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 © Glasgow Museums - The Burrell Collection © Glasgow Museums - The Burrell Collection

Name of Object:

Grotesque Animal Carpet fragment


Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Glasgow Museums - The Burrell Collection


Late 16th / early 17th century

Type of object:


Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Silk warp and weft; wool pile


H: 788mm, W: 407mm

Period / Dynasty:


Workshop / Movement:

Khurasan / Herat town workshop


Afghanistan, Herat


A rare Safavid period Herati pile carpet-border fragment with dark blue and yellow-coloured backgrounds, showing animal heads growing amongst flowers, buds and leaves on meandering vegetal stems. The animals appearing on the symmetrically laid out arabesque design are lions, bulls, fish, foxes and horses. The delicate rendition of the animals has made use of a variety of colour shades to highlight the animals’ features. This can be seen especially on the horses’ foreheads and noses, where fine ivory knots are gradually mixed with the red knots to give a pink-shaded impression, accentuating the shape of the horses’ heads. The bellies of the fish have been rendered in a similar fashion, with paler cream threads used to shade the undersides.

The term “grotesque animal design” is applied to this type of pattern, where animals’ heads spring out of stems. This type of pattern first appeared on Middle Eastern metal wares and on works on paper during the Seljuq and Ilkhanid periods (11th – 14th centuries), and subsequently on Safavid manuscripts and textiles. The Burrell fragment seems to belong to a unique carpet of its age and place of manufacture. And although very little is known about who owned it before Sir William Burrell acquired it, a small number of other fragments from the same carpet have survived. One border fragment was acquired by the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1899 from the art collector Fredrik Robert Martin (1868 - 1933), a Swedish Islamic Art historian, orientalist, collector and diplomat; four fragments from the centre field of the carpet are in the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, France; another field fragment is in the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, Massachusetts, USA; and an eighth fragment is reputed to be in a collection in Hanover, Germany.

How date and origin were established:

Manufacturing techniques and stylistic analysis

How Object was obtained:

Gifted by Sir William and Lady Burrell to the City of Glasgow, 1944

How provenance was established:

Stylistic analysis. Part of a large carpet with other known fragments in public collections

Selected bibliography:

Cohen, Steven, “Beasts of the imagination”, Hali, 172 (summer 2012): 46-49.

Citation of this web page:

Noorah Al-Gailani "Grotesque Animal Carpet fragment"  [db_in_citation_dca]  2019.;DCA;uk;Mus31;8;en

Prepared by: Noorah Al-Gailani

MWNF Working Number: UK1_008

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