The red ground Isfahan carpets, such as the present lot, with scrolling arabesques terminating in palmettes set within an indigo or deep green border of similar palmettes, are the most commonly encountered group of 17th century Persian carpets to have survived to the present day. Their dating and popularity is attested by the number that can be see in paintings, particularly by the Dutch and Flemish artists of the period. Yet despite this there has been considerable discussion about their place of manufacture, reflected in the meaningless term 'Indo-Isfahan' by which they are sometimes recognised. This last term is a compromise between those who maintain they were made in Isfahan and those who support an Indian origin. Another common attribution for the group is to Herat, a city on the borders of Persia and Afghanistan. This, the great city of the Timurids which was suppressed by Shah Isma'il at the beginning of the sixteenth century, is also suggested in much of the early carpet literature, having originally been proposed by F. R Martin in A History of Oriental Carpets before 1800, Vienna, 1908, but its failure to recover from its sacking until far later than the sixteenth century is a strong argument against this.
The rich palette of well saturated colours in the present lot typifies the earliest and best of this popular group. The use of white cotton within its design is also particularly effective in delineating individual motifs such as the stylised cloud bands and the two central palmettes. A closely related but fragmentary example with similarly crisp drawing, which was once part of the Bernheimer Collection of carpets, sold Christie's, London, 14 February 1996, lot 34. Another example, formerly in the William A. Clark collection and gifted to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., sold Sotheby's New York, 5 June 2013, lot 18. Neither of those examples however have quite the variety of colours as ours.