India or present-day Pakistan, Kashmir or Lahore
Silk (warp and weft), pashmina wool (pile); asymmetrically knotted pile
L. 155 3/4 in. (395.6 cm), W. 55 1/4 in. (140.3 cm)
Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913 (14.40.723)
This fragmentary carpet represents the highest level of Indian production, what might be called imperial grade. It looks and feels like velvet, but the pile is actually knotted from pashmina wool, made from the fleece of Himalayan mountain goats. The weave is extremely fine, especially for a carpet as large as this one must have been. What remains is approximately one-quarter of the original. In most Islamic cultures the finest carpets were woven in silk. Only in India was wool, admittedly a very special wool, prized more than silk. The style of this carpet, with its total reliance on floral forms, is consistent with the taste of the emperor Shah Jahan, as manifested also in the architectural decoration and manuscript margin illumination created by the gifted artists of his court.