'Polonaise' Carpet

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 462

When, in 1878, a carpet similar to this one was exhibited in Paris, it was assumed that the coats of arms woven into the rug were Polish and that the rug was made in Poland. It was later recognized that this group, distinguished by a silk pile and metallic brocading, was Persian, made during and after the reign of Shah 'Abbas I, beginning around the end of the sixteenth or early seventeenth century. The name, however, persisted, and more than 200 examples still bear the name. Many pairs of the type also survive.

The type of design on this carpet has its roots in earlier Iranian carpets, but the rich silk pile, highlighted with gold and silver brocading, and muted but lively colors, signaled a change from the past. The tightly controlled overall pattern of compartments formed by overlapping cartouches in orange, yellow, red, green, and brown on a silver-and-gold brocaded ground is adorned by floral and leaf-vine systems with palmette motifs. Reports of European travelers mentioned the capital city of Isfahan as the center of Safavid court production. Probably many of the finest examples of Polonaise carpets were produced there for local patrons or on orders from the shah as special gifts or as commissions for export. The richness and elegance of the Polonaise carpets reflect the current taste of the wealthy Iranian court, and also the Baroque taste of Europe, where they were particularly admired.

'Polonaise' Carpet, Cotton (warp and weft), silk (weft and pile), metal wrapped thread; asymmetrically knotted pile, brocaded

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