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A 'VARIANT' MEDALLION USHAK CARPET
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more
A 'VARIANT' MEDALLION USHAK CARPET

WEST ANATOLIA, LATE 16TH CENTURY

Details
A 'VARIANT' MEDALLION USHAK CARPET
WEST ANATOLIA, LATE 16TH CENTURY
Light touches of wear but mostly in very good pile, scattered small repairs, overall very good condition
11ft.6in. x 6ft.4in. (348cm. x 193cm.)
Special notice

These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

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Louisa Broadhurst
Louisa Broadhurst

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Lot Essay

The earliest Medallion Ushak carpets can be dated comfortably back into the fifteenth century, particularly on the basis of comparisons with other media from the Ottoman empire of that period (Carlo Maria Suriano, 'Oak leaves and Arabesques', Hali 116, May-June 2001, pp.106-115). In his article Suriano discusses a number of early examples of the group, many of which share border features with each other, and also an elegance of drawing of the main field, which make it clear why the design was so popular. One such example is the magnificent Lefevre large Medallion Ushak, now in the al-Sabah Collection, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait, (Suriano, op.cit. fig.21), which has a very similar border to the present lot.

Unlike early Persian carpet designs where the field is centred around a medallion and enclosed by four quarter medallions, an idea that can be directly tied with early Persian book covers, the designs of Ushak Medallion carpets form an endless repeat pattern of alternating rows of offset medallions (Kurt Erdmann, The History of the Early Turkish Carpet, London, 1977, pp.36-39). Whilst the present carpet still retains one single complete medallion just below the centre, all of the remaining medallions are bisected at various points by the main border. The present lot has three central red lobed medallions which have an unusual variant central configuration of two mirrored palmettes which have been rotated on a 90 degree angle and are enclosed above and below by two branches of scrolling arabesque flowering vine. This same ornamentation is found on a fragmentary 16th century carpet from East Anatolia originally from the Ulu Mosque in Sivas and now in the Vakiflar Museum, Istanbul (Belkis Balpinar and Udo Hirsch, Carpets of the Vakilflar Museum Istanbul, Wesel, 1988, pl.47, pp.270-1). Whilst the drawing of the field design on that carpet is more open and less elegant than the present lot, that carpet provides a fascinating insight as to how a design, that was presumably seen on either a late 15th or early 16th century carpet in West Anatolia, travelled within a relatively short space of time to a weaving centre in the East of the country. The light blue secondary medallions on the present lot are also unusual and appear far less pointed than many which take their form from the eight radiating petals of the open lotus flower, hence their name 'lotus' medallions. A very close comparable which has three complete red medallions but which are more compressed in form than ours can be found in the Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst, Vienna, (Angela Völker, Die Orientalischen Knüpfteppiche im MAK, Vienna, 2001, pl 15, pp.82-3) and on a smaller early 17th century example which has the same field design but different border, exhibited by Alberto Boralevi at Satirana, 1992 (Hali 66, December 1992, p.29, and p.158).

The border design on the present lot of linked crenellated arches housing individual palmettes beneath is found on the same 16th century East Anatolian carpet in the Vakilfar Museum (referenced earlier). Interestingly it is a border that is more commonly found on 'Star' Ushak carpets, (see Charles Grant Ellis, Oriental Carpets in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, London, 1988 pl.23, pp.68-9. and Friedrich Spuhler, Carpets From Islamic Lands, The al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait, London, 2012, pp.45-9). The reciprocal arches allow the weaver the possibility to create a bi-coloured ground often using blue on the inner half and the same red ground as the field on the outer section. The ground colour of the border on our carpet is a monochromatic red, however the variety and exuberance of the colours within the details; aubergine, fir-green, yellow, ivory, sky-blue and mid-blue are particularly attractive. It is the number of colours and the variety of ways in which they are used, as well as the overall design of this beautiful carpet that suggest it was likely woven at the end of the sixteenth century.

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