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Mamluk medallion silk carpet, 16th century, Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst, Vienna, Austria. inv no: T 8332, Size: 290x540cm.


This is the only survivng example of a Mamluk carpet with a silk pile. Together with an exceptionally varied palette, this creatres an unusual effect of changing brightness, heightened by the kaleidoscopic effect - a result of the very dense, mosaic-style design-that is typical of these carpets. The three superimposed octagonal medallions are arranged on a field that is completely filled with small, brightly colored geometric elements, such as octagons, squares and rectangles, placed one next to the other and repeated inside each other. Also unusual is the wide principal border decorated with arabesques, which gives an eclectic touch to the whole.


(Formerly in the Imperial collection)
Length, 540 cm.j width, 290 cm.
Warp: yellow silk, some threads blue, two-fold. To 1 dm. 128 warp threads (= 32 to the inch).
Weft: sheep's-wool, dyed red. After every row of knots two shoots, each three-fold. The first shoot straight, the second wavy.
The weft is full and wide.

Knotting: silk. To 1 dm. 49 knots in the length and 64 in the width (= 12 and 16 to the inch). Knotted on two warp threads. Scheme III. To 1 square dm. about 5100 knots (= 192 to the inch). Pile to the left.

Colours: twelve. Ground-colours: deep cherry-red (inner field), green (border), blue, light brown and light yellow (edgings).
Colours of the pattern: green, light green, dark green, blue, light blue, dark blue, deep blue, cherry-red, light brown,
yellow, black, white. The colouring of this carpet with its delicate sheen is quite unusual, and renders it a particularly
important example of carpet-weaving.

State Of preservation: relatively good. Part of the inner field, towards one of the ends, very much worn, and repaired in places. The black silk much decayed.

The inner field is closely covered with symmetrically disposed geometrical ornamental ion and conventional plant forms, repeating from right to left and from end to end. The whole surface is divided into geometrical compartments (stars, octagons, rosettes, triangles and rectangles). The pattern of the inner field is adapted to its confines. The centre is indicated by a large eight-pointed dentated star, divided concentrically into several octagonal zones. The central panel in light blue and red with geometrical stems is surrounded first by a green and then by a blue zone, both with plant-forms in red. The points of the star have a light green outlining stripe following the indentations and decorated with S-shaped stems. The pattern of the star radiates from the centre, It is surrounded by smaller stars kaloidoscopically dis-posed and other coloured geometrical forms, all in contact with one another, and (like the middle star) decorated with a variety of delicate plant forms; they also contain small rosettes and linear star-shapes. Beyond the diagonal points of the central star lie four large rectangles, each decorated with green plant-forms ami having in the middle an octagon with projecting sides. The octagons each contain a dark green central star and geometrical stems, in red on a light blue ground, with small white blossoms. At both ends of the carpet beyond the ornamentation above described is a cross-band, each containing in the middle a large polygon divided into zones of different colours and flanked by two light blue eight-pointed stars. The interspaces are covered with the most varied geometrical figures and conventionalised plant-forms, leaving no plain spaces. The filling motives are strongly conventionalised and adapted to the geometrical forms.

The border contains, in the broad middle stripe, delicate angularly-broken stems in red on a green ground. Down the middle two repeating forms are to be distinguished, one with eight blue and four white blossoms, the other with four blue and two white blossoms. Besides these forms, which are actually the fillings of elongated panels, such as are usual in the borders of carpets of this type, with the contours omitted, there are, on either side, thicker stems with blossoms arranged on the system of wavy bands. There are two edgings on either side of the middle stripe. They all contain wavy stems with flowers and leaves. Further, the inner field is immediately surrounded by a narrow light yellow strip with a row of S-forms in black. Among the conventionalised plant-motives used in the pattern of this carpet are a half-moon form, a long leaf in profile with curls at the base (in the cross-bands), a blossom with curled calyx and cinquefoil crown (in the inner border-edgings), an ivy-like leaf (in the outer border-edgings) and a triple curled blossom (in the middle of the large star)- Many arabesque forms are also to be seen.
The attribution of the whole class of these carpets to Egypt ™ made by Friedrich Sarre in Zeitschrift fur bildende Kunst (N. F. XXXII, p. 75, The Egyptian origin of the so-called Damascus carpets), and in Jalirbuch der asiatischen Kuust (I, 1924, p. 19, Egyptian carpets),— Alois lliegl, Altere orientalische Teppiche in Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen des Allerhochsten Kaiserhauses, Vienna, Vol. XIII, 1892, pp. 324 ffM Plate XXIX, — Meisterwerke Muhammedanischer Kunst, Munich, 1912, Vol. I, Plate 77. — Bode-Kuhnel, Vorderasiatische Knüpfteppiche, 1922, p, 48, fig. 88. — Sarre points out in Jahrbuch der asiatischen Kunst (Vol. I, 1924, p. 25) that the carpet is shown in the painting of the family of the grand Duke Leopold I of Tuscany, afterwards German Emperor, in the Vienna Gallery (No. 1592), The picture was painted by Zoffani in 1777.