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by George O'Bannon

Recently while looking at the Jerrehian collection of Oriental weavings, I came across a Mamluk rug. The border pattern of the rug struck me as being different from anything I had seen published. For that reason, it seemed a worthy candidate for publication in Oriental Rug Review. The article of Ms. Klose, which required a Mamluk illustration, seemed the appropriate place to publish it.
The rug is not in the best condition, but rugs from the l6th century rarely are. Several holes in the field of the rug have also been rewoven; these date from different times. The pile otherwise is as good as what one finds in most museum Mamluks. Although thin, the depressed warps have prevented erosion of areas of exposed warps and wefts, so that the design is clear and visible.

The colors are standard for the type: a cochineal red, an abrashed blue generally in a mid-blue range, and a firm, deep green. There is a minor use of a natural ivory.

The field design is dominated by a large octagon medallion containing two smaller medallions. Most Mamluk medallions are derived from a square-on-square or eight pointed medallion. In some, as in this rug, the points have been eliminated. A clear eight-point medallion is found in the very center of this rug. The two horizontal end panels in the field contain papyrus motifs and lancet leaves. The closest to this rug in Cairene Rugs by Kuhnel and Bellinger is Textile Museum R7.7, Plates 1 and XXI.

Fig.6. Section of the border

Pairing of the half medallions of the border results in an eight pointed Mamluk medallion, drawing by Harold Elliott.

The unusual feature of this rug is the border. It initially appears to be a complex, geometric interlacing. The most common Mamluk border is one with alternating roundel and cartouche segments. Interlacing patterns are noted in Textile Museum R7.7 and R7.16, Page II, Kuhnel/Bellinger. In both of these rugs the patterns are the vegetal papyrus and leaf forms found in the field as well.
The drawing here is decidedly tile-like, seemingly composed of large and small segments. Because our eye wants to find a pattern which can be encompassed in its entirety, the main element appears to be an hourglass shape tilted at a 45 degree angle. After studying this rug carefully, it seems to me that the main pattern consists of half eight-pointed stars in alternate right/left repeats at the edge of the border (Figures 1 & 2). This eight-pointed star appears in the center of the rug as well.

If one accepts this interpretation of the border, one can then see a relationship to the subject rug presented by Ms. Klose. The largest element in the border can be seen to be based on the square-on-square medallion concept. If the dating of this Mamluk to the beginning of the l6th century is correct, it is a type which could have been contemporary to the Geneva rug and served as a model. A link between Mamluk rug patterns and those of the Ottoman period, as evidenced by the Geneva rug and others such as the checkerboard and Para-Mamluks, may be strengthened.

In addition to the color illustration, Figure 3, a black and white photo taken with a blue filter is presented in Figure 6, which shows more clearly details of the design (Figure 3).


Warp: Ivory wool, Z2S, alternate warps moderately depressed
Weft: Red wool, Z2S, two shoots
Knots: Asymmetric, open right, horizontal 12, vertical 10, 120 per square inch
Colors: GREEN, blue, red, ivory
Size: 5' 10"x4' 4"
Sides: Rewoven
Ends: Rewoven