WILLIAM MORRIS (1834-1896)
WILLIAM MORRIS (1834-1896)
WILLIAM MORRIS (1834-1896)
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Please note this lot will be moved to Christie’s F… Read more
WILLIAM MORRIS (1834-1896)

'Hammersmith' Carpet, circa 1880

WILLIAM MORRIS (1834-1896)
'Hammersmith' Carpet, circa 1880
with original macrame knotted fringe
hand-knotted wool
13 ft. 7 in. x 13 ft. 2 in. (414 cm. x 401 cm.)
David Black, London.
Acquired by Ann and Gordon Getty from the above, 1995.
L. Parry, William Morris Textiles, New York, 1983, p. 93 (for a watercolor design for the Hammersmith carpet 'Swan House' designed for Wickham Flowers).
Special notice
Please note this lot will be moved to Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services (CFASS in Red Hook, Brooklyn) at 5pm on the last day of the sale. Lots may not be collected during the day of their move to Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services. Please consult the Lot Collection Notice for collection information. This sheet is available from the Bidder Registration staff, Purchaser Payments or the Packing Desk and will be sent with your invoice.

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Elizabeth Seigel
Elizabeth Seigel Vice President, Specialist, Head of Private and Iconic Collections

Lot Essay

Although not initially his chosen vocation, William Morris quickly established himself as an unrivaled pattern designer in the mid-19th century creating wallpapers, fabrics, tapestries, and carpets. He had a strong disliking for the extravagant and overbearing, yet he was able to create intricate textiles often drawing inspiration from floral themes, medievalism, and the East. He believed that hand-woven carpets were superior because of their rich Eastern traditions. And while he continued to produce many popular iterations of his machine-woven carpets, he began hand-knotting his designs in 1877, favoring the Turkish knot woven at a thickness of 25 knots to the square inch. Since there were no manufacturers operating at the production scale Morris & Co. required, by 1879, he had converted a portion of his Kelmscott residence in Hammersmith, which overlooked the Thames, into weaving sheds. From then on, he referred to these hand-knotted carpets as 'Hammersmith.' The letter M, a hammer, and waves depicting the neighboring river serve as identifiers for some of the carpets and rugs made at this location before the move to the larger manufacturing space at Merton Abbey where Hammersmith rugs would continue to be produced after 1881.
Morris was a great admirer of the patterns and construction methods of Eastern carpets, and his familiarity with them often informed the use of color, pattern, and composition in his own designs. He was regularly consulted by the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington, London, when they purchased new items for their collection because of his extensive understanding of Persian, Turkish, and Chinese textiles. His passion and counsel resulted in the purchase of numerous carpets that are regarded today as the finest ever manufactured. While inspired by the designs of the East, Morris's carpets never attempted to replicate the carpets he respected. His creations complemented them by imitating the traditions behind the designs and not copying any particular style or motif.
One of Morris's carpets' most noticeable elements, the borders, frequently shared the same significance as the primary design that filled the carpet's center but at other times purely served as a finishing touch meant to compliment the filling and give a look of polished completeness. Morris firmly believed that the carpets would become "bald and poor" without the depth and variety that the borders gave. Thus he frequently used more than one border design. These designs could take the form of chevrons, barber's pole stripes, zigzags, or a repeating floral pattern. These border designs and combinations were frequently repeated on hand-woven carpets aiding in the identification of Hammersmith carpets.
The present carpet is very similar in design to the 'Swan House' carpet by William Morris of which only a few examples exist. An example of this 'Swan House' carpet can be found in the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago (inv. no. 1974.524).

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