About the Antique Rugs of the Future Project

Sheep Breeds of Azerbaijan

Sorting, Washing, Carding, Spinning

"The advantages of handspun yarn to machine spun yarn"

Rediscovery of Ancient Natural Dyes
Our Natural Dyestuffs


Difference between synthetically and naturally dyed rugs

Weaving and Finishing Steps

Galleries of ARFP Caucasian Azerbaijani Rugs



17th century Anatolian carpet fragment, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Medium: Animal hair (warp and weft), wool (pile); asymmetrically knotted pile
Dimensions: L. 126 x W. 49.5 in. (343 x 135 cm)

Credit Line: Gift of Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf Foundation, 1990

Accession Number: 1990.169



This worn but still impressive fragment is a distinctive member
of the so-called Chessboard rug group, named for a field
design consisting of rows of hexagons within square com-
partments. Over thirty examples of Chessboard rugs with
the conventional field design are known, including one in the
Museum's collection (acc. no. 69.z67).

The origin of these rugs remains unresolved. Cairo, Damascus,
and Anatolia have all been suggested, but eastern Anatolia,
where four examples were found in mosques, seems the most
likely area. No example bears a date, but rugs with the standard
design were depicted in European tapestries and paintings
from about 1540 until late in the seventeenth century, suggest-
ing an approximate period of production.

The stiff, straight wool (goat?) of the foundation, the style of
the palmettes in the field, the designs of two minor borders,
and especially the colors (blue and blue-green on a red ground)
are typical of Chessboard rugs, but the field and main border
designs are unique. The field's repeating units of stiffly scroll-
ing vines with large palmettes and blossoms alternating at their
centers is a Persian pattern passed down from the Ottoman
court. The connection to Turkish tradition (as opposed to
Persian or Mamluk) is strong in the main border, but the
design of three balls (here, rosettes) and double wavy lines,
popular in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Turkish tex-
tiles and rugs, is usually seen in fields, not borders. This
design, originally symbolizing tiger stripes and leopard spots,
reminds us that these woven masterpieces ultimately derived
from animal skins.

Related references: Friedrich Spuhler, "'Chessboard' Rugs," in Oriental
Carpet and Textile Studies, vol. z, Carpets of the Mediterranean
Countries 1400-I6oo, London, I986, pp. 261-z69; Belkis Balpinar
and Udo Hirsch, Carpets of the Vakiflar Museum Istanbul, Wesel,
I988, pp. 124-130, pls. 59, 6o.