Wednesday 5 May 2021

London 1931


Five years after the Chicago exhibition,Arthur Upham Pope launched the 1931 International Exhibition of Persian Art at the Royal Academy in London.Although not alone in this endeavour he was the driving force behind it,and his world-wide connections made good the paltry $50,000 dollar budget at his disposal.A British  gunboat brought the Iranian Royal Jewels to London,where they were guarded by an extraordinary security system made up of bells and whistles.The exhibition can be seen as one of the first "blockbuster" shows and was extremely well-visited and received.London developed a severe bout of Orientalism-hookahs and harems were all the rage that season.As usual the Popes worked themselves to death,and were eventually rewarded with dinner at Buckingham Palace.

AUP`s relation with the Shah of Iran began after he held a legendary lecture in Tehran.He was subsequently granted access to all mosques and shrines in Iran for the purpose of photography.Presumably through his contacts in the carpet fraternity he heard of the cache of silk carpets at the tomb of Shah Abbas II in Qom,which he first visited and photographed in 1926,subsequently publishing his findings in a German art magazine.He was allowed to bring the entire ensemble of fourteen pieces to London where the enormous round carpet was laid out surrounded by large potted plants in an act of symbolic reconstruction.

The group is presented here in toto for the first time.A photo from the Abbas II Shrine in Qom shows the large carpet in place,and demonstrates how precisely the weavers worked(for those who believe the Ardabil carpet may have been cut or folded to fit a room)

Of the fourteen carpets,one was a Polonaise,which was placed over the tomb and is obviously from another source.Two carpets were made as pairs and are octagonally woven.The smaller carpets were allegedly hung in the bays around the central tomb,although these are already heavily decorated.Chardin,who was in Persia in the 1660`s,has left us a drawing of the Shah Abbas II tomb,whose walls are covered with large vases.Today,the large single vases have disappeared and been replaced by repeating smaller ones.In the Chardin reproduction,the floor appears decorated,perhaps with a floor-covering.One should not forget that Chardin knew Abbas II personally,but perhaps the drawing is inaccurate.It seems strange that extra furnishing should have been provided for the already extensively decorated walls,and the function of two pairs of shaped carpets remains unclear.If hung,the shape would have been unnecessary.If wedged into four of the bays,why was such a perfectly fitting large 12 sided carpet woven to cover the floor?Why do the shaped pairs differ in size?The carpets have been dated to 1671, Abbas II died in 1666,however,only one carpet is dated,the narrower of the two shaped pairs.

The Qom Silk Carpet Ensemble

London 347

London 331

Published 1892

London 325

Erdmann,Dedalo,right hand picture

London 328

London 334


Vic & Al

The Polonaise

London 140

Reading through the rug literature,one often encounters a mention of the 1931 Exhibition,but as only a provisional catalogue was published, with the tersest of descriptions,it is difficult and sometimes impossible to know which pieces were exhibited.A second Souvenir catalogue featured some illustrations of carpets,but again with a very brief text.

This brevity was overcome in 1939 with the appearance of The Survey of Persian Art,in which many of the pieces were convoked and described in AUP`s inimitable style.The following entry provides a walk-through of the 133 carpets exhibited with some inevitable lacunae.The pieces were spread over ten main rooms,and special lighting with coloured walls was in place.

The Central Hall shows a Mexican stand-off between the Anhalt and the LA Ardabil carpet,both loaned by Duveen,who also financed the transport of all exhibits from the US.A Red-Ground Floral carpet from Mashhad seems to adjudicate between them.

The Central Hall

Gallery III features the silk Qom Carpet faced by The Sanguszko and Schwarzenberg carpets,followed by the Berlin Schlossmuseum Vase carpet,the Sarre Animal rug now in the Met,one of the Ardabil silk Tapestries,and the Milan Hunting Carpet.On the opposing wall hang the Bode-Berlin Animal medallion,The Figdor Garden carpet,The Havermeyer Vase carpet,the Buccleugh Sanguszko,and the Haim Animal carpet.

Gallery IV shows two silk Kashan rugs,from Munich and Paris,the Bardini Medallion fragment and the large silk Branicki animal carpet. The Tabbagh Strapwork carpet can be seen through the entrance. Following on are the Ford silk animal rug,the white-ground Salting now in Tehran,the Salting carpet now in Cairo,and the medallion carpet fragment from the Musee des Gobelins.

Only one photo is known of Gallery VII,which displays an unknown Red-Ground Floral carpet,the Bruce Vase carpet,the Parish-Watson Polonaise,the E.T Brown Vase compartment carpet,the Bavarian National Museum Polonaise,and the Jeziorak Vase rug,with perhaps a side-shot of an unknown carpet possibly loaned by Louis Cartier.

Gallery VIII showcased the Imperial "Jewels"which in fact were a group of chiefly enamelled objects,flanked by a Polonaise carpet from the Hermitage,and another of  Figdor-Henri d`Allemagne decent,the ensemble backed by Phillip Sassoon`s large Polonaise,which no doubt enthralled its owner.


97.These assembled border fragments from Imre Schwaiger are an interesting first choice and may have raised some eyebrows with their tattered condition.The three-part medallion-cartouche border occurs on a number of Medallion carpets,but rarely with animals,which are reserved for a superior type of rug,such as the McMullan fragment,and the Thyssen and Seley carpets.Other pieces of the Schwaiger carpet are in the Victoria & Albert Museum and in Karlsruhe,stretched over two chairs.


99.The Sarre Animal carpet,said to have come from the Ardabil shrine.Lent by the MET where it still resides.The companion piece is now in Doha.

More info here,plate 25:


100 & 106.A pair of silk-metal kilims,originally from the Ardabil Shrine.A design of large vases in baroque style,worldly and unsuitable for a religious environment,but very costly.

100 & 106

103.The Milan Hunting Carpet,from the Poldi Pezzoli Museum.The most prominent carpet in the show,no doubt due to its date of 1523.Today it would not be granted so much prestige.A grid-woven carpet,as opposed to the other Hunting carpets which were clearly dashed off by great ustads from cartoons,in a painterly manner.The centralised date surely commemorates-after all the carpet was only half-finished.


The Milan carpet inscription from the reverse side

108.A high-quality RGF from the Cassirer collection,published in 1892,but now lost to sight.With finely tuned Spiral Vines which reveal its proximity to the original model(the Emperor's Carpet) and a rare cartouche border.


A similar border on a carpet once with Kelekian


113.One of three(!) Sanguszko carpets in the show from the Osma Institute,Madrid.


115.A small medallion-shrub Vase carpet from Kelekian which later passed to McMullan(now MET)An influential design in the 19th century.More at 115:

Chicago 1926

116.Bode`s gigantic Medallion carpet,said to be from a synagogue in Genoa,although this cannot be substantiated.Shown here with its pair,the Getty Coronation carpet,which still retains its corner panels with peris and angels.The Bode carpet displays a Chintamani design in its remaining corners.Largely destroyed in World War II.


118.The Figdor Garden Carpet,now in the MAK,Vienna.An archaic variant(like the Jaipur carpet)leading many to assume it is earlier.


119.A grand Vase carpet with compartment design,via Kelekian to Horace Havermeyer,now in the MET,which also owns a Polonaise pair with similar design.


120L.The Stockholm Grotesque fragments,which may or may not be the original border to the pieces in the Louvre(see 130)Difficult to believe that the same blue would have been repeated in the border,but the all-silk structure tallies.Rarely reproduced.


121.The Garland Medallion carpet fragment from the V&A, a proto-Salting with metal thread.The Vic and Al did not lend too many carpets-after all they were just around the corner.However they did host an accompanying symposium.


125.The Boughton House Sanguszko Carpet,a grid version of the carpet in Lyons.The yellow and white tigers appear to be signed.



128.The Haim Animal-Combat Carpet is a NW Persian or South Caucasus product in the classic Safavid style but with decidedly crazy rustic interpretation.Simpler,but more elegant is the Quill Jones piece.These carpets are dealt with here:


Quill Jones

130.The Louvre Grotesque fragments,listed as three pieces.Presumably the attached border fragment stayed home,and does not really fit the picture,although it too would seem to be on all-silk foundation.


Kestner Museum

132.The often cited but frankly overrated Graf Dragon Carpet,partially destroyed in WWII.


Graf carpet in East Berlin

134.The Wilson-Filmer,later Lady Baillie carpet,a pair to yet another German war casualty,sold for $527,715 at Christies in 2004.


135.The original Count Sanguszko carpet,arguably one of the greatest Safavid carpets,puts the Milan Hunting Carpet in the shade,and is justly the name-giver for a small but legendary group.


 at the Miho Museum

136.Another German Museum carpet gone AWOL in 1945,the pair to a carpet once in Baltimore.Full report from 252 onwards:



138.The noble Schwarzenberg carpet,exhibited in Munich 1910,see here,plate 45:


140.The Qom circular silk carpet,woven in two halves,although this is not 100% proven.

A set of photographs made by A.C Cooper were on sale at the exhibition,all with slightly varying comments to those in the catalogue;possibly the work of another author.They were invaluable in the preparation of this entry.


AC Cooper

150.Another great Safavid masterpiece,the fragmented arabesque medallion carpet from the Musée des Gobelins,about which Charles Ellis wrote so eloquently.


Good,but not Anhalt

153.A Salting carpet now in Cairo which has been ostensibly traced to a 17th century Inventory in Valencia.A total of eight Salting carpets were on show.


158.The white-ground Salting carpet now in Tehran.

158-then and now;AUP was not averse to a bit of photoshopping

165.The Edsel Ford silk animal carpet,now in the Detroit Institute of Arts,one of only four with this design.


166.Loaned by Pope himself,and later with his patron Mrs.Moore,this small kilim fragment is quite unlike the better known group of silk kilims.It resembles a piece now in Doha,ex Koelz Collection,which depicts Lila and Majnun,the Romeo and Juliet of the East.Very hard to date.At just 82 cms high,the figures appear over-dimensional,as in a Siyah Kalem painting.Its true scale can be appreciated in a photo from Gallery IV where it hangs like an afterthought close to the wainscot. Now in the Yale University Art Gallery.



169.Alone the black and white photo of this large silk carpet hanging in Burlington House is enough to convey its extraordinary beauty and grandeur.It is clearly one of the great lost carpets,but two fragments from what must be its pair are kept in the Hamburg Museum of Arts & Crafts(ex-Schürmann) ,and a third in Boston's MFA.


A.C Cooper


173.Another grand proto-Salting rug from the Bardini Museum.The animal combat panels are derived from the Lyons-MET Cartouche carpet pair.


179.The Goupil silk Kashan from the Gobelins in Paris.A comparable,but lesser rug is in the MET,ex-Altman Collection.


185.Another marvellous silk Kashan of the medallion type enclosed by a thick band,the companion to which is now in Portugal.Bavarian National Museum.




 192.Prince Yusef Kamal`s incomparable medallion fragment,known only from Pope 1117,and now vanished.


201.The Cochran Medallion carpet,now MET.In abysmal condition.More see here,plate 32:


MET,The Yerkes pair

 204.An oversize RGF from Parish-Watson(795 x 315 cms)


 207.A carpet apparently with the Confraternita del Santissimo Nome di Maria in Rome,which perhaps could be traced.

Update:through the good offices of Alberto Boralevi the carpet has been found in the Bruschettini Collection,Genoa.It was purchased from Gigi Pagnano in 2009.An stellar example of a Sickle-Leaf RGF carpet with a highly developed border.Amazingly fresh.

211.An untraceable carpet with Parish-Watson,presumably an RGF.


213.The Tabbagh strapwork design carpet now in Hamburg.The smaller version of some very large carpets.





217.A charming little Animal-Medallion carpet from the Ryksmuseum with rustic drawing and trees.Very quirky border.A superior example is in Lyons.


223.The Goldschmidt Shrub Carpet,published by Sarre-Trenkwald II-54.Later in an Austrian collection,and sold at Christies in 2000 for $19,113.Often taken for an Indian carpet,although there seems to be no real evidence for this.Frequent and interesting variations in the field.


227.The Sangiorgi carpet,a descendent of the Emperor`s.One of the great carpets.More here,plate 77:


234.An unidentified carpet from George Mounsey.None of the known culprits fit.There may be a lead in the hardtoget auction catalogue of his collection.

239.Another description leading nowhere.Drey was a well-known German dealer.


243.A fragment lent by the Persian Government with more than a touch of Ardabil articulation.


245.A large Polonaise from Kelekian,somewhat similar to a smaller rug from the Fletcher Collection in the MET.Logged by Spuhler as Nr.140.The first of fifteen Polonaise carpets in the exhibition.


249.A Portugese carpet with French & Co.Now in the MET.


252.This appears to be the only Red-Ground Floral carpet found and still present in Iran,now in the shrine at Mashhad.It was quite a feat of Pope to bring it to London,but the inference seems to be The Shah`s desire to break the power of Mullocracy.It is a sickle-leaf palmette rug sometimes attributed to India.A similar treatment with long-stemmed leaves appears on an Indian carpet now in Hamburg,the “Dohna” Carpet,said to have been taken from the Turks at Ofen in 1686.However a relation can also be posited to the Polonaise carpet in Najaf.




255.The Cassirer carpet,now Berlin,dealt with here,Plate 9:


258.An early Bij Majnun carpet with large white trees,somewhat reminiscent of the Glencairn carpet,and a piece with Nalbandian.Lent by Drey.


265.The McLaren Aberconway Polnaise,from the V&A.A similar design can be seen on an example in Najaf.More info




276.A Vase Carpet fragment lent by Ispenian in Cairo.One of a notorious group reconstructed by Christina Klose.A map of the various pieces was presented by Christies in 2020,although this fragment is erroneously attributed to Houston-it is in fact in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.



279.The Rainy Rogers Polonaise,later with Doris Duke at Rough point,was sold at Sothebys in 1990 for $506,000,and again at Christies in 2008 for $ 4,450,500.One of the most beautiful Polonaise carpets,pure silk,no metal brocading.



290.The E.T Brown Vase Carpet,later in the Keir Collection.At least 25 examples are known with a Classic design on red ground and with a petal border.Actually very few,but due to their high profile,they are frequently published,thus creating a multitudinous impression.The finest of this type is perhaps the Ballard in St.Louis.


292.The Jeziorak Vase carpet,lent by Thyssen,was last sold at Sothebys in 2013 for $462,825.

A smaller size makes it particularly attractive,even in the furnishing area.With its arabesque border it can be compared to the V&A`s grand example.


Victoria & Albert Museum

293.The Bavarian National Museum`s Polonaise carpet,kept in Munich,has not been published since 1950,and could do with an airing as it was only published once in colour in 1892.


293-Hamburg 1950

294.A Vase Carpet in the Compartment design,published by Pope in the Survey.Then with Miss E.T Brown.Another piece with this design was once with the Munich dealer Herbert Ostler,but may be a later Indian copy.

Who was Miss E.T Brown?




296.The Parish-Watson Polonaise carpet,later in the Keir Collection.The pair is in Berlin. 



297.The Bruce Vase Carpet,later with Ulrich Schürmann.Of a type which transformed into an allover shrub design.Rare tree border.


Sothebys 1993

298.Presumably the Haim carpet,hung in a corner of Gallery VII.Unusual repeat design of cloudband palmettes and a strapwork border.


300.The first of two carpets lent by Louis Cartier,the art-dealing member of the Cartier dynasty.Vase type.No photo,now vanished.

303.Part of a group of Vase fragments,lent by the Arab Museum in Cairo.Other parts are in the V&A,Berlin and the Textile Museum.


306.The only white ground Vase Carpet,in the MAK,Vienna.Another part of the same rug is in the Textile Museum.


310.From the Residenz Munich,an animal-combat silk rug with metal brocading.A kind of Polonaise,but then again-discussed here,plate 55:


312.The second Cartier carpet.Perhaps the Cartier Archive could be approached.

323.A rarely published Polonaise from the Studziana in Poland.


325.From the Qum Shrine.


327.A Polonaise carpet lent by Count Potocki.The pair seems to have belonged to Remarque,but this is not clear from Spuhler`s entry.

328.From the Qum Shrine.


330.The famous psychedelic Silk Kilim from the Residenz,discussed here,plate 61:


331.From the Qum Shrine.


333.A Polonaise carpet from Saint Marco,a gift to the Doge.Further discussion:


334.From the Qum Shrine,signed and dated.


335.A pair of silk Kashan kilims from the Residenz.It`s not clear which one was exhibited.

Further discussion.plate 60:

337.Sir Philip Sassoon`s Polonaise appeared briefly in colour at Christies in 2003 and sold for $304,080,despite apparent condition problems.Pope used it as a backdrop for the Iranian Crown Jewels,and rightly so.Veni,vidi,vici.


339.The Polonaise carpet apparently draped over the tomb of Shah Abbas II(at least on festive occasions)A Vase Carpet Polonise,as it were.


340 & 343.Two silk kilims from the Qum Shrine.

341.The Figdor Polonaise carpet with winged palmettes.Later with Bernheimer,now in the Ryksmuseum.


342.A Polonaise medallion carpet with powerful strapwork border.From the Museo Degli Argenti,Palazzo Pitti,Florence.


343.From the Qum Shrine.


345.A Polonaise fragment,first published in 1895.Lent by Bernheimer,now in the Ryksmuseum.


346.A Polonaise now at Boughton House,lent by the Duke of Buccleuch.


347.From the Qum Shrine.


348.The second Polonaise carpet lent by Grace Rainey Rogers,sold at Parke-Bernet on 18 December 1943(408)


352.The Figdor-d`Allemagne Polonaise,later with Moshe Tabibnia.Used to flank the Crown Jewels.


353.A Polonaise from the Hermitage.Used to flank the Crown Jewels.


354.The Bliss silk tapestry,now in the MET.Seems to anticipate the layout of many 19th century Persian carpets.


365.A tapestry from the Ardabil shrine,in silk with gold brocading.This may be one of the two tapestries said to be held in the Tehran Carpet Museum.No photo available.

366.The Berlin Padishah silk tapestry,so-called because...see here,plate 27:


368.Another silk tapestry,from the Textile Museum,known only from this reproduction.


369.The Figdor-Thyssen silk Tapestry,a fabulous Persian Manga.Similar to the Wher Collection example now in Doha.


410.A rarely seen silk tapestry from the Residenz,lent by Prince Rupprecht.


517.A silk prayer carpet with garden design,from the Mashhad Shrine.Dated 1651.A similar carpet is in a Beirut Collection,but two silk rugs from Herrmann far outweigh these in importance and beauty.


518 & 522.A Salting style prayer carpet pair,one from Ardabil and the other from Mashhad.

519.The Salting medallion rug from Qum.
A certain confusion surrounds this entry.It has been ascribed to the Salting carpet from the Ardabil Shrine(OCTS V-2,39)due to the description on the reverse side of the A.C Cooper souvenir photo.However,the photo which accompanies the Burlington description is that of the Qum Shrine Salting prayer rug.The Cooper photo description belongs to another piece,presumably the Salting from the Iran Bastan Museum,Catalogue Nr 518.

1931 catalogue entry

A.C Cooper souvenir photo description

A.C Cooper photo


520.The Ali Ibrahim Salting medallion carpet from Cairo.


521.The Paravicini Salting prayer rug from Cairo.


523.The much travelled Salting prayer rug from Bacri Freres.Later with Bohler-Kelekian-  Battilossi-Textile Gallery-


527.A carpet from Harold Nicholson,which surely can be traced.

 528.A fragment of a Persian or Indian Saf from the Sarre Collection,now Berlin.


Another fragment from the same carpet in Istanbul.


529.A fragment from the same carpet,lent by the persian dealer Rabenou,now Kuwait. More info plate 93-100 here:



530.Another piece of the above carpet,at Grosvenor House in 1973,later Wher Collection.



729.The Kelekian Red Ground Floral fragment,in the Emperor`s style.Now in Liberec.


730.Fragments of a Salting carpet lent by French & Co.Last seen with Jay Nazmiyal.


731.A powerful Arabesque carpet,lent by Bernheimer,discussed here:


737.An Afshar rug said to have been lent by the Petag and woven in Tabriz.Probably a mix-up.


763.Another bread and butter rug from Anglo-Persian,presumably included for “educational” purposes.


764.A large white-ground Herati variant carpet lent by Haim,which later appeared in the Survey attributed to Maurice.Dated to the 18th century,which seems optimistic.


765.Lent by R:S Cooke,and perhaps published by Tattershall in his “Carpets of Persia.A Hamadan carpet.

771.A Herat carpet lent by Ali Bey Ibrahim of Cairo.No photo available.

772.A Harshang carpet lent by Bernheimer and dated to 1808.At the Heyl auction in Munich in 1930.It was published in the Survey and reappeared at the Dorotheum in 2018,selling for $48,500.It has sometimes been confused with another Bernheimer carpet,also Khorasan and also dated(1803),which was auctioned in 1996 & 2015.


772(after Pope)

774.A Persian silk carpet lent by Behar.On the V&A photo however we see a medallion carpet,possibly Ferahan-Sarouk.This is typical of the general confusion surrounding the event.


778.A Petag carpet in the Vase style,in which the company was specialised.Shown here is an example at Christies in 2005.

The Chintamani brand-mark of the Petag

779.A Khorasan loaned by B.C Prichard,and a similar carpet once with Bechirian.



785.A North West Persian runner loaned by Creasy Tattershall,who published it,together with a number of vin ordinaire products in his little potboiler “Carpets of Persia” in 1931,a book written for the Burlington House Exhibition,where a number of modern rugs were shown.


786.The Bernheimer Shrub Carpet had already been shown in Munich,1910.It was eventually auctioned at the Bernheimer sale for $46,050.Ostensibly boring and mechanical,it is in fact a very subtle and beautiful carpet.


787.Creasy Tattershall with another,more interesting carpet featuring what is usually a bag-face design.


Rothberg Collection

791.A Senneh prayer rug lent by A.P Apcar.This design is used in various parts of Iran,often on prayer rugs.


Sothebys 1983

812.Berlin`s great Arabesque carpet sadly burned in WWII.Only small fragments remain.Judging by the border,perhaps Khorasan.


814.The Sharples Dragon Carpet from Philadelphia,an exemplary model.More info here,plate 3:


817.The Chadbourne carpet from Chicago`s Art Institute,reckoned as early by some authors(“Ak-Koyunlu”),but probably 19th century.666 x300 cms.


820.Apparently a NW Persian interpretation of a Vase Carpet design.Consigned by A.Maurice,now Gulbenkian.



822.A Khorasan carpet once with Prince Sanguszko,now missing.Probably the antecedent of the Nigde Carpet.Another smaller rug also exists.


Sothebys 1982


Nigde Carpet

824.The Parish-Watson Medallion carpet had also been shown at Pope`s 1926 Chicago Exhibition.Now Tabibnia.Discussion here,plate 1:


825.The imposing Mclaren Garden carpet,now in Kuwait.With some similarity to the Tom`s fragment.A very old carpet in the MET has medallions with tree outgrowths.


ex-Toms Collection


827.Lent by Behar,no photo available.

829.The McIlhenny Khorasan Tree Carpet.More discussion here,plate 22:


ex-Wher Collection


830.Lent by Mrs Gilbert Russell.Published by Pope plate 1271.A Caucasian/NW Persian variant of the classic Persian carpet design,with ever-shrinking panels.Now lost to sight.


841.The semi-cartouche medallion design makes another appearance arranged into medallions around one large central star.This carpet,loaned by Beghian,was later with Herrmann.Its companion is in the MAK Vienna.


846.Edith McCormick`s pair to the Emperor's carpet in Vienna.The most influential of all oriental carpets,which cast the longest shadow.Discussion here:


850.The Anhalt Carpet,lent by Duveen.Said to have been picked up on the field at Vienna in 1683,which apparently was a happy hunting-ground for carpet collectors.The most riotous of all arabesque carpets,of which the smallest portion could launch a myriad of other rugs.


The Anhalt at take-off

856.The second of the Ardabil carpets,lent again by Duveen,must have given some rug-fanciers food for thought,as it allowed a direct comparison with its larger mate in the V&A.This was the first time the two carpets had been together in one town since Vincent Robinson had them stitched up(if in fact it happened simultaneously)That appealing mix of academia and commerce so typical of the carpet world again came to the front in Burlington House,where many of the artefacts were in fact disguised sales objects.But the point of the show was neither pedagogical nor historic:it was simply a gigantic visual blast in which the visitor was to “soak” himself to the full.