The inscription cartouche reads 'Az karkhane (for the workshop of) Aqa 'al-baqi Tajer (merchant) Kashkani'. This side of the rug is woven in wool. The other side is woven in silk and depicts a marriage celebration of a Sassanian king, probably Bahram Gur.
Double-sided rugs are very unusual and very rare, and there is little written about them. Very few examples of double-sided rugs have appeared at auction. A silk double-sided Heriz rug from the late 19th Century has been sold in these Rooms 18 April 1985, lot 137. One side shows a large vase or medallion, the other side an almost mirrored design of two vases with palmettes rising into the field around a central motif. The two sides of another double-sided silk Heriz rug dated ca 1870 and sold with Sotheby's sale The Toms Collection, London, 7 June 1995, lot 46, each have the same overall design but differ in colour. A third example, a double-sided silk rug, this time from Kashan, sold with Sotheby's New York, 1 June 2006, lot 26. It shows two prayer niches which are loosely related to each other in terms of the basic architecture but differ in design and colour as well as entirely in the border. Later examples of double-sided rugs are often woven in wool. There is no published example which is made in both wool and silk. It is also an innovation that each side shows designs as different as in our rug and it is fascinating what craftsmanship it needs to weave such a piece. The pictorial side being made of silk and the prayer niche of wool could indicate that the rug has been deliberately made to combine two very different purposes.
For a silk Isfahan rug whose field design closely resembles the wool side of the present rug, please see lot 4 in the sale of Knotted Gardens: Rugs and Carpets from the Collection of Abdi Roubeni, due to be sold immediately preceding this sale.