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An exceptionally fine Kashmir Durbar carpet, North India
Knot density: V:7/cm; H: 8/cm

'THE STATE DINING ROOM' stitched to the underside of two corners and the letter 'H' to another, woven horizontally


approximately 746 by 343cm; 24ft. 4in., 11ft. 2in.
circa 1890
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Catalogue Note

Durbar (Audience) carpets, are shown in paintings of Shah Jahangir (1605-1627) and Shah Jahan (1628-1658) in audience and show they were intended for display longitudinally before the throne. They were extremely large and were particularly in demand during the second half 17th century. Some were made in pairs, and many survive in the Jaipur Collection, of which some have inventory labels showing they were purchased in Lahore in 1656. Although sold through Lahore, carpets were not always produced there. The designs included those of Persian inspiration, such as garden designs, with Indian interpretation. There are numerous fragments of an originally much larger 17th century Durbar carpet in museum collections which show similarities to the design of this later complete carpet, inspired by these earlier even larger lattice and blossom carpets.

There are fragments with the same inner and outer guard design of stylised angular leaf vine with red flowerheads, as seen on the offered carpet, from a Mughal carpet with lattice design, Lahore, India, late 17th – 18th century (169 by 152cm; 5ft. 6in., 5ft), in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (The Joseph Lees Williams Memorial Collection: 55-65-34, with provenance from Chihil Sutun Palace, Isphahan, Sir Cecil Smith); see Ellis, Charles Grant, Oriental Carpets in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 1988, No. 64, pp.228-235.  Two portions of a side border have been sewn together, and the main border design is not complete and lacks the repeat of the design, which reveals that the border would originally have been even wider. The main border design is of lancet leaves alternating with a large circular flowerhead with a calyx with a pair of outward turning leaves, and there is a vine trellis with small vases, against a dark blue ground. F.R.Martin recorded in 1908, that the carpet from which the Philadelphia border fragments came from had a red main field and was of Indian Imperial manufacture from Lahore, of which numerous fragments had appeared in bazaars of Constantinople (including S. Haim, and Benguiat auction 1925). It was considered originally to be one of the largest carpets of singular design, and was noted initially by Kendrick in 1922 to have been more than 70ft by 30ft (and then by Sir Cecil Smith to be 59 by 29ft), and was legendarily made for Shah Abbas the Great (r.1586-1628) for use in the Hall of the Forty Columns (Chihal Sutan), Isphahan. There was a fire in 1700 which damaged the carpet, and it was last seen preserved in part in 1887.

Three fragments from this carpet (including a section from the main field) are in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, along with a drawing of an interpreted restructuring the lattice design (Kendrick, A.F., and Tattersall, C.E.C, Handwoven Carpets: Oriental & European, 1922, Vol. 2, pl.21.). The 17th century fragments reveal the design, that would have been a repeat pattern, of which the present carpet is very similar, except the cartouches have become clear hexagons with flowerheads rather than being a smaller more square motif with curved corners. For these cited three fragments, see Erdmann, Kurt, Seven Hundred Years of Oriental Carpets, London, 1970, Carpet Fragments, p.178, fig. 224. The carpet offered here could then possibly have had a border including the inner and outer guards, of approximately 6½ ft., which gives us a guideline as to how much larger the present carpet could have been, and an idea of the scale of the border design in relation to the design of the main field.

Other fragments of the carpet are in the following collections: the Museum of Decorative Arts in Frankfurt; the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; the Musée du Louvre, Paris; Ethnographic Museum, Munich; the Cincinnati At Museum and the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art (TIEM), Istanbul; and sections were once owned by the Alphonse Kann Collection and Lord Aberconway respectively.

For an earlier Mughal comparison there is a large fragment of a lattice design carpet, probably Lahore, India, 17th century, in the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon (T. 60), which shows a field design of similar inspiration in design with the cartouche lattice, albeit with a more fluid complimentary lattice and scrollwork border design.  

The colossal size of these Indian carpets and techniques used are considered to contribute to the great effort needed to finely and evenly knot this size of carpet, and maintain the detail of the drawing.

For comprehensive discussion of Mughal carpets and the later carpets they inspired see, Walker, Daniel, Flowers Underfoot: Indian Carpets of the Mughal Era, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1997, Chp. 4, The Carpets, Later Carpet Types, pp.117-150, ‘Durbar (Audience) Type’, pp.118-119, & fig.118, for an example of a Durbar carpet, with medallion and garden design, Lahore, North India, circa 1650 (1927 by 475cm ; 63ft. 3in., 15ft. 7in), from the Collection of the Maharaja of Jaipur, India.

Rugs and Carpets

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