The centre of production of the prized pashmina piled Indian millefleurs prayer rugs in the second half of the eighteenth century is thought most likely to have been Kashmir (Daniel Walker, Flowers Underfoot, New York, 1997, p.129). With its close ties with Persia, the quality of its products, and the increasingly strong Indian stylistic influence seen in all the Arts of Persia, it is not surprising that relatively quickly local versions began to appear. A small number of versions have survived all of which are attributable to Fereghan. The use of a corrosive green for certain details, the tonality of the red, and the blue cotton wefts are all indicative. Yet the Fereghan versions themselves show considerable variation. One other rug is similar to ours in the fluidity of drawing, but has an pale red field (sold at Lefevre and Partners, London, 26 May 1978, lot 33). Both of these rugs show an understanding of the design that is greater than the others; they may well have had an earlier Mughal example to use as their inspiration. The border for example, which in both is well understood and flows, contrasts even with the later Mughal examples where the border can be a much more static lattice, such as in a rug formerly in the McMullan Collection and now in the Metropolitan Museum (Walker, op.cit, fig.129 for example).
Another example attributed to eighteenth century Fereghan was published by Peter Bausback (Antike Orientteppiche, Brauschweig, 1978, p.415). While certainly of the same inspiration, the design is considerably less well understood in that rug than in ours. A further example, with drawing that is closer to the Bausback one, was in the Gholamali Seif Nasseri Collection before being sold at Lefevre (26 November 1976, lot 15; for a colour illustration see Perserteppiche, Ein Buch für Liebhaber, Privatsammlung Gholamali Seif Nasseri, Tehran, 1971, no.5, pp.26-27). That example has clearly degenerated from the Bausback one; the vase is no longer recognisable and the upper flowerhead now has a central face. It is however important in that it is dated 1281 (1864-5 AD) which gives a terminus [considerably] ante quem for ours.
The earliest Persian examples of this design share a vase resting on a flat base which has a leafy "wing" to each side, and a large upper radiating flowerhead. These features are also seen on a further Persian rug of this design in the Victoria and Albert Museum, dated to the 18th century but only tentatively attributed to Shiraz (Jenny Housego, 'Eighteenth Century Persian Carpets' Oriental Carpet and Textile Studies III, Part 1, London, 1987, pl.6, p.43; also Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol.IV, New York, 2000, pl.CXIII, p.867). The flat base and the emphasis on an upper flower are both features of the McMullan/MMA rug noted earlier. They are even more prominent in a rug also formerly in the McMullan Collection and now in the Art Institute of Chicago (Joseph V. McMullan, Islamic Carpets, New York, 1965, no.32, pp.138-9; in colour in Arther Upham Pope, A Survey of Persian Art, Oxford, 1938, pl,1275). Their appearance in so many of the Persian copies indicates it may well have been a single rug that reached Persia from India that had such a strong impact and thus inspired all the imitations. From all these design features it is probable that the surviving rug that is closest in design is that again formerly in the McMullan Collection and now in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University (McMullan, op.cit., pl.31, pp.136-7; Richard Ettinghausen (intro. by), Prayer Rugs, exhibition catalogue, Washington D.C., no.XXVII, pp.88-9).
Of all the early Persian versions of the design this is clearly one of the oldest. It has also survived in remarkable condition, with colours and wool that can hardly be less brilliant than when it was made. It is a remarkable survival from a period of carpet weaving in Persia that is generally, erroneously, assumed to have been very lean.