One of the delights about the weavers of sixteenth century Ushak is that they were not happy just to continue to produce identical carpets along lines which had proved successful; they enjoyed playing around with the designs to create novel balances of colour or proportion; subtle variations on a theme. It was only in the seventeenth century that they lost this innovative streak.
The present carpet is typical of this. The proportions are those of the best carpets of this group, with three full medallions along the central axis all well-spaced away from each other, similar to an example sold in these Rooms 24 April 1997, lot 409. In the present carpet however they have employed a completely different colour balance from normal by having a purely bitonal field, which is normally only encountered with the medallion design (see lot 18 for a later example). The star medallions are outlined in a brilliant yellow which achieves the same effect as the flames around the central medallion in a 'medallion' Ushak: that of setting the medallion out in stark contrast to the field within its glowing surround. A later version of this colour scheme was recently advertised in HALI (91, March 1997, p.88), but with a smaller design and simplified version of the same border as seen here.
The border used here is one found on a number of other sixteenth century 'star' and 'medallion' Ushak carpets including the Thyssen-Bornemisza medallion Ushak carpet (Beattie, May H.: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection of Oriental Rugs, Castagnola, 1972, no.XIV, pp.99-101) and a green ground fragment of a 'star' Ushak in the Keir Collection (Robinson, B.W. et al.: Islamic Art in the Keir Collection, London, 1988, no.T11, p.62 and col.pl.21). This latter carpet, in addition to the most unusual field colour, also has a rich aubergine colour in a few details, a colour which is also found in the present carpet.