The Harshang design proved to be very popular throughout the late 17th and all of the 18th centuries and was not only adopted by regions in north west Persia but was as equally popular across the border in the Caucasus. This point was noted and explored by Pamela Bensoussan when discussing four examples in Paris which all bore the same design but were very different in structure ("Four Harshang carpets in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs", Hali vol.3, no.3, 1981, pp.207-209). There has been much discussion as to where these carpets were woven but it would seem that the design was first used in the city of Herat in the Khorasan region but, in origin, ultimately derives from the Isfahan "in and out palmette" design carpets such as lot 49 in the present sale.
The superb quality of drawing in the present carpet typifies the Safavid and early Qajar taste for carpets with finely drawn overall designs. Greater prominence has been given to the beautiful 'flaming' and 'crab' palmettes that are no longer arranged in an ascending formation but are placed on diagonal and horizontal axes. A closely related example with the same delicate drawing was sold in Sotheby's London, The Toms Collection: Oriental and European Rugs and Carpets Volume II, 7 June 1995, lot 129. Other examples of Harshang Khorasan carpets include one formerly in the Robert Calatchi collection (sold Sotheby's London, 4 October 2000, lot 81); another in the Museum of Islamic Art Qatar that was reputedly used during the coronation of King Edward VII in Westminster Abbey, August 1902 (Michael Franses, 'A Museum of Masterpieces, Safavid Carpets in the Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar', Hali, Issue 155, extended online article); and another advertised with Peter Pap Gallery (Hali, Issue 90, January 1997, p.50). All of the cited examples were woven on a red ground and although the Qatar and Pap examples are quite heavily worn, it is the Tom's example that displays the same unusually wide palette of vibrant colours as ours. While all of the borders on the other aforementioned carpets are indigo and relatively narrow, our carpet is framed by a broad shaded grass and sage-green border that is filled with a richly ornamental composition of linked cartouches that alternate with scalloped medallions picked out in pale pink. It would seem therefore that the weavers were not only looking back at earlier Safavid Isfahan designs for their design inspiration but also to those of Tabriz (see Arthur Upham Pope, A Survey of Persian Art Volume VI, London and New York, 1939, p.1119).