Indian court carpet production is believed to date from the reign of the Mughal emperor Akbar (r. 1556-1605). Until around 1630 designs were based upon contemporaneous Persian models which were interpreted in an inimitably Indian style. Even with the emergence of an Indian aesthetic, certain Persian design elements, themes and compositional preferences were retained by local carpet weavers. Such analogies include the use of vivid color palettes and the abundant use of interlacing vines, large palmettes and delicate flower heads. From the mid-seventeenth century, as a result of Shah Jahan's (r. 1628-1666) enthusiasm for herbaria, Indian carpets became increasingly more floral in design, exhibiting more botanical realism. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York possesses a carpet where Persian-inspired stylized palmettes and leaves are mixed with realistically drawn flowers, illustrating this new trend in Indian art, see M. S. Dimand and Jean Mailey, Oriental Carpets in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
, New York, 1973, p. 122. By the mid-1700s, as the Mughal Court transferred its economic and political focus from Persia to its new trading allies, the Western European powers such as Holland and England, it replaced the Safavid design ethos with a more European aesthetic that resulted in generally more regulated, less organic compositions and stylized design elements. For a mid-eighteenth century carpet from the Deccan decorated with such stylized motifs arranged in a controlled geometric order, see Daniel Walker, Flowers Underfoot
, New York, 1997, p. 140. Depicting flowers in an overall lattice pattern was not reserved for carpets and textiles, and this design can be seen in numerous different media from architecture to manuscript illuminations. In India, similarly to virtually any other carpet weaving center in the world at the time, silk was among the most precious of materials and only a limited number of silk carpets and rugs were woven, so that fewer survive to this day.
The present rug belongs to a small group of eight “flower-in-lattice” pattern rugs, all of which have slightly angular flowering vines in their borders, rhythmically repeating flower heads in the guard borders and delicately drawn overall lattices enclosing sprays of flowers shown facing forward and in three-quarter views, some depicted naturalistically, others more stylized. In addition to the present lot, the pieces belonging to this group are; one in the Musée des Tissus, Lyon; a fragment in the Al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait; another fragment, presumably from the same carpet, in the Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar; a carpet sold from the Kevorkian Collection, Anderson Galleries, New York, March 11-13, 1922, lot 605; one sold from the Benguiat Collection, Anderson Galleries, New York, April 23, 1932, lot 26; another sold from the Untermyer Collection, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, May 10-11, 1940, lot 207; one sold from the Quill Jones Collection, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, March 21, 1952, lot 108; and one formerly in the Cliff Collection, Detroit Institute of Art. Rugs and carpets in this group are among the last products of the golden age of carpet weaving in India as they were made just before the design of floral carpets became overly angular and somewhat stiff following the abovementioned European aesthetic. In the present rug, the lines of the trellis are still delicately curved, the blossoms well articulated, and vibrant jewel-like hues employed.