This carpet is unique in a number of different ways. The field is a variant on the 'Star' Ushak design, using a medallion that is known in a small number of other carpets (Michael Franses and Robert Pinner, "Turkish Carpets in the Victoria and Albert Museum", Hali, vol.6, no.4, fig.s(iii), p.369). It appears sometimes on its own, as here, in two Ushak carpets exhibited in Italy (John Eskenazi and Michael Franses, Il Tappeto Orientale dal XV al XVIII secolo, exhibition catalogue, Milan, 1982, no.11, pp.32-3 and 76; Alberto Boralevi, L'Ushak Castellani Stroganoff ed altri tappeti ottomani dal XVI al XVIII secolo, Florence, 1987, pl.7, pp.24-5), and sometimes alternating with a secondary medallion type, as in the Victoria and Albert carpet fragment they are discussing in the Hali article, and in an example in the Orient Stars Collection (E. Heinrich Kirchheim, Orient Stars, a Carpet Collection, Stuttgart and London, 1993, no.192, pp.300-301).
It almost always is used in a way that gives the impression of its being an infinitely repeatable design. Even on a carpet in the Marshall and Marilyn Wolf collection, whose field composition is close to that of our carpet, the spandrels are formed of the majority of the medallion, which makes the eye read the rest of the design beyond the confines of the carpet, an effect helped by the very narrow border on that example (Walter B. Denny, The Classical Tradition in Anatolian Carpets, Washington D.C., 2002, no.38, pp.100-1). Not only does the present carpet cut the corner medallions cleanly in quarter, but it also places them with clear red field around them, making it clear that the design extends no further. This stepping in of the spandrels is a frequent feature of early Turkish town and village carpets, whose design is not dictated by the court, but it is rare in rugs from Ushak. A very few examples survive in Turkey that have this feature; these were presumably made for the local rather than export market (Nazan Ölccer et al., Turkish Carpets from the 13th-18th centuries, Istanbul, 1996, pl.93 p.130, pl.96 and 7, pp.134-5; see also Belkis Balpinar and Udo Hirsch Vakiflar Museum Istanbul, Carpets, Wesel, 1988, pl.42, pp.108, 260 and 261). All four carpets have a greater freedom of interpretation of the main design than is found in the strictly proportioned Wolf example. Our carpet also, while closer to the Wolf carpet in detail, still plays with the design so that the central medallion is extended while each end is slightly squashed in proportion. The symmetricality of this makes one think it must have been purposeful. It is also interesting that the designer extended the vine in the field so that it touched the main border on all but the starting side.
The border is also highly unusual to find on a 'medallion' or 'star' type Ushak carpet. The 'ragged palmette' border is well known on smaller 17th century rugs, particularly smaller 'Lotto' rugs (see one sold in these Rooms, 17 October 1996, lot 424) but in a stiffer rendering. Its execution in the present carpet is closer to the curvilinear version of the design seen on a "Damascus" rug in Turkey (Balpinar and Hirsch, op.cit., pl.58, pp.292-3) and in an example sold in these Rooms, 17 October 1996, lot 417. Similar drawing to ours is found on the border of a Lotto rug, probably from Ushak, with
'ornamented' field (Turkish Carpets from the 16th to the 19th century, Lefevre & Partners, London, 4 February 1977, lot 8). And the Orient Stars carpet noted above has just enough of the border remaining to enable one to tell that that, too, was a 'ragged palmette' border on a 'star' variant field. While related examples are possible to find for the border design, none of the other published examples executed against a white ground. Within the whole corpus of Western Anatolian Ottoman carpets this feature is unusual in the extreme.