Very little is known about carpet production in the non-Asiatic area of Russia, the Ukraine and Moldova before the 18th century which makes it difficult to ascribe carpets with certainty to specific workshops. Generally, and erroneously, the term "Bessarabian" denotes flatweaves and "Ukrainian" is used to describe pile examples, such as this carpet.
The Imperial Tapestry Factory was established in 1716 in the vicinity of St. Petersburg by Peter the Great (reigned 1682-1725) and produced tapestries as well as flat-woven and knotted pile carpets for the court. Trained by weavers from the Gobelins manufactory in Paris, these carpets reflect both the techniques and French taste that was preferred in the decorative arts during the reign of Peter the Great and his successors through the 19th century.
In addition, several estate workshops were set up by wealthy landowners, to produce carpets and other furnishings; these were mainly in the province of Moscow but also in Kursk, Vornonezh, Tambov and Nizhni Novgorod. Unfortunately, there is scant documentation and little has been written about the various rich weaving traditions from this area. (Please see Sherrill, Sarah B., Carpets and Rugs of Europe and America, Abbeville Press, 1995, pp.280-289 for further discussion of Russian and related carpet weaving industries).
This carpet shares a similar design conceit and finely woven single-wefted structure as several examples that have appeared on the market over the years: Sotheby’s New York 2 December 2008, lot 304; Sotheby's, New York, 24 October 2003, lot 111; Christie's New York, 18 December 2002, lot 191; and Sotheby's New York, 10 April 2002, lot 137. They all share a dark brown field design with an allover floral pattern, in this case, diagonal rows of floral paisley forms alternating with rose blossoms. The similarity in weave may suggest that these carpets are the product of a single workshop, or more likely, of an urban weaving center. Interestingly, this carpet shares a nearly identical border design to that of a flatwoven carpet sold Sotheby’s London, 27 April 2005, lot 151, leading us to ponder whether or not flatwoven and pile carpets were made in the same workshop or not.
The fine weave of this distinct group allows for a sophisticated design with great detail which highlights the rich colors used. Although we may never know exactly where they were woven, this carpet exemplifies the technical and artistic achievement of Ukrainian pile weavings.