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"The advantages of handspun yarn to machine spun yarn"

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Joseph V. McMullan Ottoman carpet, Cairo, Egypt, ca. 1550. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Wool (warp, weft, and pile); asymmetrically knotted pile; H. 79 in. (200.7 cm), W. 48 in. (121.9 cm)
Gift of James V. McMullan, 1971 (1971.263.2)

The Ottoman workshops produced a great variety of carpet designs that usually employed a group of familiar elements consisting of naturalistic flowers, lotuses, and palmettes, often combined with feathery lanceolate leaves, medallions, arabesques, and cloud bands. This rug was woven in a center outside Istanbul, probably in Cairo, as suggested by the palette and certain technical features. It is knotted with the asymmetrical knot, the so-called Senneh or Persian knot, rather than the symmetrical Gördes or Turkish knot.

This wool carpet presents a large border with repeating large blossoms, framing an extensive surface decorated with repeating chintamanis, the pearl-like spots that were popular in the Ottoman court. A circular medallion occupies the center, with a fleur-de-lis like motif at its top and bottom forming a vertical axis. The design of a central medallion and four corner quarter-medallions is thought to have originated in decorative book bindings. While displaying a Turkish design, the technique and materials of this carpet are actually Egyptian—reflecting the presence of Egyptian carpet weavers in sixteenth-century Ottoman workshops.