"Bellini" carpet, Wool (warp, weft, and pile); symmetrically knotted pile

"Bellini" carpet

Object Name:
16th–17th century
Attributed to Turkey
Wool (warp, weft, and pile); symmetrically knotted pile
Rug: H. 61 3/4 in. (156.8 cm)
W. 47 3/8 in. (156.8 x 120.3 cm)
Credit Line:
The James F. Ballard Collection, Gift of James F. Ballard, 1922
Accession Number:
Not on view
The centerfield of this carpet presents a geometrical design of a pointed arch above an octagonal motif. The arch evokes a prayer-niche or mihrab (indicating the direction of Mecca). The octagon, however, is unusual and has been a source of discussion among scholars. Some interpret it as a second arch but in the shape of a horse-shoe, a form found in the architecture of Islamic Spain and northern Africa. Others see it as a fountain associated with ablutions before prayer, a gateway to paradise, or a depiction of the Ka‘ba in Mecca, since illustrations of the site sometimes represent the colonnade edge of the sacred cubicle as a "keyhole" motif. This type of design was suitable for small carpets that were woven in village workshops and intended for prayer. They have come to be known as "Bellini" carpets, after the Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini (d. 1516), whose paintings depict these weavings as floor coverings under the Madonna’s feet.
James F. Ballard, St. Louis, MO (until 1922; gifted to MMA)
Paris. Institut du Monde Arabe. "Le Ciel dans un tapis (Heaven in a Carpet)," December 7, 2004–March 27, 2005, no. 18.

Lisbon. Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. "Le Ciel dans un tapis (Heaven in a Carpet)," April 28, 2005–July 31, 2005, no. 18.

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. 29, p. 18, ill. (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. 79, p. 223, ill. p. 223 (b/w).

Ellis, Charles. Oriental Carpets in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1988. p. 78.

Le Ciel dans un Tapis. Paris and Lisbon: Editions Snoeck, 2004. no. 18, pp. 120-121, ill. p. 121 (color).

Denny, Walter B. How to Read Islamic Carpets. New Haven and London: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014. pp. 66-67, ill. fig. 53 (color).