Kashan or Yazd, third quarter 16th Century
The pale silver-grey field lightly interwoven with metal-thread with a wide variety of flowering trees, animals and animal combat groups around a central oval medallion with four peris, cartouche and palmette pendants above and below with further human figures and peris, the shaded green spandrels similar, in a silver-grey border of alternating cartouches and roundels containing animals between rust-red floral meander stripes, small touches of repair, some black outlines restitched, damaged minor guard stripes overlaid by later braid, added fringes, backed
7 ft.3 in. x 4 ft.11 in. (219 cm. x 148 cm.)
Rothschild inv. no. AR2451.
S. Troll, Altorientalische Teppiche, sterreichisches Museum fr Angewandte Kunst, Vienna, 1951, pp. 9-10, pl. 25.
E Gans-Ruedin, The Splendour of Persian Carpets, London, 1978, p.115
Museum fr Angewandte Kunst, Vienna, inv.no.30.203

Lot Essay

This kilim is one of a small group of which just under thirty have survived, either complete or as fragments. Almost all are of approximately the same size as the present example, although one slightly longer example is in the Residenz Museum, Munich (A.U. Pope, A Survey of Persian Art, Oxford, 1938, pl. 1265), and there are two yet larger examples each of which appear to have been made in three longitudinal panels (Pope, op. cit., pl. 1264; Hali, 55, February 1991, pp. 96-7). The designs on these kilims vary considerably and are related to pile carpets attributed to a number of different Persian cities.

The most impressive of these kilims is the large example which lacks its side borders, formerly in the Wittelsbach Collection and now in the Schatzkammer in Munich. Its field is full of figural scenes including huntsmen chasing game. The central cusped oval medallion contains thirteen peris, the pendants have inscriptions and paired simurghs while the spandrels show fte champtre scenes of Safavid youths with wine and instruments. The border is of paired animal roundels alternating with peri cartouches. The minor border is a continuous inscription. The relationship of the design of the present kilim with that of the Wittelsbach example is immediately obvious. One minor feature which also serves to link the two is the strange absence of original facial details on the figures. On the present kilim these have been drawn in, presumably at a later date; the Wittelsbach huntsmen on the other hand are still faceless.

Among the others of the group there are some which also relate closely to this. A few with the same structural layout which have animals in the medallions and spandrels set within floral fields also share with the present kilim the border of alternating cartouches and roundels containing animals (Pergamon Museum, Berlin, published K. Erdmann, Seven Hundred Years of Oriental Carpets, London, 1970, pl. V, facing p. 92; Textile Museum Washington, published Pope, op. cit., pl. 1267A; Metropolitan Museum of Art, published M.S. Dimand and J. Mailey, Oriental Rugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1973, no. 26, pp. 105-6, fig. 93 and the closely related Doistau kilim in the Louvre, published Pope, op. cit., pl. 1262). These have been called the "Padishah" group since the Berlin kilim has cartouches inscribed with this word which has been taken to indicate that it was made for the Shah. Closely related to this group are another three whose fields are made up of a series of overall shaped medallions: The Figdor kilim in the Thyssen Bornemisza Collection (M. Beattie, The Thyssen Bornemisza Collection of Oriental Rugs, Castagnola, Ticino, 1972, V, pp. 31-37 and dustjacket); the Francetti kilim in the Wher Collection (I. Bennett, The Country Life Book of Rugs and Carpets of the World, London, 1978, p. 86) and fragmentary kilim incorporated into the tabard of Toyotomi Hideyoshi now in the Kodai-ji in Tokyo (Hali, 76, August/September 1994, p. 108).

These kilims have been given various dates from the early sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth century although most writers plump for a date of circa 1600. While various authors acknowledge that the group of which the present kilim is a part is probably the earliest and best-delineated, no great difference has been suggested in date within the entire group of kilims. The appearance of carpet designs which in pile would be dated to the early or mid-sixteenth Century is explained for example by Dimand and Mailey (op. cit., p. 65) as ".. [the] more realistic rendering of the floral motifs show that the tapestry rug must be of later date, namely the first quarter of the seventeenth century". No further elaboration is given. Yet there is evidence that they must have been made in the sixteenth century. The Kyoto kilim is documented as having already been there in 1598; bearing in mind it had by then been incorporated into Hideyoshi's tabard which he had worn, presumably for a little time, a date of some time before the end of the century is indicated. A Portrait of a Senator by Leandro Bassano dating from the last quarter of the sixteenth century which is now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, shows another kilim on the table in front of the sitter (D. Sylvester, D. King and J. Mills, The Eastern Carpet in the Western World, London, 1983, pl. 13). Furthermore the costumes worn by the figures on the kilims where they are depicted, such as the present one, are all consistent with a date of the middle of the sixteenth Century. Manuscript illustrations show this turban style with its high central baton to have gone out of fashion in the 1560s. Is it likely that a group of textiles would have been created, some at least of which were destined for court use judging from the inscriptions, in a style which was at least thirty years out of date. There is no precedent at all in manuscript painting for any fondness for former fashions. The third quarter of the sixteenth Century therefore seems considerably more probable.

The place of manufacture also is unsure. Kashan is normally the suggested place on account of the similarity of various of the motifs to those of the pile weavings from that city, particularly for example the hunting field scenes of the Wittelsbach kilim with those of the Vienna and Boston hunting carpets. Other design motifs are also taken from pile carpets from Tabriz. But the greatest other similarity is that shown by the so-called Sanguszko group of carpets. There can be found the same variety of medallion and spandrels containing figural designs and the overall medallions which are seen on the Figdor, Hideyoshi and Francetti kilims. This similarity has been noted by various authors including Kurt Erdmann when comparing the Buccleuch 'Sanguszko' carpet ("Ein Persische Wirkteppich der Safawidenzeit", in Pantheon, XXI, 1938, p. 66), Ian Bennett when discussing the Delaittre-Bellanger 'Sanguszko' carpet ("Splendours of the City of Silk", Hali, 33, January-March 1987, pp. 48-9) and May Beattie when discussing the Bhague 'Sanguszko' carpet (op. cit, p. 24). In her discussion May Beattie argues strongly for an East Persian attribution for the 'Sanguszko' group, incidentally reverting to the attribution favoured by Pope, principally on account of their structure, an argument which is generally accepted. Yet their flatwoven cousins are still left attributed to Kashan (ibid., p. 32).

In 1633 Yazd was noted by Dutch merchants specifically for its weavings in silk and metal thread: "Wy verstaeten dat deselve (goude alcativen) meest in Spahan gemaeckt werden alsmede in Jeest, die ordinaris beter vallen als die van Spahan" [we understand that the same carpets with gold brocadings are primarily manufactured in Isfahan as well as in Yazd; the carpets from Yazd are better liked by our executive than those from Isfahan] (H. Dunlop, Bronnen tot de Geschiedenis der Oostindische Compagnie in Persi, I: 1611-1638, Rijksgeschiedkundige Publicatin, The Hague, 1930, p. 452; quoted in O. Ydema, Carpets and their Datings in Netherlandish Paintings, Zutphen, 1991, p. 70). Later that century the Rev. J. Ovington comments on the "richest and fairest tapestries of all Persia" which he encountered near Yazd (J. Ovington, A Voyage to Suratt in the year 1689 by J. Ovington M.A., Chaplain to His Majesty, London, 1696, p. 375, quoted by M. Beattie, Carpets of Central Persia, Sheffield and Birmingham, 1976, p. 9). While not conclusive, it is certainly possible that some of the Safavid kilims, including the present example, which are normally attributed to Kashan, might in reality be from Yazd.

A technical analysis of this kilim is available on request.

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