The inscription around the inner guard stripe in Armenian minuscules reads:
The weaving of this rug was begun on 11th August 1901 in the Tendripe district of Aleppo in the workroom of Karapetian Karapet, worked by the young ladies of Nevard Karapetian of Sasun, Zaruhi Pedrosian and Mariam Hakobian; finished on 10th June 1904; the design executed by Ardashes Hakobkhan Sultanian.
This remarkable rug has the fullest documentary inscription on any Armenian rug, and possibly on any rug. It gives a very precise picture of rug weaving in the Armenian community at the beginning of this century. It also places the manufacture in Aleppo, a city which, while well known for its silk textiles, has not had a reputation for pile rugs. Where the other weavings of the young ladies of Nevard Karapetian are remains to be discovered.
The design for this rug is virtually taken directly from that of the Isfahan rug published by Pope as being with Sangiorgi (Pope, Arthur Upham: A Survey of Persian Art, Oxford, 1938, pl.1179) or its near pair in the South Kensington Museum (Bode, Wilhelm v.: Vorderasiatische Knpfteppiche aus lterer Zeit, Leipzig, 1901, pl.17). Only in the minor borders is there a difference, with the present rug having many more than the originals. But the von Bode illustration is certainly not good enough to be used as a basis for the design. The question thus arises whether the present carpet was woven from the original of the Sangiorgi rug.
The Armenian community is well known for its superb silk rugs woven in the Koum Kapi district of Istanbul (see lots 18 and 19 in this sale). George Farrow shows that the earliest known weaving from Koum Kapi is a silk rug of larger than average proportions which was exhibited at the Paris Fair of 1900 (Farrow, George and Harrow, Leonard: Hagop Kapoudjian, London, 1993, pp.29-33 and pl.13; also in Anitque Oriental Carpets from Austrian Collections, exhibition catalogue, Vienna, 1996, no.21). Both that rug and the present one have similar dimensions, the Farrow rug being 249 x 156cm. Both are woven to a similar fineness of around 12 x 12 knots per square cm. It seems very probable that there was a link, even if only one of competition, between the two centres producing these rugs. With the ability to weave rugs of the quality of the present example, it is surprising that there are no more rugs known to have been woven in Aleppo. Did the two Armenian master workshops join forces? The border design in particular here is one which in an adapted form appears on many a Koum Kapi rug. Or was the present rug woven to such a standard that, as with the establishment of the Exeter carpet factory in England, it had to close for financial reasons after only producing a couple of weavings of superlative quality?
This rug is therefore the only example known to have been created in Aleppo. It is of fantastic quality and has a suppleness that would be the envy of many a Koum Kapi after nearly one hundred years. It is the product of a workshop which, at the beginning of the century, must have been a very serious if short-lived rival to the emergent Koum Kapi.