The Emperor's Carpet

Object Name:
second half 16th century
Silk (warp and weft), wool (pile); asymmetrically knotted pile
Rug: L. 299 in. (759.5 cm) W. 133 1/2 in. (339.1 cm) Wt. on a 10" tube: 144 lbs. (65.3 kg)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1943
Accession Number:
  • Description

    One of the finest products of the Safavid court ateliers, this carpet once adorned the summer residence of the Habsburg emperors. The main field balances a sophisticated net of floral scrolls, large composite palmettes, cloud bands, buds, and blossoms with a myriad of real and fictional animals—dragons and Chinese antelope, lion and buffalo, tigers and leopards, ducks and pheasants. A verse found in the inner guard band likens a garden in springtime to the Garden of Paradise.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Inscriptions in Persian in nasta‘liq script on inner, minor border
    (verses by Zahir al-Din Faryabi [d. 1202])

    بیا که عهد چمن تازه کرد باد بهار که باز گشت چمن را طراوت رخ یار 
    Come, for the breeze of spring has renewed the promise of the meadow,
    for the freshness of the beloved’s cheek has returned to the meadow.

    چمن هنوز لب از شیر ابر ناشسته چو شاهد آن خط سبزش دمید گرد عذار
    No sooner had the meadow washed the milk of the cloud from its lips
    than those green whiskers sprouted around its countenance
    as on the lip of an adolescent.

    مخدّرات چمن جلوه م کینند امروز عروسیست نبات بنات را پندار
    The cloistered ladies of the meadow display themselves today.
    You would think it was a wedding for their daughter-sprouts.

    و گرنه بهر چه گردون شکوفه گل را سفیده بر زده گلگونه کرده بر رخسار
    If not, why did the celestial sphere bring out dawn of the rose blossom with
    rouge on its cheek?

    همه جواهر لعلست غنچه را در تنگ همه بضاعت مشک است لاله را در بار
    The rosebud holds ruby gems tightly in its embrace;
    the tulip has merchandise of musk in store.

    ولی ز تنگ دلی گل بخود فرو شده بود نمی گشود دهان و نمی نمود عذار
    But the rose had closed itself over in distress and
    would not open its mouth or show its face.

    فراز تخت زمرد نشست از شبنم بتاج لعل درآویخت لؤلؤ شهوار
    It sat atop an emerald throne of dew
    and hung regal pearls on its ruby crown.

    بیاض دیده نرگس نگرتعالی الله که   هست خیره ]ازو ؟[ دیده اولو الأبصار
    Look at the whiteness of the narcissus’ eye. Goodness!
    The eyes of those of insight are dazzled by it.

    [ . . . ]
    چمن ز غنچه نماید هزار خرگه سبز سفیده دم که زند ابر خیمه بر گلزار
    The meadow displays a thousand green tents of rosebuds
    at dawn, when the cloud pitches a tent over the rose garden.

    شکوفه هر درمی را که داشت داد بباد سحاب هر گهری ]را[ که یافت کرد نثار
    The blossom gave every dirham it had to the wind;
    the cloud scattered every pearl it found.

    مذاکران چمن چون مقدسان فلک فراز سدره اشجار بین که در اسحار
    See the reciters of the meadow, like the holy ones of the celestial sphere
    atop the Lote-Tree at dawn —

    دعای شاه جهان م کینند و میگویند که   باد تا ابد از عز و جاه برخوردار
    They pray for the king of the world and say,
    “May he enjoy glory and high position forever!”

  • Provenance

    Czar Peter the Great, Russia (by tradition, until 1698); Austrian Imperial House, Vienna (1698–1921); Österreichisches Museum für Kunst und Industrie(1921–25; to Cardinal and Harford); [ Cardinal and Harford, London, 1925–28; sale, Christie, Manson & Wood, London, July 5, 1928, no. 146]; [ International Art Gallery, London, 1928, sold to Arthur U. Pope forRockefeller McCormick]; Edith Rockefeller McCormick, Chicago (1928–d. 1932; her estate until 1943;sold to Arthur U. Pope for MMA)

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History