarity.This is probably the closest a carpet has ever come to a stained glass window effect.The dyes are the standard three colour,with white,brown,and black,and a great deal of abrash.A darker green appears at the top,as if indicating a direction.The central Octagram is laid out on a large cross flanked by four compartments with smaller roundels of plaited arabesque.On the cross background large cones jut out into the field,as on the Ballard fragment.The whole is densely packed with diverse octagrams, and a blue aureal band filled with papyrus surrounds the central sun-like medallion.There is a pristine hardness produced by a knot count more than twice the standard pitch.The plaited kufi octagrammes are the finest ever produced.The upper and lower panels contain all that is necessary to produce the para- Mamluk carpets with hexagonal spaces formed by yellow trefoil cornerpieces.The roundels are surrounded by the standard accoutrements of candelabra,cypress tree and sprigs.On the lightest of green ground borders a yellow papyrus lattice is overlain with small blue flowers,medallions etched in red tracery and a curious figure(like an eli-belinde)crowned with a floralised turban.These figures reverse to form one complete section of border.Although only one silk Mamluk carpet has survived,they are occasionally mentioned in old records and inventories.The Hapsburg silk has often been described as the world`s most beautiful carpet,a judgement with which it is hard to disagree,although some authorities have found it awkward and jumbled.In proportion to its length,the carpet is very wide,although a further six known examples are wider.547 x 298 cm.



159-MAK,Vienna T8332/1922

Initially published as two pieces in Sarre-Trenkwald,1926,it was left to Siegfried Troll to sort out this conundrum,restoring the fragments to one large carpet.It is,in many ways,more interesting than the grand silk example,functioning as the mother-lode of all para-Mamluks.The minor tesselated medallions with alternating cypress and palm-trees,lateral decorations with candelabras,and a blue band of trees and floral sprigs define the inner sanctum,providing the game-plan for their anatolian colleagues.A main,narrow border of mock kufi adds further protection.The central medallion with its reminiscence of blazon red is surrounded by a deep moat of further para-Mamluk onslaughts.Solar flares encompass the giant inner orb,and on the red surround eight suns set.In this geometric garden amazing things happen incessantly,and noble figures dart about.The Mamluk carpet seems to have become self-sufficient,auto-renewing. 550 x 227 cm.


161-Sarre-Trenkwald 1926



164-MAK Vienna T8348/1922

A grand carpet at the Textile Museum has been completed here digitally.The tri-partite design is actually dominated by a red-ground  wall of ogival medallions,surrounded on both sides by thick bands of green-ground papyrus.A blue-ground thick surround supports an inner cusped medallion,and the outer aureole on its octagonal base stretches to the borders.A striking blue inner guard of palm leaves flanks a medallion border as used   on the Fugger carpet.Kühnel remarked on similarities with the silk carpet and the Simonetti,but these are superficial only.A remarkable piece in need of a serious reproduction. Acquired in 1925 from Loewi in Venice.570 x 277 cm.

165-Textile Museum R 16.3.1(formerly R 7.4)

Another of the five Mamluk carpets in Vienna`s MAK Museum has again been completed digitally,as the last meter has been lopped off.The design is a four-and-one medallion scheme known from the Holbein carpets;however actually finding a similar Turkish piece has proven impossible.No Turkish rug reaches this level of kalaedoscopic complexity,and the Holbein carpets in this vein are usually long pieces with a repeating large medallion.This is the dilemma of origin and influence,which Ellis circumvented by inventing the concept of the “International” style,in order to incorporate his “para-Mamluks” .Turkish rugs in this vein are more rural.In the 19th century such 4-and-1 carpets appear frequently,in the Bergama area,and in the Caucasus,as Karachovs.481x343 cm.

166-MAK T 8382/1922


168-Sarre-Trenkwald 50


McMullan-Bausback-John Collins

A large,badly-photographed piece was at Sothebys on 10 October 1979,and 23 April 1980,estimate 20-30,000 GBP;unsold both times.590 x 266cm.

170-Sothebys 1979/80

A worn example from the collection of Mr and Mrs Jon Thompson was on offer  at Sothebys Islamic sale on 28 April 1984(Lot 490)one can just make out the beginning of two medallions at both ends,where the borders have been re-attached.Similar to the TM`s large single medallion rug R 16.2.4.Estimate 8-12,000 GBP.600 x 320 cm(estimated size)


The V&A`s legendary fragment could be proof of the influence of rural weaving styles upon a courtly milieu,if such views were not fallacious.Carpets in the anatolian large pattern Holbein style were either influenced directly by the Mamluk tradition,or were the result of the application of an “International “ style by inadequate means.The kufesque corner pieces are a simplification of the plaited star,often found in Mamluk rugs and later in the para-Mamluk and chessboard versions.The simplified form is feasible in Turkish knotted carperts such as Berlin`s yellow ground carpet which presents them in an all-over design,or the in the borders of the Wind carpet.The complex plaited star form is perhaps too difficult with a medium-fine turkish knot,as used in the Holbeins.The kufi border,comprised of two elements,is unconnected by  an interwoven line,as in the Holbein carpets,and far away from the script-like version on the MAK`s great 3 medallion fragment.The carpet is informed by a kind of earthy elegance.The central medallion is surrounded by para-Mamluk elements,although the candelabras are missing.The carpet had small stars at each corner.Its estimated length would be around 600 cms,but the present width is surely too short;it must have had an extra border.218 x 153 cm(estimate c.600 x ? cm)

172-Victoria & Albert Museum 150-1908

173-L-Berlin;R-The Wind carpet

174-150-1908 corner

A fragment in the Ballard Collection,MET,New York,presents a problem  particular to Mamluk fragments:it is not clear whether this was a very stubby single medallion rug,or part of a triple medallion large carpet.A photo reconstruction implies that the border would not have been long enough for a small carpet,in order to allow the distribution of medallions in the upper corners(as all Mamluke carpets with the cartouche-medallion border are thus planned)The large medallion starts at the base of the field,as with the majority of large 3-medallion pieces. The fragment offers some interesting decor with its lateral panels of Chintamani,which later(?) appear on Cairene rugs.Riefstahl took this fragment as the starting point for his discussion on the palm-tree motif in Mamluk carpets.The trees jut into the field from the Chintamani panels,dripping yellow dates,and pointing at the medallion`s elaborate plaited-star center.Noteworthy are the border cartouches,with an elegant arabesque fill.213 x267 cm.

175-Ballard Collection,MET  22.100.52

A fragment in the Keir Collection does furnish us with certainty and is clearly a three medallion model.The narrow cartouche-rosette borders resemble those on the Martinengo painting.Two large rectangular panels flank the minor octagonal medallion,like pylons.It relates layout-wise most closely to the Ballard MET fragment,and the Ryksmuseum carpet.The wide inner guard may relate to the Granada fragments.244 x 320cm;total estimate 600 x 350 cm.



178-Three versions of the Keir fragment

Employing the Medici-medallion ”Wheel of the Law” plan,a carpet fragment in either the Louvre or the Musee des Arts decoratifs once had an estimated length of nearly seven meters.The entire field is covered with papyrus arabesque.Okumura(Nr 43) compared it to the Keir fragment.Unfortunately,no good reproduction is available.700x323 cm (estimate;actual size 330 x 323 cms)


180-MAD Cl.408

Instead of an emphasis on one central medallion the Simonetti raises the bar to three,with two flanking roundels.Formerly with Simonetti in Rome,the carpet passed to the Sangiorgi and Pisa Collections,thence to French & Co.The Metropolitan Museum purchased it in 1970.It is a repository of all known Mamluke polygons and octagrams.The borders can hardly contain the monstrous gyrating medallions.896 x 238 cm.


182-Metropoltan Museum NY-1970-105

The San Rocco carpet in Venice is the second largest,and is presumed by G.Curatola to have been purchased in 1541,although there is no definitive proof of this.Apart from wear on the ends,it seems to be in excellent condition.The three medallions appear to occupy the same amount of space in the field,with an 8-pointed star flanked by two cusped medallions.Curatola came across this rug in the Scuola building.971 x 373 cm.

183-Scuola Grande di San Rocco-photo Alberto Boralevi

Discovered in 1983 by Alberto Boralevi in the Pitti Palace,Florence,the Medici carpet is the largest of all known Mamluks.It has been preserved carefully since entering the Medici Estate at some time between 1557 and 1571(Donald King)or more definitively,1567(Alberto Boralevi)We can surmise that it was new at the time,so the inventory date is a real blessing for rug historians.Most importantly,the inventory states clearly that it is Egyptian (as was the Cairene carpet  found with it) At nearly 11 meters in length,it is also one of the largest carpets made in classical times-and that on a woolen warp. One interesting feature,mentioned by Boralevi,is the large inner guard.It is the same border,with a slight variation,as seen on the Granada fragments;and in a more regular style,on the Bardini Blazon carpet.With so much space,the designs could be stretched to the limit.There is para-Mamluking,in the 4 large plaited stars protecting the great spoked orb;and much papyrus.The center is composed of eight entwined circles,for in the world of Mamluk carpets, eight is the key.David Sylvester dismissed the Pitti Palace example as artistically uninteresting,but it is surely one of the noblest Mamluk productions-the Medicis` Wheel of Law.1088 x 409 cm.

184-photo Alberto Boralevi

185-Photos:Alberto Boralevi


187-Pitti Palace


Three circular examples are known,plus a Cairene-style model.Cross-shaped carpets were also woven in the Cairene style for tables,but none are known from the Mamluk repertoire.Conveniently,each round Mamluke carpet features a classic medallion design.The borders were not  re- designed to meet the exigencies of an abberant shape,and are a little awkward.The Barbieri rug,with Octagon medallion,sold for 46,200 GBP at Sothebys on 12 October 1982,despite considerable restoration,and  returned to Italy.287 cm diameter.

188-The Barbieri,Sothebys

A carpet in Kromeriz was the subject of an entry on 22 November 2012. Click Here It employs the Medici-medallion.Diameter 270 cm.


A third example is now in the Museum of Islamic Art,Qatar,with an 8-pointed star medallion.It is less circular than the others,or distorted.278 x 226 cm.

190-Doha TE07


Two transitional style carpets,so-called because they mark the adjustment period between Mamluk and Ottoman hegemony,are tantalising because so little is known about them.However,the Princeton rug was the subject of an in-depth dye analysis by Paul Mushak in Oriental Rug Review,V,Nr 11,February 1986.One lattice design,in Princeton,has a Cairene-style field with Mamluk cartouche border;the other,once with Bernheimer and published by Erdmann,has a Cairene border and Mamluk medallion design.The group is dealt with HERE


193-Bernheimer,Published Erdmann,Ars Orientalis 1961


Only two prayer rugs are known which can clearly be identified as belonging to the Mamluk group.The more famous of the two entered the Berlin collection in 1888.It is remarkable for the daring quality of its design,with an inner cloudband border unseen in any other Mamluk carpet.It features a main border similar to the Bruschettini medallion rug and a frieze of cypress and palm trees.The prayer niche paves the way for a group of Transylvanian rugs with elaborate mihrabs.120 x 162 cm.

The second example is not in fact a prayer rug,but a Parokhet,a curtain hung before the Holy Ark in synagogues.Alberto Boralevi was the first to realise its importance,and traced its design origin to title pages used in 16th century Hebrew books.Its likely that such designs were sent to Egypt to be copied,but there is also the story of a Jewish Egyptian carpet weaver who set up shop in 16th century Ferrara.It is a fascinating thought that European designs were copied in Egypt.Perhaps Italian designers were involved in the creation of the classic Mamluk rugs?109 x 138 cm.


195-Fotos:Felix Elwert

196-Padua(photo:Alberto Boralevi)

Alberto Boralevi contemplates the fruits of his labour


Few Mamluke fragments have survived.Two pieces from the Bardini and Purrmann collections have been re-united.They are from the lower left-hand corner of a small size rug.


198-Together again

A fascinating fragment in the Textile Museum,once with Kelekian,is difficult to reconstruct but probably would have been an 8-pointed star medallion design surrounded by a green band.160 x 36 cm.

199-Textile Museum R 16.2.9(formerly R 7.18)

One of the widest Mamluke carpets survives as a fragment exhibited at the ICOC in Milan,1998.It is said to been acquired in Ferrara,and employs a Persian-style reciprocal border whose reciprocal nature has disappeared,and curiously awkward corner solutions.The field cannot be reconstructed.406 x 90 cm.

200-Sovrani Tappeti -162

Two well-travelled fragments(1981-Sothebys 1981-Christies 1998-Nagels 2016(Doha)-Sothebys 29 April 1981,Lot 100:Christies 30 April 1998,Lot 24a:1840 GBP;Nagels 13 September 2016,Lot 100:estimate 2-3000 euro,unsold.)The Doha fragment might well be re-united with the Nagels Lot which went unsold.


Likely to have been the top panel of a three medallion carpet,this piece from the Textile Museum is unlike any other,although it shares an inner guard with the Berlin prayer rug,and a thick field border as in the Ballard,but with dotted crosses.The main medallion is extraordinarily rough-hewn.307 x 163 cms.

202-Textile Museum R 16.2.6(formerly R 7.15)

Exhibited at the 1985 ICOC exhibition in Munich,a rug with combined 8-pointed and Octagon medallion form would have measured approximately 210 x 140 cm.Marked use of yellow.

203-Munich 1985,plate 1a

An unusual fragment,one of two in the McMullan Collection,may have been cut and re-assembled.It is difficult to explain the repeating cartouche border,not seen on any othe example.Rare minor guards.Exhibited in Frankfurt in 1969, now in the Textile Museum.246 x 109 cm.

204-Textile Museum 1966.63.1

Described in the 1970 MET Bulletin as “”Mr.McMullan`s oldest carpet”,and who could argue with that?Part of a three medallion carpet-the 2nd,8-pointed medallion can be seen at the top.This magnificent fragment with large cusped minor medallions,candelabra rows and conical,separated flanges also employed a triangular insert,as in the Bardini fragment discussed next.Followed by a digital reconstruction.137 x 193 cm.

205-MET 1971.263.1

Another fragment from the Bardini Museum was assumed by Boralevi to have been part of a three medallion rug.It carries the “V” inserts on all four sides,as do a number of other pieces.With eight trefoil direction markers around the central Octagram.Note also the interrupted border rhythm with two rosette medallions.277 x 188 cm.

206-Bardini Museum 740

A last fragment from the Textile Museum,once with Kelekian,incorporates many of the polygons and octagrams seen on others of the species,but in a hitherto unparalleled concentration.Although originally around five metres in length,it reveals only one medallion.Exceptionally well-drawn.Three colour with an extra tan shade. 261 x 123 cm.

207-Textile Museum R 7.14

Many copies have been produced over the years,although without the unique wool and weave of the originals they seem "misplaced".A carpet found at Divrigi and now in Istanbul illustrates the middle phase between a Mamluke carpet and a 19th century Central Anatolian rug.


Another type was created at Aubusson in the mid 18th century,of which six examples have survived.These are coarsley knotted rugs made with the Turkish,Persian and Spanish knot,often combined in one piece.A large carpet was published by Achdjian in his 1949 publication,”Le Tapis”At the Myron Taylor auction in 1960 was a large impressive carpet which later surfaced with F.J Hakimian,New York.A very similar item appeared in Kurt Erdmann`s 1961 investigation of Cairene carpets,said to have been on the Berlin Art market in the 1930`s;three border fragments from the same carpet were at Christies London on 15 October 1998 (lot 227) Described as North African,they were purchased for 2300 GBP.Another section of the same border was sold at Rippon Boswell on 26 November 2011 (lot 67) for 732 euro,described as “Spanish” Two further items appeared at Sothebys(27.4.2000-217) and Christies(12 October 2000(lot 50,possibly a fragment))although neither sold(The Sothebys carpet,ex Doris Leslie Blau,was estimated at $300,000-$400,000)Both carpets were subsequently published and offered by Beauvais Carpets,New York.A last item is now in the al-Sabah Collection,Kuwait.In her ICOC lecture Sarah Sherill illustrates a carpet published by Frehse in 1914,which is probably a Turkish copy.It is instructive to witness 18th century Europeans struggling with the complexity of these designs in a limited technique.




212-Sothebys-Beauvais Carpets

213-Christies-Beauvais carpets



A carpet in the Gion Matsuri Society of Kyoto was probably woven in the Deccan and imitates the Mamluk style at a third remove(?)with a dark blue 3 petal border design which also appears on the Chehel Sutun prayer rug

216-Flowers Under Foot,fig 138

The tradition of Khayamiya,or tent making,continues to this day in Cairo and utilises designs clearly adapted  from Mamluk carpets.These textiles have been dealt with HERE


Unlike the Transylvanian carpets,which left many traces in 19th century Turkey,the Mamluk weaving tradition was not carried forth in Egypt,unless one concludes that the para-Mamluk and Chessboard carpets were also woven there.The Mamluk carpet weavers wove the later Cairene carpets in the same technique,which should be taken into account when considering other possible production centers.Were the second-phase Cairene carpets made in Damascus,or even North Africa? This seems unlikely,for such a production must have been located in the largest and most prosperous city,and as close to Istanbul as possible.The use of S-spinning,an ancient Egyptian practice, is also a weighty argument,and perhaps even a deliberate signature.

The Mamluk phenomena is not evolutionary,it represents a “revolution of design ” Perhaps that is why Kurt Erdmann was so fascinated by it.There is no long development as in a village or tribal context,and its demise is as mysterious as its genesis.One searches in vain for records of carpet making from 18th or 19th century Egypt;the chronicles are silent as the Sphinx.

Perhaps Sultan Murad`s request for weavers and wool in 1587 was the beginning of an exodus. Another generation created the Chessboard carpets.In consummate form the Transylvanian rugs appear, influenced by the Cairene style.

218-Mansuetti-Three Mamluk Dignitaries