A number of extraordinary carpets were produced under the reign of emperor Shah Jahan (r.1628-1658) which reflected the decorative opulence and richness of his court. Until around 1630, Indian carpet designs were based upon earlier Persian models but after this point artists were encouraged to develop a greater ‘Indian’ style. Many of the carpets contained characteristic ruby-red fields decorated with floral designs conceived with a new and refreshingly accurate botanical realism, which was similarly employed in contemporaneous Indian paintings and architecture, (see Robert Skelton, A decorative motif in Moghul Art, Aspects of Indian Art, Los Angeles, 1972, p.147).
Perhaps the most famous group, known as the 'Lahore carpets' which illustrate this new naturalism, were woven for the court of Rajah Jai Singh I (1622-1688) who commissioned a great number to decorate his vast palace at Amer, built in 1630. A good proportion of these remain today, in varying condition, in the City Palace Museum, in Jaipur (Franz Sindermann & Manvi Seth, Some Facts about the Jaipur Carpets Treasury, manuscript article). The carpets were listed by A.J.D Campbell in 1929, when under the auspices of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, he studied the collection of carpets in the palace mainly for conservation purposes. While the inventory was never published, the photographs which were taken to accompany it survive in a handful of sets (A.J.D. Campbell, To the President and Members of the Jaipur Council, unpublished catalogue of the carpets “in the possession of the State of Jaipur”, 3rd January 1929). The photographs give a very good indication of the parameters within which most of these carpets were woven.
There appear to be two distinct groups into which they fall; those referred to as ‘shaped’ carpets, about which there is great discussion as to their intended purpose and installation, and those woven vertically but designed to be viewed horizontally, (see Maurice S. Dimand, The Kevorkian Foundation: Collection of Rare and Magnificent Oriental Carpets, pl.XII, and one in the Keir Collection, E.Gans-Ruedin, Indian Carpets, London, 1984, pp.108-9). It is difficult to know whether our fragment is from a ‘shaped’ or a rectangular carpet, as both display identical designs and structures. Campbell noted sixteen such shaped carpets in the Jaipur collection in 1929 but according to the extensive research of Steven Cohen, twenty-seven near complete carpets, with a further dozen fragments which may or may not be parts from the other twenty-seven, exsist. Research has proved difficult due to limited access to the collection, loss over time of the original cotton labels and the paper records which have grown increasingly hard to decipher (Steven Cohen, ‘The Shaped Carpets of Amer’, HALI, 203, Spring 2020, pp.50-61). For two examples of complete carpets, see Daniel Walker, Flowers Underfoot, Indian Carpets of the Mughal Era, New York, 1997, p. 104, fig. 101, cat. no. 25, now in the Cincinnati Art Museum; and fig. 102, in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The drawing and sequence of flowers of the present fragment is very close to an example that sold in Sotheby’s London, 20 September 2006, lot 40. That carpet had been extensively reconstructed and possibly re-shaped into a rectangle, having had its corners removed but it is possible that the present fragment could be the original missing lower right hand corner.