The double cross-stitch technique in which this carpet is woven is normally attributable to the town of Arraiolos in Portugal. Earlier this century, outside the Iberian peninsula the origin was not well known, such that Cornelia Bateman Faraday published four examples in her book as being Spanish (Faraday, Cornelia Bateman: European and American Carpets and Rugs, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1929, pls.50-53). It was only in 1979 with F. Baptista de Oliviera's publications of his Histria e Tchnica dos Tapetes de Arraiolos that the situation was clarified. Today everything is attributed to this town when in reality that was not the only place weaving in this technique. Various other centres including convents are recorded as weaving comparable pieces (Sherrill, Sarah B.: Carpets and Rugs of Europe and America, New York, 1996, p.56).
Carpets were produced in this technique at least since the 16th century. Many designs were used, including copies of Oriental contemporaneous carpets (Faraday, Cornelia Bateman: European and American Carpets and Rugs, revised edition, Woodbridge, 1990, frontispiece) and fully European armorial designs (Christie's London: Works of Art from Houghton, 8 December 1994, lot 113). But the present carpet is in a style which is not consistent with known Portuguese weavings, whether from Arraiolos or elsewhere.
The motifs which appear most European are those in the corners. They appear on various pieces of Portuguese furniture of the 17th century. But they are also found on colonial furniture from India dating from the same period, albeit usually without the lutes seen here (Terwen-de Loos, J.: Het Nederlands Koloniale Meubel, Franeker, 1985, pl.19). Mer-figures are also found holding the stems of scrolling flowering vine on an Indo-Portuguese coverlet in the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon (Portugal and the East through Embroidery, exhibition catalogue, Washington D.C., 1981). All the floral motifs here are clearly Indian, relating closely to embroideries of the period. A coverlet in a private Portuguese collection attributed to 17th century Gujerat has similar although denser flowers (Van Goa naar Lisboa, exhibition catalogue, Brussels, 1991, pl.46), while another coverlet in the same exhibition has similar running animals in panels formed by curving tendrils in the border (pl.44). An Indian origin is therefore certain for this remarkable weaving, a very rare survival of a Portuguese technique being used in the subcontinent.