This eighteenth century white ground medallion carpet has a powerful and iconic design that is closely related to a white ground medallion rug in the Textile Museum, Washington. That rug has a central bold octagon with an eight-pointed medallion above and below, (Raoul Tschebull, Kazak, New York, 1971, pl.7). Similarly it has thin curved split-palmettes above and below each star medallion but which are not connected, and a row of smaller hooked medallions separating the top medallion and the central octagon, that are very similar to those at the bottom of the Bärenklau rug. Both rugs are finely woven using natural wool warps and white cotton wefting which suggests that they were produced in eastern Caucasus. Another rug, that has a slightly different structure using red wool wefts, is in the John Douglass collection in California which featured as ‘Connoisseur’s Choice’ in Hali, Issue 57, pp.94-5. It’s design is unquestionably related and has three distinct eight-pointed medallions on an ivory ground that have bold split-palmettes that sprout in pairs on either side.
Neither the Douglass nor the Textile Museum examples however, have such an archaic border design as the present rug, which is more closely related to earlier Caucasian 'Dragon' carpets, as seen on two examples in the Textile Museum, Washington, D.C. (Charles Grant Ellis, Early Caucasian Rugs, Washington D.C., 1975, pls.7 & 9.) One can also see a close relation with the Azerbaijan silk embroideries of the South Caucasus produced at the end of the 17th and into the 18th centuries (see lot 3 in the present sale for a fuller discussion on the group). An embroidery with a similar repeat design of eight-pointed medallions surrounded with bold simplified split-palmettes and hooked motifs with an archaic border, once with Galerie Ostler in Munich, later sold in Sotheby’s New York, 31 January 2014, lot 5.
The Bärenklau carpet appears to represent a stage in the development of Caucasian carpets between the large format rugs of the 17th and 18th centuries, and the classic Kazak and Karabagh weavings of the later 19th century, as seen in a rug sold Sotheby’s New York, 7 April 1992, lot 51. In his article in Hali (op cit. pp.94-5), John Douglass confidently suggests that the archaic design of his rug is the fore-runner for the later group of white ground ‘Star’ Kazaks which are so highly sought after by collectors today.