The present lot is one of a rare group of 17th century Persian carpets distinct in their use of embroidered Chenille and metal-thread of which few are known. The term Chenille means 'caterpillar' due to the thicker two-plaited warps with shorter wefting inserted between. Five examples have been extraordinarily well preserved at the Rosenborg Palace in Denmark since the early 1680's. Known as the Coronation carpets they were possibly gifted by the East India Company to King Frederik III in 1665 and have only ever been used for ceremonial occasions thus preserving their condition. Their designs are all closely related to the Isfahan silk and metal-thread 'Polonaise' carpets of the Safavid period under the reign of Shah Abbas. These are extensively discussed in Friedrich Sphuler, Preben Mellbye-Hansen & Majken Thorvildsen, Denmark's Coronation Carpets, Copenhagen, 1987. One of the Copenhagen group differs from the other four in the way the application of the Chenille embroidery is secondary to the overall use of gold metal-thread suggesting that this example was conceived as a gold embroidery and not the other way round.
Two of the Rosenborg group are illustrated in, Hali, Issue 32, October/November/December 1986, pp.18-21, figs. 3 & 4. Another of the five is illustrated in Kjeld von Folasch, The Arabian Journey, Danish Connections with the Islamic world over a thousand years, Denmark, 1996, p.66, fig.1.
Outside the Rosenborg group we know of a chenille carpet in the Armoury at the Kremlin in Moscow. Of the same design and technique as the gold embroidered Copenhagen example, that piece apparently has very little colour and is heavily worn, (Hali 32, October/November/December, 1986, p.21, fig.4; also F.R.Martin, A History of Oriental Carpets Before 1800, Vienna, 1908, p.65, fig.156; also Friederich Spuhler, Seidene Reprasentätionsteppiche der mittleren bis später Safawidenzeit, die sog. Polenteppiche, unpublished doctoral thesis, Berlin, 1968, no.G 7). A further example of the same design is in the collection of the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum in Munich, (Friederich Spuhler, op cit, no.G 8.). The present lot has a design very similar to the Moscow example and to its companion piece in Copenhagen. It appears not to have been so heavily worked with golden metal-thread leaving the chenille as the primary material.
It remains unclear as to why these carpets were executed in this technique. Spuhler, (with Mellbye-Hansen and Thorvildsen, op. cit., pg.39) remains uncertain but suggests that it could possibly have been Armenian weavers within Persia introducing a new technique. Lisa Granlund even suggests that perhaps the Chenille decoration was embroidered at a later stage within Europe, possibly by Portugese weavers, although this seems unlikely, (Hali, 35, July/August/September, 1987, p.64).