‘Shield’ carpets, such as the lot offered here, have long been revered by collectors and scholars as rare and sophisticated weavings from the Caucasus. As such rare, intriguing, and aesthetically outstanding pieces, these rugs were the subject of choice for a thorough discussion in the inaugural issue of Hali
magazine, see Pinner, Robert and Michael Franses, “Caucasian Shield Carpets,” Hali
, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 4-22. ‘Shield’ carpets were woven with silk in the foundation and demonstrate an unusual grandeur of design for Caucasian weavings. Unquestionably the works of highly skilled weavers, they maintain a vibrancy of coloring and stylization of design remaining Caucasian in sensibility. An attribution to a weaving center more precise than Caucasian would be speculative as there are no documents to support specific towns or workshops. Regardless where exactly ‘shield’ carpets were woven, they are products of workshops expected to meet the highest demands. Dating ‘shield’ carpets continues to be controversial among scholars. C. G. Ellis, Early Caucasian Rugs
, Washington, D.C., 1975, p. 96, believes all of the ‘shield’ carpets to be from the 19th century. F. Spuhler, Oriental Carpets in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin
, Washington, D.C., 1987, dates some examples to the 19th century, while Pinner and Franses, op. cit.
, suggest that the type of ‘shield’ carpet presented here was woven contemporaneously with Kuba ‘Afshan’ pattern carpets dating between 1790-1840. Besides the dominating shield design, which is believed to be derived from the ‘lotus palmette’ or ‘Ottoman tulip’ motif, the fields of these weavings also incorporate numerous other elements including stylized flower heads and cypress trees, vinery, winged palmettes, serrated leaves, and sometimes escutcheons.
The flowering shrub border of the present lot appears to be unique among the corpus of known 'shield' carpets. Most ‘shield’ carpets have narrow borders exhibiting the ‘curled leaf’ motif. The present carpet's border is unusual both in its breadth and design, creating a brilliant compliment to the scale and color of the field pattern.
For related examples, see M.S. Dimand and Jean Mailey, Oriental Rugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1973, p. 268, fig. 230.; Sotheby’s, London, October, 1985, lot 646; Christie’s, London, October, 2006, lot 24; and Sotheby's, New York, December 14, 2006, lot 98.