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Minimal localised corrosion in the red and black, a couple of small repairs, minute spots of old moth damage otherwise excellent condition
6ft.9in. x 9ft.5in. (205cm. x 286cm.)
Alice de Rothschild (1847–1922)
James de Rothschild (1878–1957)
Thence by descent

Brought to you by

Jason French
Jason French

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Lot Essay

Technical Analysis

Warps: cotton, Z4S white,
Wefts: wool and cotton three passes, the first and third wefts are wool, 2Z off-white, light pinkish-beige to brown, second weft
2Z, blue-grey, grey-beige, blue and off-white.
Knots: mostly 2Z, with the possiblity of a few 3Z. 
the knot count per square cm ranges from 27.5 to 39,  with most areas of the carpet around 36 knots per square cm.
Sides: not extant
Ends: one almost intact
Colours: red, pink, orange, darker rusty orange, mustard yellow, yellow, white, cream, black, brown, dark indigo blue, light blue, light
turquoise green, medium green

This important fragment is a significant section from a once truly magnificent Kirman ‘Vase’ carpet woven in the first half of the 17th century and is pivotal in our understanding of the overall scheme. It is a generous portion cut from the upper central section that includes both the bold indigo strapwork border and a substantial section of the upper central field that is filled with a complex three-plane lattice of floral trellis with a background of flowering vine on a ruby-red field.

The term 'Vase' was first coined following an exhibition organised by May Beattie in 1976, which highlighted a group of carpets with designs featuring stylised vases and which all shared a similar weaving technique. The term has since been used to signify all of those carpets woven in this manner and, whether their designs include vases or not, all are now known as 'Vase' carpets, (May H. Beattie, Carpets of Central Persia, with special reference to the rugs of Kirman, Birmingham, 1976, p.11). The structure of the 'Vase'-technique group is very unusual in having three passes of wefts after each row of knots. The first and third wefts are tautly pulled over the closely laid warps with the second weft being much thinner, mostly in natural colours, as seen on the present fragment, but also integrating occasional passes of different coloured wool. The use of fine silk for the second of the three wefts, denotes a carpet of the highest quality within the group.

At the 1999 International Conference on Oriental Carpets, Christine Klose presented an analysis of various ‘Vase’ carpet fragments with the same design as the present fragment. Klose put forward a theory that all of the fragments were once part of a pair of near identical large carpets. Since then, two further fragments have been discovered and we are able to decipher more of the overall scheme and are now confident that all of the known fragments of this design were from a single, much larger carpet. The documented fragments of this carpet are housed in various institutions including, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, (Arthur Upham Pope, A Survey of Persian Art, London, 1939, pl.1220), the Musée du Louvre, Paris, inv. no.10556 (L'Islam dans les collections nationales, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 1977, no.632, p.263), the Museum für Islamische Kunst, Berlin, formerly in the Friedrich Sarre Collection, (Museum für Islamische Kunst, 1971, no.633), the Kunstindutriemuseet, Copenhagen, (May Beattie, op.cit, pp.67-9, no.40), the Burrell Collection, Glasgow, (Beattie, ibid., no.39, pp.67-68), the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, (Vladimir Loukonine and Anatol Ivanov, L'Art Persan, Bournemouth, 1995, no.204, pp.198-9), the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, (Beattie, ibid. pl.40, pp.67-8), the Musée Historique des Tissus, Lyons, inv.no.28.153, (G.Migeon, L’Exposition des Arts Musulmans au Musée des Arts Decoratifs, pl.82), and the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, formerly in the collection of Colonel Norman Colville which sold in these Rooms, 25 April 2002, lot 76.

The discovery of the Colville fragment crucially gives the resolution in the centre of the carpet. This is demonstrated by the main border design on the left of the fragment which shows the carpet to have had a specific design in the centre similar to the corner resolution. This feature, of a specific break in the centre of the otherwise flowing border design, is extremely rare in Safavid carpet design. The Rothschild fragment is key to our understanding of the overall design, in that it is the only one of the known fragments that clearly illustrates the symmetry of design that is mirrored along the central vertical axis. Each huge bold polychrome palmette, flowering blossom and serrated leaf is harmoniously balanced with another on either side of the field. The bold indigo palmette that is placed at the centre of our fragment sits on the primary blue stemmed lattice where the large-scale palmettes or flowerheads sit proudly upright.

The condition of the present lot is quite possibly the best amongst all of the documented fragments. Its rich palette of over fourteen different natural dye colours which are used in playful contrast with one another, create a hypnotic kaleidoscope of pattern. If one could find the missing section immediately to the right of ours, one would be able to connect it with the Boston fragment which joins that of the Musée Historique des Tissus in Lyons, thus completing the top right hand corner of what would have been one of the great large Safavid ‘Vase’ carpets of its time.

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