Khurasan Carpet Fragment, Cotton (warp), silk (weft), wool (weft and pile); asymmetrically knotted pile

Khurasan Carpet Fragment

Object Name:
second half 16th century
Made in Northeastern Iran, Khurasan
Cotton (warp), silk (weft), wool (weft and pile); asymmetrically knotted pile
Rug: L. 108 11/16 in. (276 cm)
W. 31 1/8 in. (79 cm)
Mount: L. 112 1/4 in. (285.1 cm)
W. 34 5/8 in. (87.9 cm)
D. 2 1/4 in. (5.7 cm)
Wt. 121 lbs. (54.9 kg)
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1991
Accession Number:
Not on view
With its rich pattern and extensive color palette, this large fragment once formed part of a magnificent carpet. This piece exhibits the use of jufti (or paired) knotting, characteristic of a small group of carpets and carpet fragments attributed to the northeastern Iranian province of Khurasan. The carefully-drawn flowers, incorporating serrated, curling leaves, resemble those of the so-called saz style, which became popular in Iran and Turkey in the sixteenth century.
This large fragment and another, slightly smaller piece in the Museum fur Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, are all that survive of a once magnificent work that is probably the earliest of all carpets belonging to the group associated with the northeastern Iranian province of Khurasan.[1] Both fragments were acquired in 1898 in Istanbul by the Swedish diplomat and antiquarian F. R. Martin. No trace of border remains on either fragment, but the field pattern, consisting of staggered rows of cartouches and lobed medallions, has been reconstructed in drawings that show the fragments in their proper relationship.[2] The absence of a uniform underlying ground color here is unusual; each cartouche, medallion, and interstitial void has its own. The floral, arabesque, and cloud band elements contained within the cartouches, medallions, and voids are also colored differently from one to another, adjusted to suit the particular ground color chosen for that unit. Such virtuoso coloristic refinement and variety reflect a supreme mastery of the craft made possible by a particularly broad palette of twenty or more colors.
The Khurasan group of carpets has been isolated and pinned down only over the last thirty years or so.[3] Thirteen different pattern types have been identified, and many are familiar from other carpet groups. The principal feature that distinguishes them from other types is the widespread use of jufti ( paired) knotting, in which knots are looped around four warps instead of the usual two. This technique results in a distinctive appearance and feel that are also present in nineteenth- and twentieth-century carpets known to derive from Khurasan. Perceived by some as purely a labor- and time-saving method, the high quality of drawing and weave in historical examples suggest that it was simply the local custom rather than a shortcut. The Metropolitan fragment has a knot count of about 420 per square inch, an exceptionally high number for a rug with standard wool pile (as opposed to silk or pashmina; see no. 14.40.723). The complex flower clusters partially covered by curving leaves, found paired in the voids, belong to the so-called saz style, deriving from drawings made with reed pens, which became broadly popular in Turkey and Iran during the second half of the sixteenth century.[4]
Daniel Walker in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. For the fragment in the Museum für Islamische Kunst, see Spuhler 1987, p. 218, no. 75.
2. Klose, Christine 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. 81, fig. 16 (drawing with both fragments), following Lefevre and Thompson 1977, p. 25 (incorporates only the Metropolitan fragment but with larger and clearer pattern reconstruction).
3. Thompson, Jon in Lefevre and Thompson 1977, p. 73; Il tappeto orientale dal XV al XVIII secolo. Exhibition, Eskenazi, Milan. Milan, 1982, pls. 28–31; Franses, Michael in Orient Stars, A Carpet Collection. Exhibition, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg; Linden-Museum, Stuttgart. Catalogue by Heinrich Kirchheim and others. London and Stuttgart, 1993; Walker, Daniel. Carpets of Khorasan." Hali, no. 149 (November–December 2006), pp. 72–77.
4. Denny, Walter B. "Dating Ottoman Turkish Works in the Saz Style." Muqarnas 1 (1983), pp. 103–21.
[ Art market, Istanbul, until 1898]; Spanish Consulto Istanbul, Istanbul and Spain (from 1898); by descent to his son, Spain, and grandson, London (until 1977; sale Lefevre,London, 7 October 1977, no. 1, cat. pp. 22-25, to Dall'Oglio); Marino Dall 'Oglio, Milan(1977–91; on loan to MMA from 1978–1982;sold to The Textile Gallery for MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Nature of Islamic Ornament Part II: Vegetal Patterns," September 10, 1998–January 10, 1999, no catalogue.

Martin, F. R. A History of Oriental Carpets before 1800. Vienna: Printing Office of the Imperial-Royal Austrian Court and State, 1908. p. 41, ill. fig. 103.

Spuhler, Friedrich. Oriental Carpets in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987. no. 75, pp. 79, 218, ill., fragment of same carpet.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 50 (1991–1992). pp. 14, 15, ill. (color).

Walker, Daniel S., Marie Lukens Swietochowski, and Annemarie Schimmel. "Recent Acquisitions: A Selection, 1991-1992." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 50 (Fall 1992). pp. 14-15, ill. p. 14 (color).

Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 184, pp. 264-265, ill. p. 265 (color).