Within the corpus of Safavid weaving the so-called 'Vase' carpets clearly stand out. Their name came about from the inclusion of stylised vases within the design from which the tendrils, which issue the palmettes and flowerheads, spring. In most examples this design is directional, the vases appearing in alternating positions and being almost overshadowed by the massive palmettes. Not only is there a clear group of design similarities, but they all share a technical structure quite unlike other carpets of the period. Using this as a basis, in 1976 May Beattie held an exhibition of a number of carpets which used this technique, many of which had designs totally unrelated to the vase and palmette type, in attributing the entire group to Kirman (M. H. Beattie: Carpets of Central Persia, exhibition catalogue, Birmingham, 1976, p.11). This was already accepted as the centre of production of those examples of the classic type, but the inclusion of all other carpets woven in this technique was potentially controversial.
In the later period of manufacture of carpets in this technique, there are a few pieces which have the same general layout but which are far stiffer in execution. A very important document for the dating of the later group is a single-plane lattice carpet in the Iran Bastan Museum in Tehran which is signed by 'Ustad Muhammad Sharif Kirmani and dated AH 1172/1758-9 AD (Jenny Housego, '18th Century Persian Carpets, Continuity and Change', Oriental Carpet and Textile Studies III, pt.1, London, 1987, pl.3, p.42). A few other examples can be found, the majority of which have a very regular lozenge lattice mostly formed by leaf-motifs or branches rather than arabesques (Beattie, ibid, pp.80-81; Arthur Upham Pope: A Survey of Persian Art, Oxford, 1938, pl.1241). The field of the present rug represents a stage in the development between the two extremes, supported by its use of colour in an assymetric manner, which is not found in later examples. Beattie further discusses how carpets of the three-plane lattice design in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, saw a general simplification in their draughtsmanship, with their forms becoming more squared and the structural layout appearing more rigidly aligned. A large fragment with a similar interpretation and drawing of design to the field of our carpet is in the Museé des Tissus, Lyons, Inv.25-385. (Beattie, ibid, fig.41, p.69)
The border of the present carpet, woven with individual palmettes and flowerheads that alternate with sprays of multiple blossoms connected with a thin tracery vine, is one that was employed throughout 'Vase' carpet production and can be seen most recently on the blue ground 'Vase' carpet, formerly in the collection of Alice de Rothschild, that sold in these Rooms, 19 April 2016, lot 101. A fragmentary section of the same border design can be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Inv.994-1886 (Beattie, ibid, fig.38, pp.66-67), as well as on an two further 'Vase' carpet fragments possibly taken from the same carpet, one in the Textile Museum, Washington D.C, inv.R.33.6.5. and the other in the Museum fur Islamische Kunst, Berlin, Inv. I-8-72. (Beattie, ibid, figs.33 & 34, pp.63-64).