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A MAGNIFICENT SAFAVID 'POLONAISE' SILK AND METAL THREAD CARPET, the pale golden brown field with two columns of scrolling entwined ivory and ruby-red arabesques issuing delicate scrolling palmette
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About the object

A MAGNIFICENT SAFAVID 'POLONAISE' SILK AND METAL THREAD CARPET, the pale golden brown field with two columns of scrolling entwined ivory and ruby-red arabesques issuing delicate scrolling palmette and flowering tendrils and enclosing shaped panels of metal-thread issuing from a small central cusped concentric metal-thread and lemon-yellow medallion, in a shaded green palmette, feathery leaf and arabesque border linked by indigo tendrils between ruby-red and golden-brown meandering leafy vine stripes, first half seventeenth century (overall even wear, corroded black, minute damages)\n13ft.6in. x 5ft.9in. (410cm. x 176cm.)
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notes

The production of opulent silk carpets in the cities of Kashan and Isfahan is well-documented by travellers to Persia in the sixteenth and particularly the seventeenth centuries. An Englishman, John Fryer, visiting Isfahan in 1676 notes that Isfahan had special bazaars handling the sale of rugs, "both woolen and silk, intermixed with Gold and Silver very costly, which are the peculiar manufacture of this country" (Dimand and Mailey, p.59). The Frenchman, Tavernier, notes that the royal hunting cheetahs stretched themselves out on these costly spreads at the Persian court (p.428).

Many of these carpets were purchased by Europeans or were given by the Shah to visiting dignitaries, merchants or ambassadors. For this reason about three hundred of these carpets have survived, principally in European collections. Many are still in the hands of royal or princely families, into whose hands they came about three hundred years ago. Thus Venice, the Danish royal family, Austria due to the Habsburgs, the Czartoryskis in Poland, and Liechtenstein amongst many others retain their examples. Many others, probably originally from similar sources, have found their way onto the market and are now in museums and important private collections.

There appears to have been two standard sizes in which these were woven. The smaller are normally about 6ft. x 4ft; the present example typifies the larger size and format. Originally they were often also made in pairs. While no pair to the present carpet is known, two examples with very similar compositions are in the National Gallery, Washington D.C. (Dilley and Dimand, pl.XIV) and - in 1938 - in the collection of Count Henry Skirmunt (Pope, pl.1249). This is the design classified by Spühler as 'System II'. All three are of the larger size and have fields of panels delineated by loosely scrolling tendrils terminating and joining in palmettes. The present example has a more clearly defined central medallion than the other two and, as if to emphasise this, avoids the vertical string of large palmettes shown in the others. The illustration of the Skirmunt carpet also demonstrates, due to the surface wear, the same apparently random use of a rose-red silk weft alternating with the more usual golden yellow. This latter feature is also seen on the earliest examples of the group, which also have silk wefts, unlike the cotton found here. What further serves to strengthen the design of this example is the strong red colour used for the central tendrils. While most of the group use thinner pale tendrils to delineate static panels of different colours, here the whole design is given a rhythm and movement by its powerful drawing. In the border the rich indigo performs the same function in a more delicate fashion. This strong yet balanced harmony is undoubtedly assisted by the carpet's retention of the original vibrant colours. While the black has, not surprisingly, corroded away, the red and deep blue superbly counterpoint the other pastel shades.

Dilley, A.U., and Dimand, M.S.: Oriental Rugs and Carpets, New York 1959

Dimand, M.S., and Mailey, J.: Oriental Rugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1973

Pope, A.U.: A Survey of Persian Art, London and New York 1939

Spühler, F.: 'Entwurfspraktiken safavidischer Hofmanufacturen am Beispiel der sog. Polenteppiche', in HALI, vol.1, no.3, pp.244-6

Tavernier, J.B.: Les Six Voyages de J. B. Tavernier en Tarquie en Perse et aux Indes, Paris 1676

title

A MAGNIFICENT SAFAVID 'POLONAISE' SILK AND METAL THREAD CARPET, the pale golden brown field with two columns of scrolling entwined ivory and ruby-red arabesques issuing delicate scrolling palmette and flowering tendrils and enclosing shaped panels of metal-thread issuing from a small central cusped concentric metal-thread and lemon-yellow medallion, in a shaded green palmette, feathery leaf and arabesque border linked by indigo tendrils between ruby-red and golden-brown meandering leafy vine stripes, first half seventeenth century (overall even wear, corroded black, minute damages)

prelot

THE PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR

provenance

King Umberto II of Italy, sold Sotheby's 17 October 1984, lot 320


*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.


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