With its highly geometricized design, this wool rug differs markedly from the refined courtly carpets, and represents an earlier tradition of weaving that was popular in Europe, where rugs like this are found in fourteenth- and fifteenth century churches and paintings. In fact, the depiction of a rug with the same design as this in an early fifteenth-century Sienese painting allowed for the dating of this example. This is one of only three complete rugs of such an early date and its design of large confronted animals, each with a smaller animal inside, probably derives from contemporary textiles.
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Title:Confronted Animal Rug
Geography:Attributed to Turkey
Medium:Wool (warp, weft, and pile); symmetrically knotted pile
Dimensions:Rug: L. 65 in. (165.1 cm) W. 54 1/2in. (138.4 cm) Tube: H. 62 in. (157.5 cm) Diam. 6 in. (15.2 cm)
Credit Line:Purchase, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, Louis V. Bell Fund and Fletcher, Pfeiffer and Rogers Funds, 1990
Early Animal Rug
Early animal rugs of Anatolia have long held a special fascination for Western scholars, perhaps because the type has such strong historical ties to Europe as objects of high status. The two best-known examples are the Berlin dragon-and-phoenix rug, acquired by Wilhelm von Bode in 1886 in Rome but said to come from a church in central Italy, and the Marby rug, discovered in a small church in Marby, Sweden, in 1925, featuring pairs of birds confronting a central tree. Numerous versions of animal rugs were depicted in European paintings (most notably Italian) dating from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and usually shown in exalted circumstances. There are also scattered fragmentary animal rugs lacking a specific European context but which add to the range of known pattern types.
The picture changed considerably in 1990, when a series of animal rugs started to appear in the market, reportedly from Tibet. This rug, acquired by the Metropolitan Museum, was the first. It features bold coloring and a highly stylized pattern consisting of two pairs of confronted quadrupeds of indeterminate type—forelegs are raised, jaws agape, and they seem to be performing a kind of dance. Each animal contains a smaller version of itself, in a play on the stock image of an animal within a compartment found in many ancient and medieval textiles. The existence of the Metropolitan’s rug proved that two paintings, one from the great Ilkhanid Shahnama (Book of Kings) of about 1330, the other an Italian rendition of The Marriage of the Virgin dating from about 1410, showing representations of carpets featuring animals with raised forelegs, were based on actual rugs. Furthermore, the distinctive kufic borders of at least two of the rugs in the group match up in specific details with the outer border of the rug represented in the Persian painting.
Palette, materials, structural features, and certain design elements link this animal rug to material that is ascribed to Anatolian production in a generic rather than specific way, including the other "early" animal rugs. These pieces do not make up a homogeneous group and thus do not represent the production of a single weaving center. An attribution to Anatolia says little about the cultural context of production. In this regard, it has recently been proposed that the Museum’s animal rug and its close relatives might well represent Ilkhanid production, given the very similar attributes seen in the Ilkhanid Shahnama painting of about 1330. It has also been posited that the trade network of the Ilkhanids can explain the simultaneous movement of the animal rugs between Anatolia and Italy, on the one hand, as testified by representations in paintings, and between Anatolia and Tibet, on the other, as indicated by the rugs themselves.
Although an earlier date of production cannot be ruled out altogether, assignment of all the animal rugs in the Tibetan group to the fourteenth century is consistent with the Shahnama date and also aligns with the very early fifteenth-century dating of the Italian painting. That dating also falls within the range of carbon-14 results for the "Tibetan" group of animal rugs. Both the Marby rug and the Berlin dragon-and-phoenix rug represent somewhat later production, with the manufacture of the Berlin piece coming no earlier than 1486.
Daniel Walker in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Museum für Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (no. 1–4); Statens Historiska Museet, Stockholm (no. 17786). Both were published in Sarre, Friedrich, and Hermann Trenkwald. Old Oriental Carpets. Vienna and Leipzig, 1926–29, vol. 2, pls. 1 and 2.
2. Mills, John. "Early Animal Carpets in Western Paintings: A Review." Hali 1, no. 3 [no. 3] (Autumn 1978), pp. 234–43, with references to earlier studies.
3. See Ettinghausen, Richard. "New Light on Early Animal Carpets." In Aus der Welt der Islamischen Kunst: Festschrift für Ernst Kühnel zum 75. Geburtstag am 26.10.1957, edited by Richard Ettinghausen, pp. 93–116. Berlin, 1959; see also Lamm, Carl Johan. Carpet Fragments: The Marby Rug and some Fragments of Carpets Found in Egypt. Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, 1985.
4. These are enumerated by Michael Franses in Orient Stars, A Carpet Collection. Exhibition, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg; Linden-Museum, Stuttgart. Catalogue by Heinrich Kirchheim and others. London and Stuttgart, 1993, pp. 266–69; and in Thompson, Jon. "Carpets in the Fifteenth Century." in Thompson, Jon, Daniel Shaffer, and Pirjetta Mildh, eds. Carpets and Textiles in the Iranian World, 1400–1700. Proceedings of the Conference Held at the Ashmolean Museum on 30–31 August, 2003. Oxford and Genoa, 2010, p. 52 and n. 54.
5. Ettinghausen 1959 (see footnote 3), figs. 4 and 6; and "An Early Animal Rug at The Metropolitan Museum." Hali, no. 53 (October 1990), pp. 154–55.
6. The carpet in the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, was published in Orient Stars, A Carpet Collection. Exhibition, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg; Linden-Museum, Stuttgart. Catalogue by Heinrich Kirchheim and others. London and Stuttgart, 1993, p. 15. The rug in the Bruschettini Collection is unpublished.
7. Thompson 2010 (see footnote 4), pp. 52–54.
8. Franses 1993 (see footnote 4), p. 373 n. 318.
9. Rageth, Jurg. "Dating the Dragon and Phoenix Fragments: A Newcomer Unmasked and a Genuine New Discovery." Hali, no. 134 (May–June 2004), pp. 106–8.
In the central field of this carpet are two facing pairs of stylised lion figures arranged in two rows of on a dark brownish-red ground. The dark blue lions have open mouths and one leg lifted in front of them. There is an S motif on each leg. their uplifted tails are reminiscent of stylised two-headed dragon figures. Around their necks are striped collars. Their tiny heads are out of proportion to their tall bodies.
Inside the bodies of the lions are small lion figures with open mouths, hooked tails and three legs. These small figures are set in panels in the form of two stylised birds with pointed beaks standing back to back. One of the bird panels is dark blue and the other three are yellow. There are horizontal slits across the bodies of the small lion figures.
The inner and outer borders, consisting of ivory-coloured interlocking S motifs on a red ground, are identical to the border of the similarly dated 'Marby carpet' today in the Statens Historiska Museet in Stockholm. The same composition is found on some Seljuk carpets from Konya, Turkey (for example, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul, no. 688). These two borders enclose a broader main border, filled with red octagons containing hook motifs on a dark blue ground. The octagons along the narrower upper section are incomplete. The two narrow edges of the carpet are finished off in a flat kilim weave and have their original tassles.
Animal motif rugs of various types were frequently depicted in European painting during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and some such depictions resemble this carpet. One example can be seen in The Marriage of the Virgin (Sienese school, early fifteenth century) in the National Gallery, London (no. 1317).
This carpet and a few others, mostly now in private collections in Tibet, throw important light on the history of animal rugs. They show that Anatolian carpets were exported not only to Europe but also eastwards into Asia as far as Tibet, suggesting a vast trade network in carpets.
Nazan Olcer in [Roxburgh 2005]
Fred Cagan, Nepal ; [ Lisbet Holmes Textiles, London, by 1989–90; sold to MMA]
New York. The Hagop Kevorkian Special Exhibitions Gallery, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Nature of Islamic Ornament, Part IV: Figural Representation," September 16, 1999–January 30, 2000, no catalogue.
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600–1600," January 22, 2005–April 15, 2005, no. 98.
Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 48, no. 2 (1989–1990). pp. 12–13, ill. (color).
Berinstain, Valerie. Great Carpets of the World. New York: Vendome Press, 1996. p. 63, ill. pl. 37 (color).
Roxburgh, David J., ed. Turks . A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600–1600. London, New York: Royal Academy of Arts, 2005. no. 98, pp. 142–43, 402–3, ill. (color).
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. 234, pp. 8, 328–30, ill. p. 329 (color).
Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. p. 131, ill. (color).
Denny, Walter B. How to Read Islamic Carpets. New Haven and London: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014. p. 57, ill. fig. 43 (color).
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