PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF A SWISS COLLECTOR
There are two aspects to the present work which make it particularly exciting. Firstly, it bears the earlier and rarer calligraphic mark of Zareh’s, here found in the central palmette in the lower half of the rug. Later examples have, often numerous, Kufic ‘signatures’, see Farrow, G., Kum Kapi Masters, Hali, 1989, issue 46, p.11, figs 2 & 3. Farrow spent years studying the Kum Kapi masters; it is through him that the calligraphic mark was brought into wider circulation in both the aforementioned Hali article and also in letters of correspondence to Sotheby’s dated 19 October 1995 and 10 January 1996. In these letters Farrow further reiterates the importance of the mark, which is paired with the Hereke manufactory mark in the silk carpet MW1 16a, at the time in his personal collection. It suggests Zareh created his own workshop very shortly after his return from Hereke, around the turn of the century, when he was recalled to Istanbul by Sultan Abdul Hamid II (1842 - 1918). Thereafter, Zareh adopted the more ubiquitous Kufic ‘signature’, indicating the present work is one of his earliest weavings. A related rug, also bearing the Zareh calligraphic mark, was sold Sotheby's, New York, 3 March 2009, lot 52.
Secondly, and also suggesting an early date, are the inscriptions to the field and border. Zareh's 'Sultans head' prayer rugs often bear text from the Qur'an, to the larger three borders, each repeating 'Ayat al-Kursi'. The smaller corner cartouches are also usually differing names for God, starting clockwise from the top right hand corner; ya sami, rafi’, mani’ and rafiq. The small letters to the border of the mihrab are verses from a qasida, or eulogy, by the 11th century Persian poet Manuchehri and the central cartouche to the mihrab the phrase “This, too, will pass”. However in the present example the Qur'an inscription is missing the beginning of the verse and is replaced by the end, the small corner cartouches have Rafiq repeated in the upper two and Rafi' in the lower, the words ya sami and mani’ are lacking. There are other errors to the Qur'an and poetic text throughout. These mistakes in the text also support an earlier dating as they would suggest that the young Zareh was in the early stages of mastering the cartoon for the 'Sultans Head' design. This rare, early work gives us a fascinating insight into the development of Zareh’s oeuvre. For further reading see: Farrow, G., Hagop Kapoudjian The First and Greatest Master of the Kum Kapi School, 1993; Farrow, G., Zareh's Legacy, Hali, 1991, issue 58, p.112 and Bensoussan, P., The Masterweavers of Istanbul, Hali, 1985, issue 26, pp. 34 – 41.
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