It was previously considered that carpets woven in the 17th and 18th centuries that displayed structures woven with jufti knotting, (asymmetric knotting over four warps) were associated with the weaving centres of north west Persia and the south Caucasus. However, it is now widely acknowledged that carpets with this particular style of knotting were woven in Khorassan in north east Persia. The incorporation of the quatrefoil arabesque and palmette fields and the distinctive border with pomegranate palmettes, cypress trees and curved floral sprays are distinctive design elements.
Ian Bennett's article, "Isfahan Strapwork Carpets", HALI, Issue 41, pp.38-39, makes mention of an essay written by Dr Jon Thompson in 1977, where he discusses the positive attributes of carpets woven in this technique;
"The Jufti knot in the past has been rather misunderstood and acquired a reputation that fails to take into account its positive features. It is true that Jufti knotting reduces the amount of work required to cover a given area and that it wears less well than the normal Persian knot. However, simple observation suggests that its use was an accepted craft practice in some Persian workshops capable of producing weavings of the highest quality......Furthermore the use of the Jufti knot in a group of weavings from Khorassan is so characteristic as to constitute a special style of weaving - the appearance and handle of these rugs is like nothing else."
The symmetrical bands of leaves, palmettes and cloudbands create an interesting rhythm across the field which is complemented by the striking cypress tree and palmette border with its cleverly resolved corners. Another carpet of similarly large proportions was formerly in the Capela de Santa Luzia, Lisbon and is now in the Museu Nacional de Arte Antigua, (Jessica Hallett and Teresa Pacheco Pereira, The Oriental Carpet in Portugal, Lisbon, 2007, p.106, pl.39). The field design of over-size quatrefoil arabesques differs in its arrangement to the present lot but both carpets display a similar border design of alternating cypress trees, palmettes and floral sprays. Where on the Lisbon carpet the border palmettes seem to have degenerated into squat pomegranate-like palmettes, ours are much clearer drawn and show the early stages of the later widely used turtle-palmettes that dominate north west Persian weavings of the 19th century.
The rich array of colours within the palette of our carpet retain much of their original depth and are used in numerous combinations. Unusually a number of the larger cusped palmettes and smaller flowerheads have a more exotic spotted decoration which is less common.
A comparable example, formerly in the estate of the Late Giuseppe Rossi, sold Sotheby’s, London, 12 March 1999, lot 1541. Despite being cut and reduced in length, it had a similar border design with palmettes facing inwards rather than outwards, and the same inner guard design. A further example sold Christie’s, London, 14 April 1976, lot 25, with a magenta field displaying several distinctive quatrefoils, including one of similar shape to the central group in the present carpet. For another 'Herat' Carpet, 17th century with a madder field and palmette and lanceolate leaf design, and the same border type, see Sotheby’s, London, 6 May 1977, lot 79. The large court carpets woven in Isfahan and favoured by Shah 'Abbas I, were drawn with similar red ground palmette vine designs and became perhaps the most recognisable of all of the court designs. For a fuller discussion on the design source and carpets of Isfahan see Jessica Hallett, 'From the Looms of Yazd and Isfahan', in Carpets and Textiles in the Iranian World, 1400-1700, Oxford and Genoa, 2010, pp.90-123.