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Details & Cataloguing

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A Mamluk rug, Cairo
the crimson field with foliate interlace reserved against a central octagonal medallion in green and pale blue, the tessellated field with octagonal reserves enclosing star and umbel motifs forming a square panel, each end barred with panels of polygonal rosettes bracketed by palm tree, the pale blue border with crimson cartouches and red lobed roundels
approximately 178 by 127cm; 5ft. 10in., 4ft. 2in.
first half 16th century
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Provenance

Ulrich Schürmann by 1979;
The Wollheim Collection (purchased by Senta Wollheim from the above);
Rippon Boswell, Wiesbaden, 3 December 2016, lot 37

Literature

Schürmann, U., Oriental Carpets, London 1979, p. 107

Catalogue Note

The Mamluk reign, which spanned over 250 years and was a period of social and political stability, was pious and immersed in science and philosophy. The artworks produced during this time reflect the complex and broadminded culture in their complicated arrangement in geometric patterns using, in this case, merely three colours. The design also has a resonance with metalwork, pottery and literature of the time; see the gold leaf drawing on the 14th century Qu’ran commission Sultan for Sha’Ban in 1369, see detail image ‘Exhibitions Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks’ Hali, Spring 1981, issue vol. 4, p. 64, fig. 1. Further relationship between Mamluk art forms to the present lot can be seen within a collection of tiles which sold Sotheby’s, London, 5 October 2011, lot 244, where some of the glazed motifs, indeed the shape of the tiles themselves, bear a direct relationship to the decorated circles and octagons layered within the rugs field design of the rug. Furthermore in the forthcoming Arts of the Islamic World sale, Sotheby’s, London, 24 October 2018, lot 17 there is a fragment of a large binding which is composed of numerous geometric patterns overlapped, which again is emotive of the layering within the rug. These comparisons are indicative of how Mamluk artworks  were conceived to work harmoniously together. However following the defeat of the Sultanate by the Ottoman Empire after the second conflict (1516 – 17) the production of such works as the present lot dwindled and ultimately became extinct, marking this piece a rare survivor, and insight.

Clearly Mamluk production was both highly sought after and a profitable, evidenced by the number of surviving weaves now in the permanent collections in European and Western museums. For examples of small, three coloured, Mamluk rugs, such as the present, see those in Victoria & Albert Museum, London, acc. nos. T.26-1943 & 151-1908, Saint Louis Art Museum (Formerly James F. Ballard Collection), acc. nos. 121:1929 & 299: 1972, the MAK, Vienna, inv. no. T 8345/ 1922 KB, The Philadelphia Museum of Art (formerly in the Collection of John D. McIlhenny), inv. no. 43-40-63, and the Textile Museum, Washington, the ‘Kelekian Mamluk’, inv. no. R7.13.  The Wollheims bought this rug from the hugely celebrated dealer Ulrich Schürmann, no doubt for its inherent aesthetics but also perhaps because of its relevance in a historical context: Dietrich Woolheim's initial collecting interests lay in Mesopotamia. A full discussion of the development of the Wollheim’s collection can be seen https://www.rippon-boswell-wiesbaden.de/en/archive/auction/27/, accessed 12/09/18. See also Suriano. C. M., ‘Mamluk Blazon Carpets’ Hali, March 1998, issue 97, pp. 73 – 81 for further discussion on Mamluk artwork in conjunction with these beautiful weaves.

Rugs and Carpets

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