Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Fragment of a Carpet with Cartouche Border

Object Name:
late 16th century
Made in Iran
Silk (warp and weft), wool (pile); asymmetrically knotted pile
Rug: L. 43 1/4 in. (109.9 cm) W. 49 in. (124.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Joseph V. McMullan, 1970
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 455
This carpet bears flowers on winding stems, birds, and Chinese cloud bands in a dense arrangement covering the entirety of its deep red ground. Similar imagery appears on works executed in other media, including in painting and bookbinding, from sixteenth century Iran, where it references the role of hunting and gardens in the lives of Safavid elite. Although only a fragment of this carpet remains, polylobed cartouches along its border further reflect this theme.

A few 16th century Persian rugs with designs of the highest sophistication, complexity and nervous energy have survived. Probably the most noteworthy are the so-called ‘Emperor Carpets’, one of which is in Vienna,[1] its mate in the Metropolitan Museum in New York (Acc. no.43.121.1). This is a fragment of still another such piece.

Basic expression in the field is secured by placing one series of forked arabesques over another. Either system in itself is a complete and satisfactory design. However, the blending of two such arabesque designs is an outstanding achievement. But the designer was not satisfied with the dual floral system bearing a series of palmettes and rosettes of varying scale, but chose to introduce asymmetrical cloud bands as well, along with flying birds. In strong contrast to the apparent freedom of the field pattern are the large-scaled geometrical units displayed in the border. Here we find a multilobed medallion containing what appears to be either a cheetah or a leopard attacking a gazelle. Adjacent is half of an oblong cartouche whose principal decoration is an elongated, balanced cloud band. Moving along the border is a chain of balanced, interlocking cartouches, ornamented in the centre with arabesques and on the flanks with huge half palmettes. All the elements described above create a field of odd-shaped areas ornamented principally with birds perched upon a simple scheme of vines and blossoms.

[Arts Council 1972]


1. F. Sarre and H. Trenkwald, Old Oriental Carpets, 2 vols., trans. by F.A. Kendrick, Vienna 1926–9, vol. I, pls. 6 and 7.
Joseph V. McMullan, New York (by 1960–70; gifted to MMA)
"Catalogue of an exhibition held at the] Hayward Gallery, London, 19 October–10 December 1972." In Islamic Carpets from the Joseph V. McMullan Collection. London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1972. no. 13, p. 37, ill. pl. I (color).

McMullan, Joseph V., and Ernst J. Grube. Islamic Carpets. New York: Near Eastern Art Research Center, 1965. no. 13, pp. 66-67, ill. pl. 13 (color).

Ellis, Charles. Oriental Carpets in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1988. p. 235.

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