Lot 28
  • 28

A 'Karapinar' rug fragment, South Central Anatolia

50,000 - 80,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • wool pile and cotton
  • approximately 275 by 134cm; 9ft., 4ft. 5in.
incorporating two fragments from the same rug


the larger fragment with Eskenazi, London, by 1985, the smaller acquired from Gary Muse, London, 1985


Oakley. P., 'fact or fiction 'Karapinar' rugs from Central Anatolia', Hali, Winter, 2010, issue 166, p. 50 Eskenazi, J.,'The Alexander Collection: Part I Weaving as Liturgy', Hali, April/May 1994, issue 74, p. 82, fig. 2.

Alexander, C., A Foreshadowing of 21st Century Art The Color and Geometry of Very Early Turkish Carpets, New York, 1993, pp. 172 - 175, ill pp. 86, 175 (details) & 173.

Hali, issue 28, October/November/December, 1985, p. 45.

Catalogue Note

Characteristic of the prestige of the Alexander collection, this present lot is a rare example with a richness in design almost unparalleled and, in common with other examples of this genre, it presents a quandary in terms of exact origin. In his opening statement for his entry on this work, Alexander says it is 'Perhaps one of the most interesting carpets discovered in recent times.' Alexander, A Foreshadowing, op.cit, p 172, a statement not without foundation. Within the rug are elements shared with weavings from Turkmenistan, East and Central Persia, the Caucasus and Central Anatolia. In examining the border there is a clear correlation with the ‘Karapinar’ affectionately known as the Pink Panther, sold Sotheby’s London, 7 November 2017, lot 30. In both examples the border is composed of an intertwined trellising with stylised rosettes, the Panther with red and underlying blue and the present work vice versa – they each also share the same inner guard design too. In addition the present lot has vibrant ivory white rosette flowerheads within the border, further shared with another of the Alexander ‘Karapinars’ within this sale, see lot 45. This brilliant ivory, also seen within the field, is a trait which is associated with Karapinar weaves, see Beattie. M., ‘Some Rugs of the Konya Region’, Oriental Art, London, Spring, 1976, vol. 22, pp. 60 – 61 for further reference to the weaving region.

Interestingly this meandering border draws comparison with 17th century examples from Khorossan, see Sotheby’s New York, 1 October 2015, lot 97, and also later re-appears in other works such as 19th century ‘C’ and ‘Eagle’ Yomut main carpets, (for example Sotheby’s London, 1 November 2015, lots 22 and 23). Yet the border, whilst relating to Persian design, does seem to have an inherent Anatolian identity, whereas the main, and highly unusual, field design appears to derive from Safavid courtly carpets, the stylised mosque lamps a replacement for the traditional vase. When looking at what Alexander calls ‘flaming animal spirits’ it seems more likely these are a derivation of sickle leaves, again reminiscent of ‘vase’ carpets. Even with Central Persian weavings as an apparently compelling precursor, on closer inspection the spirits or leaves  have a semblance more indigenous to the area; the Quercus cerris or Turkish oak, which grows along the southerly coastline of modern Turkey. This would suggest the present lot could have originated at a Southerly point of the Karapinar region and that the weaver was informed of the great courtly productions in Persia.

What is less explainable is the highly unusual three ‘V’ shaped splayed leaves within the field. There are some possible influences, again hearkening to the courtly productions, these ‘V’ shaped leaves could be an interpretation of latticed vinery or leaves. When reviewing a black and white image of such an example this comparison becomes a little clearer, see the ‘vase’ carpet fragment in the MAK, Vienna, illustrated in Campana. P., Il Tappeto Orientale, Milan, 1962, pl. 36. In this black and white negative the vase, or urn, and the vines and leaves show a clear resemblance to the offered Karapinar, again there is correlation in the border design. It is also worth noting that these extravagant sweeping leaves are a rarity in any weave and are only really seen in the rarest of ‘vase’ techniques carpets, the sickle leaf pattern. The legendary Clark Sickle-leaf carpet sold Sotheby’s New York, 5 June 2013, lot 12, whilst very different in many respects, displays some design traits which the offered ‘Karapinar’ seems to take inspiration from. There is one other 17th/18th century ‘Karapinar’ example which compares more directly than others. Now in the Türk ve Islam Eserleri Müzesi, Istanbul, formerly in the Alaaddin Keykubat Shrine, Konya, and cited by Oakley. P., op cit, p. 44, 48, 49, fig 9, this example shares the field design elements such as the ‘V’ splayed leaves, oak leaves, vertical palmettes and the mosque urns of the present lot. However these designs are inverted to meet at the centre of the rug; they are also of a similar scale and have a related border design. Oakley ascribes this example as the earliest of the second of her chronological groupings she assigns to the works with known provenance to Karapinar, the ex-Bernheimer to group one and the ‘Pink Panther’ group 3.

See also a 17th century Konya fragment, possibly from Ladik, which compares  both in colour tone and design elements, published in Franses. M, Tapis Present de L’Orient A L’Occident, Paris, 1989, pp. 98 & 99. This is probably a larger town production and the motifs are arranged in a more linear fashion seeming to emulate architectural reliefs, a viewpoint shared by Oakley who likens to tilework in the Topkapi Palace and also refers to embroidery, op cit, p. 48, see Riefstahl. M., 'Primitive Rugs of the “Konya”' Type in the Mosque of Beyshehir' The Art Bulletin, vol. 13, No. 2, p. 201, figs. 19 & 22. However the field design of triangular palmettes organised into a ‘tête-bêche’ composition interspersed with vines and rosettes also in a ‘V’ shaped formation does bear a striking link to the offered work. It is interesting that in the entry for the Konya fragment it too is compared with Turkmenistan weaves and that the leaves and design format bear so much in common with the offered work.