Alexander argues that the origins of the Tabriz design were brought about through Ottoman artists and weavers travelling to Tabriz in the 15th century, Alexander, op. cit., p. 187, and which is also mentioned in the cataloguing from the Lefevre sale. The footnote in Lefevre cites the conquering of Tabriz by Jahan Shah (1397 - 1467), the ruler of the Turkman Kara-Kuyunli, whose realm extended to Eastern Anatolia. During this time, and the subsequent conquest by Ismail I (1487 - 1524) in 1501, Tabriz became a major production centre and, up until the stylistic revolution that occurred during the Safavid era, medallion carpets, such as this, were being produced with Turkman influences, which in turn could well have been influenced by Anatolia. Whilst speculative, the nature of ‘Substrate’ design would suggest it was used as a drawing tool. When considering the repetitive and even spacing within the offered lot one begins to see a grid from which more artistic elements can be built. In this respect the ‘Substrate’ grid could certainly have been adopted by cartoonists and easily migrated from East to West or indeed vice versa. Many carpets share similar motifs within their design and quite often, as in this case, such motifs most likely originated in manuscripts. It could be supposed that a cartoonist would employ a technique in which to maintain the balance of a large carpet influenced by drawings within such manuscripts.
The offered carpet has most in common with the Hapsburg medallion carpet in the Gulbenkian, Lisbon, indeed so much so they are illustrated in opposing pages in Pagnano. G., L’Arte del Tappeto Orientale ed Europeo, Busto Arsizio, 1983, pls. 75 & 76. Pls. 66 – 68 illustrate a hunting medallion carpet dated 1522 AD; this example bears similarities in the medallion and the corner spandrels to the offered lot. The splayed leaves in the field, used in both the Gulbenkian and the offered example to create outlining octagons and cartouches, are instead huntsmen on horseback, organised in repeat pentagons. The offered lot also shares qualities with two further carpets, one discussed by Walter Denny, ‘Ten Great Carpets’, Hali, Summer 1978, vol 2, p. 157, fig. 2., the other, also illustrated with the offered lot, in Ellis, 'Oriental Carpets', op.cit., p. 64 & 65, fig 21.b. Both Denny and Ellis discuss the medallion’s design in relation to that of Oushak courtly weaves, Denny to ‘Holbein’ repeat patterns and Ellis to Oushak ‘large medallion’ carpets. Also see lot 52. the ‘small medallion’ Oushak rug which demonstrates use in negative design whereby, as in the present lot, the rug could be quartered and the motifs and patterns would be mirrored in each section.
It is clear that ideas oscillated between the artists of the Ottoman, Turkmen and Persian empires, and the present carpet is a fascinating testament to this. It is also interesting to note when sold by Piero Barbieri in 1931 it was recorded to have been ‘illustrated in the catalogue of the sale of his collection in 1931. This illustration shows that it had been fully restored to its present condition prior to sale' Lefevre & Partners, London, 5 October 1979, lot 24.
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