National Museum of Ancient Art
Second half of the 16th century
Cotton, wool and silk; white silk warp; off-white cotton weft; wool knots 2Z; asymmetric knots, open to the left
H: 424.5cm, W: 292.5cm; knot density warp 3S, 150‒60/dm; weft 2Z, x3, 80‒90/dm; c. 6,400/dm2
Herat, Isfahan, Iran
Iran, Isfahan, Herat
Carpets were one of the most important expressions of Persian art, especially during the reign of Shah ‘Abbas (1587‒1629), when they achieved the height of technical perfection and creative design. Made in leading workshops located in Tabriz, Kashan, Kerman and Isfahan, their floral and arabesque patterns with central medallions and figural scenes featuring animals contrasted with the geometric-designs that had characterised previous Persian carpets, as well as the Spanish and Turkish examples, which up until the mid-16th century had prevailed in Europe.
These carpets were very expensive and usually had bigger dimensions when compared to their counterparts. This is the case for the large carpet fragment seen here, once part of a wide and impressive example measuring nearly six metres in length. Even though the two ends are now missing (they were cut off), the carpet still stands out for its extraordinary technical and artistic quality. One of its ends is currently in the Textile Museum in Washington, DC (Inv. No. R.33.4.6), after it was gifted by George Hewitt Meyers (1875‒1957); he, in turn, had purchased it from its previous, famous owner, the Armenian dealer of Islamic art, Dikran Kelekian (1868‒1951).
The design of this “tree and animal” carpet combines the concept of the Persian pleasure garden with that of the royal hunting park. In addition, its wide-ranging palette, comprising 17 colours in total, shows the influence of Persian miniature painting. With a composition organised symmetrically, along its two centre lines, the field is made up of a small central medallion, with tall trees and flowering bushes inhabited by exotic birds and animals such as light brown lions and deer, blue quilins and multicoloured parrots. This is set against an elaborate network of scrolling vines, palmettes, blossoms, buds and leaves, on a red ground, which contrasts with the carpet’s emerald-green border.
Technical information provided by Jessica Hallet and Steven Cohen
Transferred in 1911 from the Convent of Madre de Deus (Order of Saint Claire), Lisbon, Portugal; commissioned by Queen Leonor (1458‒1525), in 1509
Stylistic analysis and material dating
Hallett, Jessica, “Fit for a Queen: An important Persian Tree and Animal carpet in Lisbon”, Oriente, 15 (August 2006): 3‒25.
Hallett, Jessica and Pereira, Teresa Pacheco (eds), The Oriental Carpet in Portugal: Carpets and paintings, 15th‒18th centuries, Lisbon: MNAA, 2007.
Hallett, Jessica, “‘Tree and animal’ carpet, large fragment”, in Alexandra Curvelo (ed.), Casa Perfeitíssima 1509‒2009: Celebrating 500 years of the Foundation of the Convent of Madre de Deus, Lisbon: Ministério da Cultura/IMC/Museu Nacional do Azulejo, 2009.
Ana Kol "Carpet" [db_in_citation_dca] 2019. http://carpets.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?itemId=object;DCA;pt;Mus31_D;15;en
Prepared by: Ana Kol
Translation by: Lily Chadwick
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: PT1_015