National Museum of Ancient Art
Cotton and wool; knotted; knot, 2Z (4Z); asymmetric knot, open to the left
H: 796cm, W: 375cm; knot density c. 3,190/dm2
Following the 1834 abolition of Portuguese religious institutions, most of their portable heritage was transferred to the Portuguese State. The incorporation of textiles, including carpets, into State property is particularly relevant to the history and the creation of national museums and collections such as the National Museum of Ancient Art. This carpet, which has been in the NMAA’s collection since 1888, comes from the former convent of Estrela for which it had been commissioned by Princess Maria I (r.1777‒1816) after the birth of her son.
Although building began in 1779, well after the date of this carpet’s production, its incorporation in the convent can be attributed to two reasons: as an offering from the Royal Portuguese House, owner of an impressive collection of Oriental carpets, to encourage offers from other donors, or even a transfer from another religious institution.
The lack of documentation makes it difficult to ascertain its original function. These carpets were much appreciated and used as important decorative furnishings both in sacred and profane interiors, where they were meant to define spaces. One such example of physical delimitation lay in the use of carpets to cover the stairway and higher elevated daises that became an Iberian tradition within the female universe and lasted well into the 19th century.
This carpet has undergone several restorative interventions, with its original size having been approximately a metre larger than at present; of almost eight-metres in length, this carpet shows a very balanced design and colour. It presents the classical ornamental motifs characteristic of this category, along with the field filled with “vine scrolls” alternating with palmettes and S-shape cloud scrolls (tchi). It also exhibits the characteristic contrast of colours between the field and the border (red/blue), both filled with palmettes and chinar leaves.
Technical information provided by Jessica Hallet and Steven Cohen
Transferred from the Convent of Estrela, Lisbon, Portugal, in 1888
Stylistic analysis and material dating
Hallett, Jessica and Pereira, Teresa Pacheco (eds), The Oriental Carpet in Portugal: Carpets and paintings, 15th‒18th centuries, Lisbon: MNAA, 2007.
Ana Kol "Carpet" [db_in_citation_dca] 2019. http://carpets.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?itemId=object;DCA;pt;Mus31_D;17;en
Prepared by: Ana Kol
Translation by: Lily Chadwick
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: PT1_017