Fantastical Mughal animal carpet fragment
Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
Glasgow Museums - The Burrell Collection
Cotton warp and weft; wool pile
H: 2692mm, W: 2667mm
Royal palace workshop, Lahore (probably)
A late 16th century fantastical Mughal Indian animal carpet fragment. It once formed part of an exceptionally large and predominantly deep red pile carpet. The piece shows wild animals from the Indian jungle pouncing out of each other’s mouths in a chain of fantastical compositions. The range of animals is extensive, including the heads of elephants, rhinoceros, camels, nilgai antelopes, blackbuck antelopes, tigers, lions, a leopard, black panthers, oxen, onagers, rabbits and hares, snakes, geese, black-necked storks, parrots, peacocks, fish, and crocodile-like beasts; whole figures of cheetahs, turtles, and hyena, dog and monkey-like quadrupeds; and two types of demonic masks – the only supernatural creatures on the carpet.
This carpet fragment belongs to an early genre of Mughal Indian carpets known as ‘grotesque’ carpets. Studies on this fragment – and six others that belong to the same carpet – reveal that the original complete carpet must have been about 4 meters wide and at least 20 meters long! It is thought to have been made in the Farrashkhana, the royal weaving workshop of the Mughal Emperor Akbar (r.1566 – 1605), in either of his capitals Fatehpur-Sikri or Lahore sometime in the 1580s or 90s.
Emperor Akbar is credited with introducing the craft of pile-carpet weaving into India with the aid of Iranian master weavers brought over to establish the royal workshops and train Indian artisans in this art. An additional seven fragments scattered around museums in Europe and the USA indicate that this carpet had a pair. The animals and plants were all generally drawn in a style closely matched by animals and plants painted in Akbar-period miniature paintings. However, this particular fantastical design was inspired by a combination of Timurid Persian and Hindu Indian depictions of such animals in paintings and on textiles and architecture.
Manufacturing techniques and stylistic analysis
Gifted by Sir William and Lady Burrell to the City of Glasgow, 1944
Stylistic analysis. Part of a large carpet with other known fragments in public collections
Cohen, Steven, “Beasts of the imagination”, Hali, 172 (summer 2012): 46-49.
Cohen, Steven, “A Fearful Symmetry”, Silk &Stone, The Art of Asia, Hali Annual: 104-135.
Noorah Al-Gailani "Fantastical Mughal animal carpet fragment" [db_in_citation_dca] 2019. http://carpets.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?itemId=object;DCA;uk;Mus31;1;en
Prepared by: Noorah Al-Gailani
MWNF Working Number: UK1_001