Representations of Persian gardens in carpets combine a bird’s-eye view of the classic four‑part garden (chahar bagh) with a profile of birds and trees. The oldest and most refined example, which served as the prototype for weavers in Kurdistan, is dated 1622–32 and is currently in the Albert Hall Museum in Jaipur, India. In contrast, this carpet is highly stylized and the proportions between the main water channels and the surrounding gardens are less sophisticated.
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Date:second half 18th century
Geography:Made in Iran, Kurdistan
Medium:Cotton (warp and weft), wool (pile); asymmetrically knotted pile
Dimensions:Carpet: L. of left edge: 122in. (309.9cm) L. of center edge: 121 1/2in. (308.6cm) L. of right edge: 123 1/2in. (313.7cm) W. of top: 75in. (190.5cm) W. of bottom: 73 1/4in. (186.1cm) Tube: Diam. 9 in. W. 95 1/4 in.
Credit Line:The James F. Ballard Collection, Gift of James F. Ballard, 1922
Most of the literal representations of gardens that appear in Persian carpets combine an aerial or bird’s-eye view of the classic four-part garden (chahar bagh) with bands and squares of pavilions, trees, flowers, and birds shown in vertical projection. The oldest surviving and most beautiful carpet of this type is a very large example (almost 29 feet long) that belongs to the Albert Hall Museum in Jaipur. It shows the four quadrants of a garden separated by two large channels filled with rippling water teeming with fish, waterfowl, turtles, and fantastic animals. The channels meet at the center of the rug at a large square pool, where an elaborate pavilion and throne appear to float. Each quadrant contains secondary water channels and square beds of trees and flowers bordered by bands of more trees and flowers, all presented in vertical projection. The Jaipur carpet was probably woven between 1622, the accession date of the Jaipur ruler who built the palace at Amber, and 1632, the date recorded for the earliest inventory of the carpet. On the inventory label the carpet is described as being of foreign manufacture. This is correct because, by virtue of materials, structure, colors, and details of pattern, the carpet belongs to the group of so-called vase carpets conventionally associated with the Persian city of Kirman.
The Jaipur carpet, and others like it but now lost, served as the prototype for a series of garden carpets woven during the eighteenth and even early nineteenth centuries in northwestern Iran, in Kurdistan. Earlier and larger examples of the Kurdish group show a stronger connection to the Jaipur carpet pattern than do later pieces, whose vegetal elements shown in profile are more heavily stylized and arbitrary. The relatively modest dimensions of the Metropolitan Museum’s garden carpet have resulted in a truncated version of the full chahar bagh pattern: the main water channels and central crossing are present in very large scale, but the multiple beds in each quadrant have been reduced to a few token squares. Note also the meaningless addition of trees to the water channels and central pool as well as the replacement of bands of landscape elements in profile with decorative arrangements of highly stylized trees and flowers in the zones separating water channels from garden squares. The pavilion has disappeared from the central pool, though a white platform remains. One can see the vestigial traces of the marine life depicted in the water of the central pool of the Jaipur carpet here better than in any other rug of the Kurdish group, but they are only inarticulate scribbles, and they are contained in the narrow white band around the water, not in the water itself. It seems that the weaver, either because of further removal in time from the model or due to the extreme truncation in the overall pattern, did not fully grasp the original meaning of its design.
Daniel Walker in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Dimand, M[aurice] S. "Notes; A Persian Garden Carpet in the Jaipur Museum." Ars Islamica 7, pt. 1 (1940), pp. 93–96.
2. Carpets of Central Persia, with Special Reference to Rugs of Kirman. Exhibition, Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield; City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham. Catalogue by May H. Beattie. [London], 1976.
3. Various members of the Kurdish group are noted and illustrated in Klose, Christine. "Betrachtungen zu nordwestpersischen Gartenteppichen des 18. Jahrhunderts." Hali 1, no. 2 [no. 2] (Summer 1978), pp. 112–21, and also in Ellis, Charles Grant. "Garden Carpets and Their Relation to Safavid Gardens." Hali 5, no. 1 [no. 17] (1982), pp. 10–17.
4. For an early example of the Kurdish group, see Jenkins 1983, p. 143. For a late example in the Harvard University Art Museums, see Blair and Bloom 1991, cover (no. 34).
Carl Robert Lamm, Näsby Castle, Sweden; James F. Ballard, St. Louis, MO (until 1922; gifted to MMA)
Breck, Joseph, and Frances Morris. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art." In The James F. Ballard Collection of Oriental Rugs. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1923. no. 4, p. 5, ill. (b/w).
Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Muhammadan Art. 2nd rev. and enl. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1944. p. 301, ill. fig. 199 (b/w).
Dimand, Maurice S., and Jean Mailey. Oriental Rugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1973. no. 44, pp. 112, 146–47, ill. fig. 115, (b/w, color).
Jenkins-Madina, Marilyn. Islamic Art in the Kuwait National Museum: the al-Sabah Collection. London: Sotheby Publications, 1983. p. 143 (related).
Denny, Walter B., A. Kevin Reinhart, and Gene R. Garthwaite. Images of Paradise in Islamic Art, edited by Sheila Blair, and Jonathan M. Bloom. Hanover, NH: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, 1991. no. 34, ill. (cover).
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Priscilla P. Soucek, Sheila R. Canby, and Navina Haidar, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 189, p. 270, ill. (color).
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