It has been suggested that most if not all of the so-called Smyrna carpets, such as the present lot, were produced for the export market under the direct supervision of the Dutch (Werner Grote-Hasenbalg quoted in Boralevi, Alberto: Oriental Geometries, Livorno, 1999, p.86). Evidence from Dutch paintings shows that they were popular in the second half of the seventeenth century (Ydema, Onno: Carpets and their Datings in Netherlandish Paintings, 1540-1700, Zutphen, 1991, p.53). The first two examples in that work are noted in the 1630s, the rest are all between 1650 and 1700, peaking between 1670 and 1680.
These carpets form a homogeneous group, the vast majority of which have the same border as that seen here with its floral cartouches, a border which is also known on coupled-column "Transylvanian" prayer rugs (Batári, Ferenc: Ottoman Turkish Carpets, Budapest, 194, nos. 75 and 76 for example). One interesting facet of these rugs is that the two other border designs which appear, with the present design, to be the most commonly encountered on the Smyrna rugs, are all also found on coupled column prayer rugs. One is the continuous rosette design found on many of the paintings noted by Onno Ydema; the other is the rosette and diagonal floral spray seen in a painting by Pieter de Hooch (Ydema, Onno: op.cit., fig.48, p.54). The minor borders, which exhibit considerably greater variety, are almost also consistent with the same prayer rug minor borders. Yet no "Smyrna" carpets feature in the extensive holdings of the Transylvanian churches, a fact noted by Robert Pinner in his analysis of Transylvanian Rugs (Oriental carpet and Textile Studies, I, London, 1985, p.295). This reinforces the comment made by Grote-Hasenbalg that these were made for the export market to Europe, but not the same export market as the prayer rugs. The name "Smyrna" presumably derives from the fact they were shipped from there to Europe, and therefore the name of the port was used in the same way that "Bokhara" was used for Turkman carpets and "Rhodian" was used for Iznik pottery.
This being so, it is interesting to note that these carpets have done exactly the same with Ottoman designs as Ziegler did in Sultanabad with Safavid and other Persian designs two hundred years later, again for the European export market. The designer has taken relatively frequently encountered motifs, has considerably enlarged them from the scale of the original, has worked them into an infinitely repeatable design with no medallion, and has produced them in a range of colours preferably on a pale ground! Please see also the following lot.