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Corroded black and brown, minor localised moth damage otherwise outstanding condition
8ft.3in. x 5ft. (251cm. x 151cm.)
Alice de Rothschild (1847–1922)
James de Rothschild (1878–1957)
Thence by descent

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Jason French
Jason French

Lot Essay

Technical Analysis

Warps: cotton, off-white, Z4S
Wefts: three weft passes, first and third wool, 2Z, off-white to brown, second weft is either 1Z
or 2Z cotton, pinkish-tan, white or blue.
Knots: mostly 2Z, a few 3Z, the knot count per square cm. ranges from 27.5 to 49, most areas of the
carpet around 36 knots per square cm.
Colours: red, pink, orange, mustard yellow, yellow, white, very corroded black, brown, very dark indigo blue, light blue, light green,
medium green
Sides: right side: two or three outermost side cables, each x 2, Z4S white cotton, overcast by newer red wool
left side: two outermost side cables, each x 2, Z4S white cotton, overcast by newer red wool
Ends: missing a few rows of knots at both ends

The second of the Rothschild ‘Vase’ carpets is the smallest in size but is the only one of the three to have its complete field and border and is undoubtedly in the best condition. The simplicity of its design is no less powerful as through the use of colour it leaves a lasting impression. The closest comparable to this carpet is the Comtesse de Behague Kirman ‘Vase’ carpet that sold in these Rooms, 15 April 2010, lot 100, for what was then a world record for any carpet at auction.

The Rothschild ‘Vase’ is just under one metre shorter in length than the de Behague carpet but both have the same width. At first glance the design of both carpets may appear identical, formed of a foliate and flowering two-plane lattice, however there are a number of subtle differences between the two. The most significant change can be seen two thirds of the way up the field of the Rothschild ‘Vase’ carpet field where one sees the introduction of a secondary red leaf on the connecting lancet-leaf lattice, as well as on the scrolling vine lattice beneath. There is a further elaboration to each of the flowering buds that are framed in lozenges formed from the leafy stems, where they have flourished from a small daisy-like flower head to a tri-partite flowering finial. One further alteration in this upper section is in the flowering bud terminal on each of the vertical axes which now faces in the opposite direction and has changed from a pale yellow to a pale green. These small changes have a significant effect on the overall design which is arguably more successful in the lower part of the field.

One difference between both carpets that is seen throughout the field of the Rothschild ‘Vase’, is the replacement of the palmettes in the saz or lancet leaf lattice with blue and yellow petalled flowerheads. The red ground border on both the de Behague and the Rothschild contains a near identical design of individual flowerheads and palmettes connected by grouped blossoms, although the de Behague has an additional singular large flowering bud in its arrangement. There are also clear differences in the choice of narrow minor stripe decoration on each. The present lot has a relatively common leaf and flower meander outer stripe but a more complex reciprocal design in its inner stripe, that has presumably morphed from the more common arrow-head into a series of interlocking circular motifs.

The overall design of the Rothschild carpet is a significant shift change within the oeuvre of Kirman ‘Vase’ carpets. Where so often the design is focused around individual flowers or palmettes, here it is arranged so that the blossoms are completely secondary to the leaves. It is not however just the powerful scrolling of individual saz leaves that creates the energy of the design; but the rhythm set up in the way they interlock. The movement is enhanced by the tripartite division of colour on each running longitudinally. The pairing of facing leaves from two different plants with the same colour, creates a circular rotation as it dances above the lapis-blue coloured ground. It is the design’s apparent simplicity that makes it so highly effective.

This design can also claim to be the earliest prototype for the most popular Persian carpet design of all - the so-called herati pattern. A comparison of the design on this carpet with that on the field of the early Sauj Bulaq kelleh in the present sale, lot 97, shows leaves with very similar tripartite division, but with an additional stem giving them the appearance of fish - hence "mahi" . Here then is an example of yet another Kirman 'Vase' design which was to become hugely influential in later carpet weaving.

This carpet provides further evidence to support the theory that the weavers of Kirman in the 17th century were the most inventive and influential of all carpet designers in the history of the Persian carpet. Its design is a wonderful synthesis and distillation of some of the earlier 'Vase' designs into something that has a lightness of touch, and clarity of space formed through a profound understanding of the arrangement of colour.

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