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It is these that are the focus of the second in our series of in-depth surveys of the MIAQ collection. An abridged version of this article, without references or citations, appears in HALIAutumn In the latter part of the 20th century the MIAQ has nevertheless been able to purchase a handful of wonderful pre carpets and fragments in good original pile with glowing colours that had remained in private hands, as well as other examples at auction.
We should consider this small group as a nucleus to be built upon. The pan-Mediterranean textile trade, including carpets, dates back to antiquity, but a strong local style can be seen in the few surviving Spanish carpets from the 14th and early 15th centuries. Egyptian carpets from the second half of the 15th century and before also show relatively little outside inf luence.
The 15th century was a time of conquest and a period of. By the early 16th century, f loral Ottoman court designs, taken from textiles and ceramics made in western Anatolia, were beginning to inf luence carpet making in both Spain and Islamic North Africa. In Spain such designs, in tandem with the stylistic inspiration of Spanish complex woven silk patterns, came to dominate carpet making, and they were also inf luential in Egypt.
As the Ottomans looked west, expanding into the Balkans, Egypt and North Africa, their inclusive attitude to all peoples — provided they paid their taxes — made their Empire a centre for trade. From the 13th to 15th century, Spanish carpets were being exported to France and Italy, and during the 15th and 16th Italy became the principal importer of carpets from Anatolia and Egypt. Many of the oldest surviving Syrian carpets can also be traced back to Renaissance Italy.
Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar, no. SPANISH CARPETS Spanish carpets have been collected by some of the most sophisticated of connoisseurs,2 often acquired through specialist dealers in Spain, Italy, Germany, England and America. Most examples are now in museum collections. One is complete, two appear to be complete but are in fact part of larger carpets, and two are fragments. The museum has none of the later loopedpile carpets from Alpujarra, nor any of the rare knotted-pile or more common embroidered Arrialos carpets from Portugal.
To appreciate its significance and merit, and to comprehend the rarity and importance of Spanish carpet-making in general, we should brief ly consider the surviving corpus. Most early Spanish carpets are made using a single warp with offset knotting, a technique that may have come to Spain from Egypt between the 8th and 10th centuries. Serjeant tells us of Arabic documents that mention carpet-making in Spain from the 10th century, although they do not say how rugs were constructed, and give little descriptive information.
Cutting and patching occurred quite early on, as can be seen in two 15th century rugs depicted in 16th century European paintings. The Bishop of Langres owned a pile carpet of Spanish manufacture in The Duke of Berry had no fewer than 13 Spanish carpets, mostly white grounds… mostly 2. Much has been written about it, and it has been convincingly suggested that it was ordered for a synagogue.
These villages were probably inhabited by Mudejar Muslim weavers who stayed on after the Inquisition and into the second half of the 16th century. For classification purposes, I have divided Spanish carpets into groups representing basic field compositions rather than workshops or places of manufacture. The same can be done with border patterns, which can be seen associated with several different field designs.
Their fields are surrounded by between three and seven borders, including one composed of highly stylised Kufic script. On some carpets this kufesque border is filled with various creatures, trees and human figures, including women in low-cut European-style dresses, and at least two examples have a pictorial panel depicting trees and animals at each end.
Four examples, believed to be funeral carpets, have a central medallion with blazon and small medallions with skulls set against a textile pattern. At least nine others have blazons, some on a plain field, some with a decorated background. Another example, surviving as four fragments, has a tile- or ceiling-like field composed of a rectangular interlaced grid, each compartment of which is filled with a large interlaced medallion; the colours and border pattern suggests that this probably dates from the late 15th or early 16th century.
With three perfectly balanced columns of ten small octagons of the type. Carpets with this pattern can be further sub-divided according to the octagon design. The first sub-group comprises six carpets, all possibly from the second half of the 15th century, with a complex star medallion like that seen on an Anatolian rug depicted in by the Venetian artist Carlo Crivelli.
The fourth sub-group, consisting of one complete carpet and one small fragment, has a field design of vertical and horizontal rows of octagons in implied compartments with small secondary motifs between. The type dates from the second half of the 15th century and an example can be seen depicted in a painting from around This substantial section is the lower part of the original long carpet; the upper part, with four octagons, is in the Textile Museum, Washington DC.
Reportedly acquired from the Convent of Santa Ursula in Guadalajara, northeast of Madrid, both sections were once in Venice with the famous antique dealer Adolf Loewi. This lower section passed through Benadava in Paris and thence to the Wher Collection before coming to Doha.
Once part of the original design concept, this refinement is seen in very few surviving Anatolian versions, yet it appears in all known Spanish ones. The ground of the square compartments surrounding each large octagon has a beautiful interlaced design, reminiscent of a woven textile, and the borders that divide the octagons and surround the field are typically Spanish and have not been found in Anatolian examples.
Over thirty Spanish carpets with the Turkish arabesque field design are known to survive, four of which include coats-of-arms. Spanish arabesque carpets appear to have yellow backgrounds, although it is likely they were originally red and the red dye has oxidized. The pattern is usually in blue and ivory.
The most common border is a curled-leaf pattern. HALI ISSUE Other examples have softer tones apart from the blue and yellow grounds that were originally red. It has often been suggested that the oxidised red seen on many carpets made from the early 16th century onwards marks the time when Jews and Muslims left Spain; dyeing was traditionally a Jewish craft.
Some of the carnation carpets made from the early 16th century onwards include birds, and two have the elegant Renaissance border pattern seen on the Qatar arabesque carpet 3. Related to the carnation rugs are a further 23 examples with single palmettes in a lattice.
The f lowers and lattice are clearly European in style, but the concept can be seen in earlier Turkish models. During the 17th century Spanish carpet weavers continued to copy patterns from other regions. At least one example copies a Cairene Ottoman design, and three more have designs copied from small Esfahan rugs, made in central Iran in the 16th and early 17th centuries. Two early Spanish carpets survive that have a cloud pattern directly copied from a 14th century Mongol silk.
Spain, 16th century. MIAQ, no. The MIAQ has one Spanish arabesque carpet, with the design in brown on an ivory ground, surrounded by an elegant Renaissance border of large leaves 3. One of the finest examples extant, it was probably made in the first half of the 16th century, The Anatolian arabesque pattern also inspired a new Spanish design of serrated leaves that form an oval lattice and concave diamonds.
Seven examples are known. A further seven carpets are known with a textile pattern of diagonal rows of large carnations directly copied from Ottoman silk velvets made in Bursa. CARPETS WITH SPANISH SILK DESIGNS More than Spanish carpets have designs derived from Spanish woven silk textiles. The earliest of these have the strong red and Kufic borders with animals attributable to the 15th century.
Four have a field pattern of lobed oval medallions either in a lattice or in diagonal rows,38 and twelve have ascending palmettes within an interlaced lattice. Another lattice field design, which must have been popular for some time, features compartments filled with a large ascending side-view f lowers or palmettes.
In 33 examples an ogival lattice is composed of two parallel stems. Six of these have the strong colours dateable to the late 15th and early 16th century, but the majority are from the second and third quarters of the 16th century. One of these, with a two-plane lattice with palmettes, probably from the mid- 16th century, is one of only two known Spanish classical carpets with silk pile.
Most of them have strong reds and Kufic borders, and are thought to date from the late 15th or early 16th century. The MIAQ fragment is extremely finely knotted and dates from the very beginning of the 16th century. The wide lattice is in yellow — possibly originally red but now oxidised — and the background is green. The palmettes are linked diagonally by stems that intersect the lattice; the primary border has a meandering stem with f lowers pointing alternately inward and outward on a light blue ground.
Ten Spanish carpets have lattice designs that are unique sur vivors, including two with rampant lions, a pattern directly copied from Spanish woven silk textiles from the 15th century, and three with different Spanish silk brocade designs. In three of the earliest examples, the individual wreaths are placed within square compartments. Three complete compartments with end panels, reduced in size from a larger carpet.
MIAQ 7 The Milan circular Mamluk carpet detailCairo, Egypt, 16th century. One of these three carpets, with greatly worn pile and probably reduced in size, is in the MIAQ 5. It was acquired at auction in London inhaving previously been on the art market in both Paris and New York. The two others are in Berlin and Miami. The MIAQ has one such fragment, with four wreaths and no borders 6.
Once with Yves Mikaeloff in Paris, it was acquired at auction in London in Another section of this carpet, also with four wreaths but with parts of the border attached, was on the New York market some twenty years ago. The few publications to date on Spanish carpets have tended to focus on specific collections. The most important and best of these is still Alfombras Antiguas Espanolas, the rare catalogue by Ferrandis Torres for the Madrid exhibition, which brought together examples from a number of sources.
Substantial research has been undertaken in European inventories for records of Spanish carpets, and some work has been done to collate their depictions in Western paintings, but there has not, to date, been any attempt to compile a complete catalogue of all surviving Spanish carpets, or to analyse them,45 carry out dye tests, and in some instances carbon analyses.
The time is ripe for a major exhibition of the greatest Mudejar carpets — perhaps the MIAQ will, in due course, accept the challenge? Six are attributable to Cairo and two to Damascus. The other two carpets from Cairo are more colourful, in the more naturalistic Ottoman f loral style. Knotted-pile carpets have probably been made in the Levant and Anatolia since the second millennium BC or before.
It is not known when the knotted-pile technique was first used in Egypt, but it may go back at to at least BC. The oldest, almost complete, knotted-pile carpet currently known to have been found in Egypt has been carbon dated to — AD, although the materials suggest that it may have been made in Anatolia.
The oldest of these are from the Abbasid period — : some may have been made in Egypt, others could be from Mesopotamia, Anatolia and Iberia. Its principal cities were Cairo and Damascus. These carpets are now generally thought to have been made in Cairo, having first been thus attributed by some of the earliest carpet scholars. Inventory records from the late 14th to the late 17th century report carpets coming from Cairo.
My archive contains images of Mamluk-style carpets made in Egypt during the 15th and 16th centuries, divisible into groups by approximate age and by design detail. Another hundred or so were probably made during the second and third quarters of the 16th century. Thereafter the Cairene workshops that made the Mamluk-style carpets were engaged in making carpets in the new Ottoman style, using identical dyes and materials. At least eight carpets are known that represent a transitional group with elements of both styles.
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