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16th century Ottoman Cairene Medallion Carpet. 8'7x11'10. wool pile, wool foundation

Cairene carpets illustrate the union of two distinct artistic traditions that flourished under two of the most powerful Islamic dynasties of the 15th and 16th centuries, namely the Mamluk Sultanate and the Ottoman Empire. The present carpet belongs to a well-known and documented group of carpets that combines the unique structural characteristics and coloration of Mamluk carpets with the distinct design repertoire of the Ottoman court workshops.

The history of pile-knotted carpet weaving in Egypt is uncertain, as there is no fully developed carpet tradition recognized there prior to the appearance of Mamluk carpets in the 15th and early 16th centuries. Mamluk carpets are unique within all known carpets because of their distinctive kaleidoscopic design, use of three to five muted colors and unusual weave structure.

Ottoman Cairene carpets, share the same palette and structural characteristics of Mamluk carpets, but employ designs created in the Ottoman court workshops during the first half of the 16th century. These Turkish designs were introduced to the Egyptian looms through the Ottoman conquest of Cairo in 1517. The earliest examples that can be considered ‘Ottoman Cairene,’ combine both Mamluk and Ottoman motifs in an uneasy marriage. By the second quarter of the 16th century, the carpets feature wholly Ottoman designs but continue to use Mamluk coloration and structure. Many of the design motifs as well as the overall finesse of drawing and weave of the carpet presented here, place it securely in the mid-16th century. The scrolling saz-leaves lying across palmettes seen in the field can also be found in many ceramic tiles dating to this period, most notably the tile work in the faзade of the Sьnnet Odasi in the Topkapi palace datable to circa 1550. The trident shaped cartouches containing tulip and carnation blossoms seen in the medallion and corner spandrels are similar to motifs favored by the Ottoman court artist Kara Memi in the mid-16th century. Although Cairo was geographically far removed from Istanbul, it was an important regional capital for the Ottomans and Egyptian artisans would have had knowledge of the current tastes and styles of the court shortly after they were developed.

The merging of the Mamluk weaving traditions of coloration and wool with the Ottoman court taste, created objects that are amongst the most elegant carpets ever woven. The beauty and majesty of these carpets was recognized and appreciated by the European nobility and aristocracy as much as it was by the Ottoman court. Although very few Cairene carpets are depicted in European paintings (as is often the case with other early Eastern carpets) to document this Western fascination, there are several references to Cairene carpets in Western collection inventories of the period. The most notable early European reference documents the acquisition of a Cairene carpet by the Medici family for the Pitti Palace in 1623. Interestingly, most of the Cairene carpets with an early European association have been found in Italy, probably because of the active trade between Venetian merchants and the Ottoman Empire. The scarcity of Western painted depictions is likely due to the rarity of the carpets themselves. The size of the present example is extremely unusual within the rare group of Ottoman Cairene carpets. Most pieces of this type are either quite large and long and narrow as most ‘classical’ carpets, or are rather small.



seen on http://www.beauvaiscarpets.com/