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Price Realized  £32,900 ($47,606)

Sale Information
Christies SALE 6549 —
18 October 2001
London, King Street

Lot Description
Egypt, first half 16th century

The shaded red ground with a variety of panels comprising rosettes and stylised papyrus leaves around a central concentric red, light blue and green octagon containing similar motifs, the spandrels worked into the design with chequered triangles and other motifs, a band across each end with three radiating eight-pointed stars formed of a similar floral motifs divided by vertical chevron strips, in a light blue border of alternating green cartouches and red roundels containing stylised papyrus motifs between light blue and inner green papyrus meander stripes, areas of wear, considerable repiling particularly in red, selvage replaced with slight loss
6ft.3in. x 4ft. (190cm. x 121cm.)

Anon sale, Lefevre & Partners, The Persian Carpet Galleries, London, 6 February 1976, lot 21, illustrated on catalogue cover.

Eskenazi, J and Franses, Michael: Il Tappeto Orientale dal XV al XVIII Secolo, Milan, 1982, no.2, pp.67 and 24-5
Antique Oriental Carpets from Austrian Private Collections, Vienna, 1986, no.1.

Lot Notes
The carpets of Mamluk Egypt are among the oldest and most magnificent groups of carpets surviving today. Although they have been the subject of extensive study, their complete history and development as an art form still somewhat eludes us today. In the past, Mamluk carpets have been given various attributions as it was not possible to justify a fully developed and mature weaving tradition within the Mamluk Empire; there was no known historical tradition or precedent. As a group, Mamluk carpets share a limited palette and and intricate, nearly kaleidoscopic, design created by the juxtaposition of colour and form, in contrast to the clearly delineated designs as found on most other carpets. They also share unusual structural characteristics that distinguish them from the carpets of other cultures. The soft lustrous wool found in Mamluk carpets is 'S' (clockwise)-spun and 'Z' (anti-clockwise)-piled whereas almost all other Eastern carpets have the opposite characteristics. Louisa Bellinger has shown that the technical characteristics of the Mamluk wool is consistent with the characteristics of Egyptian wool used for centuries (Kühnel, Ernst and Bellinger, Louisa: Cairene Rugs and Others Technically Related, Washington, DC, 1957, p.80).

The Mamluk origin for these carpets is demonstrated by the 1474 writings of the Italian traveller Barbaro who compared Persian carpets to those of Turkey and Cairo (Pinner, Robert and Franses, Michael: "The East Mediterranean Carpet Collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum,"Hali, Vol.4, no.1, 1984, p.37) and by an event in 1341 when an angry mob pillaged the Palace of Sayf al-Din Qusun al-Nasir in Cairo. Among the items taken or destroyed were carpets, one of which was specifically noted as having been woven in Cairo (Irwin, Robert: "Egypt, Syria and their Trading Partners c.1450-1550 with Special Reference to Carpets," Preprints for the Special Session: Carpets from Mediterranean Countries 1450-1550, Fourth International Conference on Oriental Carpets, London, 1983). The Mamluk attribution for these carpets is further strengthened by a comparison of their designs to the designs found in other Mamluk arts such as bookbinding, architectural woodwork and mosaic tiles (Pinner and Franses: op. cit., pp.37-40). It should also be noted that several carpet scholars believe that the Mamluk carpets are part of a long tradition of carpet weaving in the Maghreb region of North Africa (Housego, Jenny: "Mamluk Carpets and North Africa," Oriental Carpet and Textile Studies II, London, 1986, pp.221-241). These alternative origin theories are not definite and they still place the production of these carpets within the sphere of the Mamluk Empire.

The rug offered here has the classic three colour palette as opposed to the expanded palette of five to seven colours. Some scholars believe that the five to seven colours pre-date the three colour group, while others believe the opposite. Most of the surviving examples are relatively small in size; however, the Bardini Mamluk carpet fragments in Florence are thought to be from an original carpet 30ft.2in. x 14ft.9in. 950cm. x 450cm. (Suriano, Carlo Maria: "Mamluk Blazon Carpets", Hali, March 1998, Issue 97, pp. 73-81).

The present rug with its central octagon flanked at each end by three smaller octagons has an arrangement shared by a small number of other Mamluk rugs (Ballard, James F.: The Ballard Collection of Oriental Rugs, Indianapolis, 1924, no.100, pp.182-3, also depicted in Ellis, Charles Grant: Oriental Rugs in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 1988, fig.38a, p.120; Schurrmann, Ulrich: Les Tapis d'Orient, Luxembourg, 1979, pl.p.107; Spuhler, Friedrich: Oriental Carpets in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin, London, 1988, no.63; and formerly in the Manilow Collection, Hali, vol.1, no.4, p.390). The same arangement but with a central stellar medallion is also found on a number of examples including one in the Textile Museum, Washington D.C.,R 7.1 (Kühnel and Bellinger, op.cit., p. 13 and one sold in these Rooms, 14 October 1999, lot 142).