The first quarter of nineteenth century at Axminster, the preeminent English factory which had been producing carpets since the 1750s, can be characterized by the endurance of the visual vocabulary of the late eighteenth century. Elsewhere in Europe the abundant use of flowers, garlands and bouquets was considered old fashioned. They were replaced with more geometric designs that reflected the new taste of the Directoire and Empire. In the early 1800s the craftsmen at Axminster, while also executing the designs in the spirit of Neoclassicism, still often utilized asymmetric floral compositions in their works. Along with carpets designed by Adam and other progressive artists at the time, the factory produced more conventional pieces that were clearly influenced by earlier trends. The present lot is a good example of such a piece with its soft colors, overall floral design and guilloche-like double border; all of which echo the traditions of the eighteenth century. The overall floral design, which was so popular in the mid-1700s and which is used in this carpet, however, has its roots in Elizabethan-Jacobean times, when scrolling-vine and floral designs were predominant. Having an identical floral design in the border as in the field is also a trademark of early-seventeenth-century carpets that was later adapted by designers in the 1700s and into the early 1800s, as shown by the current lot. Two Axminster carpets with a similar design can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Bristol Museum, see Bertram Jacobs, Axminster Carpets 1755-1957, Leigh-on-Sea, 1970, plates 6 & 30. The Rockbeare carpet now in the Bristol Museum also has a guilloche-like border that makes the overall similarity with the present lot even more apparent, see Jacobs, op. cit. plate 30. More recently, an Axminster carpet of similar design on an olive green ground was sold at Sotheby's London, October 18, 1995, lot 236.
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