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Table carpet, Egypt or Turkey, 1550. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 151-1883

Place of origin: Turkey (probably, made)
Egypt (possibly, made)
Date: ca.1550 (made)
Artist/Maker: unknown (production)
Materials and Techniques: Hand knotted woollen pile, on woollen warp and
weft; asymmetrical knot, open to the left; 195 knots per sq. in (3,000 per sq.
Museum number: 151-1883
Gallery location: Medieval and Renaissance, room 63, case 11

The threads used in the warp of this carpet were dyed green so that they would form a coloured fringe as it hung over a cube-shaped table. The warp was prepared so that the greatest width of the carpet could be accommodated on the loom and the weavers tied knots within the required outline. When the carpet was finished, the excess warp threads were trimmed and secured.

Physical description

Table Carpet, hand knotted woollen pile on woollen warp and weft, woven to shape asymmetrical knot.
WARP: green and yellow wool, often twisted together; S3Z; 26 threads per inch (100 cms); depressed.
WEFT: yellow wool and red wool; unable to ascertain number of ply, but the threads are S-spun, Z-plied; 3 shoots after each row of knots; 15 knots per inch (60 knots per dm).
PILE: wool; 8 colours: red, yellow, green, dark blue, blue, light blue, brown, white; asymmetrical knot open to the left and tied around 2 threads; 195 knots per sq. inch (3000 per sq. dm).
SIDE FINISH: Web of 9 cords (the outer one is composed of three warp threads and is thicker than the others) worked with yellow wool; the outer cord is oversewn with red wool.
END FINISH: Maximum of 8" (20.5 cms) loose green warp ends.
DESIGN: Field: Central square: red ground containing central roundel with carnations, hyacinths and tulips coming out of central boss. Outer roundel has tulips, roses, carnations, daisies and tiger stripes. Each corner contains a floral spray.
Flaps: the four flaps have inner roundel as above but also corner medallions with the blue/green carnations, hyacinths and tulips on a yellow ground.
Main border: elaborate saz blossoms with curling leaves on a red ground.
Narrow borders: which separate flaps and field; bracketed blue and red blossoms on yellow.

Place of Origin

Turkey (probably, made)
Egypt (possibly, made)


ca.1550 (made)


unknown (production)

Materials and Techniques

Hand knotted woollen pile, on woollen warp and weft; asymmetrical knot, open to the left; 195 knots per sq. in (3,000 per sq. dm)


Height: 89 cm, Width: 125 cm, Depth: 114 cm

Object history note

When purchased, this carpet was thought to be a Persian canopy carried above a person of rank during processions.
Bought at the Bon Marche sale, Paris, through Mr. Purdon Clarke

Historical significance: Table carpets are normally round or cruciform; this is the best-known example of the latter type.

Historical context note

Carpets like this were made in the East Mediterranean for export to Europe (since tables were not a standard item of furniture in the contemporary Islamic world).

Descriptive line

Table Carpet, hand knotted woollen pile on woollen warp and weft, woven to shape asymmetrical knot, Turkey (Ottoman), or possibly Egypt, mid-16th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Baker, Malcolm and Richardson, Brenda, eds. A Grand Design : The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1997, cat. no. 103. Yetkin (1981), illus. 64, 'Ottoman Court Carpet, cruciform table-cover, 16th century'. Dimand (1973), illus. 187, 'Prayer rug, court manufactory, Bursa or Istanbul, end of 16th or beginning of 17th century.' NB border floral 'palmettes'. Kuhnel and Bellinger (1957) pl 24, analysis p.45, 'Ottoman rugs from Cairo, middle of the 16th century' and plate 31, and page 53, '... Cairo, early 17th century'. NB borders and analysis. illustrated and mentioned 'E Mediterranean carpets in the V&A' by R. Pinner and M. Franses (intro by Donald King), analysis by M. Franses. Hali 1981 Vol.4 No.1 P. 36,45,47,49 Referred to in: Suebebhundert Jahre Orientteppich by Kurt Erdmann, 1966, page 220 Historical Turkish Carpets by Serare Yetkin, 1981, pge 105. The Persian Carpet by Cecil Edwards, 1975, page 14, plate 3.
Le ciel dans un tapis, exh. cat. (Paris : Institut du Monde Arabe; Lisbon: Gulbenkian Foundation), Gand: Editions Snoeck, 2004, cat. no. 45.
Kurt Erdmann, 'Kairener Teppiche, Teil II: Mamluken- und Osmanenteppiche,' Ars Islamica 7 (1940): 74 and fig. 15.
Kurt Erdmann, Europa und der Orientteppich, Berlin, 1962, fig. 62.
F. R. Martin, A History of Oriental Carpets before 1800, Vienna, 1908, pl. 152.
R. Pinner and M. Franses, 'The East Mediterranean Carpet Collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum,' Hali vol. 4 no. 1 (1981): 36, 45, 47, 49, fig. 11.
Kurt Erdmann, Siebenhundert Jahre Orientteppich, Herford, 1966, pp. 220-21.
Serare Yetkin, Historical Turkish Carpets (transl. Maggie Quigley), Istanbul, 1981, p. 105.
The Eastern Carpet in the Western World from the 15th to the 17th Century, exh. cat. (Hayward Gallery, London), 1983, cat. no. 52.
Jennifer Wearden, Oriental Carpets and their Structure: Highlights from the V&A Collection, London, 2003, Plate 83.

Exhibition History

Precious: Objects and Changing Values (The Millennium Galleries, Sheffield 02/04/2001-24/06/2001)
At Home in Renaissance Italy (Victoria and Albert Museum 05/10/2006-07/01/2007)
A Grand Design - The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum (Victoria and Albert Museum 12/10/1999-16/01/2000)
The Eastern Carpet in the Western World from the 15th to the 17th Century (Hayward Gallery, London 20/05/1983-10/07/1983)
Le ciel dans un tapis (L'Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris 08/12/2004-08/12/2004)

Labels and date

Table Carpet
Mid 16th century

Woven in a single piece, this cruciform carpet was made to be put on a table, as shown in the painting by Sofonisba Anguissola nearby. Italian inventories of the time refer frequently to ‘carpets for tables’. Since high tables did not exist in the Middle East, this carpet must have been made for export to Europe. [56 words]

Probably Cairo
Wool, hand knotted

V&A: 151-1883 [5 Oct 2006 - 7 Jan 2007]

Production Note

Carpets with this combination of design and technique are now believed to date from the mid-sixteenth century and to come from the East Mediterranean, although their precise attribution is still uncertain.


Wool yarn


Weaving; Knotting

Subjects depicted

Stylized flowers; Medallion; Rose; Tulip; Carnation; Hyacinth; Tiger stripes