The small Mughal pashmina rugs with beautifully intricate designs are realtively well known and published, from the earliest exquisitely drawn Mughal carpets to the later 18th century extremely fine examples woven with millefleurs designs. Joseph McMullan was obviously a fan of the group and collected four, which he then left to various different institutions (Joseph V. McMullan, Islamic Carpets, New York, 1965, nos.31-34, pp.136-143). There is however another group which has not been nearly as well studied, of which the present carpet is a member. Piled in soft pashmina goat hair, the material used is however not as fine as that used in the smaller rugs. The designs are frequently variants on the designs of the smaller rugs, and their weavers seem to be particularly fond of striped versions, either on the diagonal or with chevrons. The weave is coarser than the smaller rugs, and the pile left longer and fleecier, both factors making the design less crisp than on the smaller examples. Many, but not the present example, use light blue cotton wefts. Two examples have been in our sales in London on 24 April 1997, lot 424, and on 15 October 1998, lot 318, while two others have been through our New York salerooms 10 April 1995, lot 100 and 13 June 2004, lot 170. The present carpet is larger than all the other carpets, and is particularly notable in its width, the majority of the others being much closer to kelleh format.
The wool used in these carpets only comes from goats in the Ladakh and Tibetan plain. This reinforces the probability that they were produced in the far north of India, possibly either Lahore or even Kashmir.
The present carpet is the first of the group that has a central medallion included in the design. The small medallion and spandrels on a fine floral ground is reminiscent of some of the smaller rugs such as that in the Textile Museum, Washington (McMullan, op.cit., no.34, pp.142-3). The floral border divided by a zigzag tendril is a more stylised version of that found in another of the McMullan rugs (op.cit., no.32, pp.138-9). The link of the group of larger coarser carpets to the smaller examples is not in doubt; what is not yet clear is whether they were coarser larger examples woven at the same time, or whether there was a time-lag between the two groups in their production.