This beautiful small fragment comes from the main border of what must once have been one of the most beautiful carpets ever woven. Larger fragments of the border are in the Brooklyn Museum, which have recently been separated from another fragment from the same carpet depicting houris (Erdmann, Kurt: Seven Hundred Years of Oriental Carpets, London, 1970, fig.220). The most notable part of the whole carpet is the central medallion, part of which was in the collection of Baron Hatvany in Budapest and which was last seen during the second world war (Pope, Arthur Upham: A Survey of Persian Art, Oxford, 1938, pl.1141). A further fragment from the carpet entered the Musée des Tissues, Lyon in 1900 (Bennett, Ian: "Splendours of the City of Silk, part 2, Ten Safavid Masterpieces", Hali 33, January-March 1987, p.40). The present piece adjoins the Lyon fragment.
There has been considerable variance on the attibution of a weaving centre for this carpet. Pope suggested Tabriz which Erdmann concurred with. Bennett suggested Kashan or Isfahan for the Lyon example, while East Persia was suggested by Cselenyi when this piece was published. Charles Grant Ellis suggested Herat for the Brooklyn fragments, also suggesting that they came from more than one carpet ("Some compartment designs for Carpets, and Herat" Textile Museum Journal, Vol.1, no.4, 1965), while Donald King, quoting Ellis and Erdmann, sat on the fence for the Hayward Gallery exhibition, quoting "North-West or East Persia" (The Eastern Carpet in the Western World, exhibition catalogue, London, 1983, no.63, p.89).
It is made with a very soft wool which has more of the touch of the wool used in central Persian carpets than that normally associated with Tabriz. And if one follows the generally accepted theory that the "Herat" carpets were made in Isfahan, then there is no other place in Eastern Persia which could have been the centre for the manufacture. The drawing on the Hatvany fragment shows it to have been made during the reign of Shah Tahmasp; the turbans are of a type which went out of fashion in 1560. Qazvin would have been the capital of the country at this time and may very well be the city of manufacture, as suggested in passing by Erdmann. Wherever it was made, it is a remarkable and gorgeous fragment, a survival from what must have been an astoundingly beautiful carpet.