Art/ Collection/ Art Object

'Chessboard' Carpet

Object Name:
late 16th–early 17th century
Attributed to probably Syria
Animal hair (warp and pile), wool (weft); asymmetrically knotted pile
Rug: H. 73 1/2 in. (186.7 cm) W. 51 in. (129.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Joseph V. McMullan, 1969
Accession Number:
Not on view
The field of the so-called "Chessboard" carpet is usually applied on a vermillion ground and divided into rectangular compartments, each containing an eight-pointed star composed of an endless knot of interlaced bands. The stars are encircled by small abstract radiating trefoil ornaments resembling fleur-de-lys, cypresses, and rosettes. On the large border that frames the central compartments of this design, poly-lobed lozengelike medallions alternate with cartouches. Stylized fleur-de-lys fill these motifs as well as the blue-green background.

In addition to the rugs of the early Mamluk period with a highly complex pattern (nos. I and 2) a much simpler group appears in Egypt at the end of the 16th century. The design of these rugs differs greatly from those of the earlier type.

In this rug the field is divided into nine oblongs which in turn are filled with octagons in the centre of each of which appears a slightly oval star medallion, surrounded by floral sprays and small rosettes. The border also shows a change: diamond-shaped cartouches alternate with oblong panels from which spring palmette sprays. In these rugs we no longer have the great imaginative power of the earlier examples, but still the essence of the particular spirit of Egyptian rug design remains.

[Arts Council 1972]
Joseph V. McMullan, New York (by 1960–69; gifted to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Islamic Carpets: The Joseph V. McMullan Collection," June 11, 1970–August 2, 1970, no. 24.

Toronto. Aga Khan Museum. "A Thirst for Riches: Carpets from the East in Paintings from the West," June 6–October 18, 2015, no catalogue.

"Catalogue of an exhibition held at the] Hayward Gallery, London, 19 October–10 December 1972." In Islamic Carpets from the Joseph V. McMullan Collection. London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1972. no. 3, p. 33, ill. pl. XX (color).

McMullan, Joseph V., and Ernst J. Grube. Islamic Carpets. New York: Near Eastern Art Research Center, 1965. no. 3, pp. 26-27, ill. pl. 3 (color).

Ettinghausen, Richard. "Islamic Carpets. The Joseph V. McMullan Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 28, no. 10 (1970). pp. 404, 406, ill. p. 406 (color).

"The Joseph V. McMullan Collection." In Islamic Carpets. New York, 1970. no. 24.

Dimand, Maurice S., and Jean Mailey. Oriental Rugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1973. no. 96, pp. 183, 229, ill. fig. 157 (b/w).

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