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Important Carpets from the William A. Clark Collection,
Corcoran Gallery of Art
New York | 05 Jun 2013, 10:00 AM | N09012

approximately 7ft. 4in. by 8ft. (2.23 by 2.44m.)
Second Half 16th Century
ESTIMATE 80,000-120,000 USD
Lot Sold: 785,000 USD

Duke Sforza, Milan

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Loan Exhibition of Early Oriental Rugs, November 1, 1910 - January 15, 1911
Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, Carpets for the Great Shah, October 3 - November 16, 1948
Washington D.C., Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, The World at our Feet. A Selection of Carpets from the Corcoran Gallery
of Art, April 4 - July 6, 2003
Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, Masterpieces: European Arts from the Collection, August 25, 2007 - April
15, 2008

Valentiner, Wilhelm, Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of Early Oriental Rugs, New York, 1910, no. 21
The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Illustrated Handbook of The W. A. Clark Collection, The Corcoran Gallery of Art.
Washington, D.C.: W. F. Roberts Company, 1928, p. 77
"Carpets for the Great Shah: The Near-Eastern Carpets from the W. A. Clark Collection," The Corcoran Gallery of Art
Bulletin, Washington, D.C., Vol. 2, No. 1, October 1948, p. 26
Coyle, Laura and Dare Myers Hartwell, Antiquities to Impressionism: The William A. Clark Collection, Corcoran
Gallery of Art,Washington, D.C., 2001, p. 75
"The Senator's Carpets," Hali, issue 127, p. 41, fig. 3
Franses, Michael, "Classical Context," Hali, issue 129, pp. 68-69, fig. 3 (detail)
Tabibnia, Moshe, Milestones in the History of Carpets, Milan, 2006, p. 172, fig. 157(detail)

The present lot is unquestionably a highly interesting and rare carpet; while its shape renders it uncommon, its design
makes it a very intriguing transitional piece between earlier Mamluk carpets and later Ottoman weavings produced in
Cairo. Carpet weaving in Cairo dates back to the age of the Mamluk Sultans, who set up workshops primarily to
satisfy Western demands. A few decades after the Ottomans conquered the Mamluk Sultanate in 1517, these
workshops began producing rugs and carpets for the Court in Istanbul. The talent and craft of Cairene weavers was in
such high regard with the Ottomans that in 1585 Sultan Murad III requested eleven master weavers and wool to be
sent to Istanbul from Egypt. Interestingly, even after the Ottoman takeover, Cairene workshops continued to produce
pieces for the European market, which shows not only how hungry the West was for oriental carpets but also how
financially lucrative the workshops were since the Sultan in Istanbul allowed the trade to continue. Italy was the main
market for these carpets, with Venice and Genoa being centers of import and distribution. Because of the continuously
successful export of these carpets, Cairene weavers created new shapes that were foreign to the domestic market: in
addition to the conventional rectangular format, square, cruciform, octagonal and round pieces were made for the
European market. Such pieces were often described in Italian inventories as “tapedi da desco” and “tapedi da tavola,”
or table carpets. A Cairene carpet that was made in a cruciform shape such that the sides would hang over the edges
of a table is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, see "The South Kensington Ideal," Hali, issue 96, fig.
5, inv. no. 151-1883. The use of oriental rugs as table covers was customary in Europe during the sixteenth century,
as many contemporary paintings illustrate. Interestingly, probably due to their large size and complex design, Mamluk
and Cairene carpets seldom appear in Old Master paintings. French and German inventories are also known to
include round carpets, some of them specifically mentioning Genoa as their place of origin. Italy being a place of
distribution of these carpets is reflected in the Sforza provenance of the present carpet. Octagonal and circular
carpets are among the rarest of Cairene carpets, with the present example being one of only four known in existence:
one formerly in the Piero Barbieri Collection and sold Sotheby’s London, October 12-13, 1982, lot 38; an unpublished
one in the Qatar Museum of Islamic Art; and one reputedly in the archiepiscopal palace in Kromí, Czech Republic, see
Michael Franses, “Classical Context,” Hali, Issue 129, pp. 68-69. As mentioned above, the drawing of this carpet
consists of both earlier Mamluk combined with Ottoman design elements, here arranged in a particularly spacious
manner; the field and the medallion are decorated with rosettes, tulips, palmettes and saz leaves, which are also
found in the Cairene rug that is lot 2 in this catalogue. The border, however, is populated by eight-pointed stars and
papyrus umbrellas, motifs typical to Mamluk carpets of the fifteenth century. The eight-pointed stars of the border
derive from polygonal and interlaced patterns which had been used in other branches of the decorative arts and in
architecture throughout the Islamic world. In addition to the design elements of the border, the overall color palette is
more Mamluk than Ottoman with the typical five hues: red, blue, green, yellow and ivory. Because the pile is unusually
well preserved for this carpet’s age, the colors are particularly lush and rich which, coupled with the uncommon
format, makes this lot particularly rare.