The name Bessarabia originates from the fourteenth century Bassarab dynasty of Walachia in present-day Moldova and adjacent areas in eastern Romania (see Sherrill, S, Carpets and Rugs of Europe and America, New York, 1996, p. 425, fn. 126). The term, Bessarabian, today is used to denote weavings from various parts of Russia and the Ukraine as well as Eastern Europe. Generally and erroneously, the term "Bessarabian" is used for flatweaves and the term "Ukranian" (see lot 191) is used for pile examples. Unfortunately, there is scant documentation and little has been written about the various rich weaving traditions from this area.
Both tapestry-woven and knotted pile carpets were made at the Imperial Tapestry Factory, near St. Petersburg, that was established by Peter I, the Great in 1716. Weavers from the Gobelins manufactory in Paris trained Russian workers and the carpets reflect the French taste prefered by Peter the Great and his successors during the 18th and through the 19th centuries. The French taste can be seen in this example with its lush scrolling acanthus leaf or rinceaux border interspersed with griffins and cornucopia ending in exquisitely executed boars head terminals. The classic border is an impressive compliment to the subtle and delicate open field trellis design of various strewn flowers and grape clusters.
The most interesting aspect of this carpet is the inclusion at each corner of armorials of Ivan Ferdorovitch Likhachev (1826-1907). Likhachev was born in 1826, graduated from the Naval College in 1843 and following graduation participated in the battle of Sinop. He was an aide-de-camp to General Kornikov and present at the defence of Sevastopol in 1854-55. In 1874 he was promoted to Vice-Admiral and in 1894 was a member of the Suite of His Imperial Majesty Nicholas II. He was military attache to London and Paris and spent his retirement in Paris and Menton. His art collection and those of his cousins are in the Likhachev Museum in Kazan.
It is quite possible that he commissioned this Bessarabian in the French taste to suit his interiors in Paris while military attache there. One can imagine that this Bessarabian would have enhanced a classical French interior and its timeless beauty is just as suited for today's interiors.