Carpet with Irises, Tulips, and Other Flowering Plants
Not on view
Flowering plants, especially favored by Mughal artists, frequently appear in carpets. Here, the drawing of the flowers and the shading of the leaves are rendered with great care and as naturalistically as possible. Yet nature is disregarded when two unrelated flowers grow from the same stem.
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Title:Carpet with Irises, Tulips, and Other Flowering Plants
Geography:Made in India or present-day Pakistan, Kashmir or Lahore
Medium:Cotton (warp and weft); wool (pile); asymmetrically knotted pile
Dimensions:L. 170 in. (431.8 cm) W. 81 3/4 in. (207.6 cm)
Credit Line:Purchase, Florance Waterbury Bequest and Rogers Fund, 1970
Carpet with Flower Pattern
When the emperor Jahangir (r. 1605–27) made his first spring trip to Kashmir in 1620, he was overwhelmed by the beauty of the flowers coming into bloom. A man with a keen eye and a sensitive soul, Jahangir wanted to record the experience, so he tasked his leading natural-history painter, a gifted artist named Mansur, with painting one hundred flower "portraits." Jahangir’s interest in the aesthetics of flowers was perhaps stimulated further by the appearance at court of European herbals; elements of these works, including formal presentations in profile and complementary butterflies and dragonflies, found their way into Indian representations. By about 1630, under Jahangir’s son and successor, Shah Jahan (r. 1627–58), the flower style had become the new fashion at the court and appeared in all aspects of the decorative arts—architectural decoration, manuscript binding and illumination, textiles, and objects in various media. The flower style became dominant in carpets a little later, by about 1650. It largely supplanted the Persianate taste for scrolling vines and arabesques, which had previously dominated court circles in India.
This carpet is an excellent example of the type. It has a conventional field pattern consisting of rows of profiled flowers, some identifiable (irises, tulips), others not, but all drawn with a sense of naturalistic individualism and detail. The border is unusual in that it represents a naturalistically drawn and slightly Indianized version of a classic Persian pattern instead of the more expected profiled flowers. Flower carpets with rectangular shapes are outnumbered by arched ones, some of which were made in pairs that may have flanked a raised dais; one circular and one octagonal example are also known. More than fifty examples of such carpets survive. A good number remain in Jaipur and were originally purchased for use in the Amber Fort, ancestral home of the Jaipur rajas, while others have been acquired over the course of the last hundred years by institutions and collectors in the West. Some of the examples now in the West can be traced to Jaipur; this carpet, for example, was observed in Jaipur in 1929, when it still had an inventory label stating that it had been purchased in Lahore in 1656. But it is possible that the royal stores of princely states other than Jaipur also possessed such material.
Daniel Walker in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Jahangir. The Tuzuk-I Jahangiri or Memoirs of Jahangir. Translated by Alexander Rogers and edited by Henry Beveridge. Reprint ed. 2 vols. 1909–14. Delhi, 1968, vol. 2, pp. 143–45.
2. Flowers Underfoot:Indian Carpets of the Mughal Era. Exhibition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Catalogue by Daniel Walker. New York, 1997, pp. 80–117, with many illustrations.
3. Ibid., p. 95.
Seven rows of naturalistically rendered flowering plants are placed on a distinctive red ground, arranged in near-perfect symmetry along the axis. A narcissus, iris, rose, tulip, and perhaps a daisy are recognizable, though the flowers are not always depicted realistically. Smaller clumps of flowers, and an abstract shape are located along each side and between the first and second as well as the fourth and fifth rows. The elegant, intertwining blossoms, leaves, and lotus palmettes in the main border scroll add a touch of liveliness and vitality to the formal arrangement in the field of the carpet. Stylized leaf scrolls fill the two guard bands. Similar arrangements of clusters of flowers in a line are frequently found on Mughal architectural decoration, furniture, decorative arts, and illumination.
Carolyn Kane in [Berlin 1981]
Maharaja of Jaipur, India (1656–at least 1929); Hagop Kevorkian, New York (until d. 1962; his estate sale,Sotheby's, London, December 11, 1970, no. 8, to MMA)
Berlin. Museum für Islamische Kunst, Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. "The Arts of Islam. Masterpieces from the M.M.A.," June 15, 1981–August 8, 1981, no. 145.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Flowers Underfoot: Indian Carpets of the Mughal Era," November 20, 1997–March 1, 1998, no. 22.
Dimand, Maurice S., and Jean Mailey. Oriental Rugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1973. no. 59, pp. 130, 150–51, ill. fig. 134, (b/w; color).
"Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York." In The Arts of Islam. Berlin, 1981. no. 145, pp. 334–35, ill. (b/w).
Gans-Ruedin, Erwin. Indian Carpets. London: Thames and Hudson Inc., pp. 126–27.
Ellis, Charles. Oriental Carpets in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1988. p. 204.
Walker, Daniel S. Flowers Underfoot : Indian Carpets of the Mughal Era. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997. no. 22, pp. 95–97, 169, ill. figs. 93, 94 (color).
Denny, Walter B. How to Read Islamic Carpets. New Haven and London: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014. p. 90, ill. fig. 77 (color).
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