Lot 38
  • 38

A 'Star' Oushak carpet, West Anatolia

10,000 - 15,000 GBP
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  • wool, pile
  • approximately 370 by 200cm; 12ft. 2in., 6ft. 7in.
with cotton highlights


Christopher Alexander Collection
Christie's, New York, 8 April 1999, lot 38


Alexander, C., A Foreshadowing of 21st Century Art The Color and Geometry of Very Early Turkish Carpets, New York, 1993, pp. 262-265


Overall measurements: 193cm across the top, 200cm across the bottom, 365cm along left side, 370cm along right side The colours in the printed catalogue are a little birght. The reds, blues, greens and yellows are more saturated and rich. Extensive wear and repiling, patches, re-weaves and re-constructed end borders - as visible in photograph as a pink/red ground. Large re-weave in central medallion. Both ends replaced, visible from photograph. Some cobbled splits and harp stringing. Very unusual use of white cotton in lower quarter of the field. Some very good clear colours. Personal inspection recommended. An image highlighting the main areas of repair can be requested from the department, the document matches the below notes and comes with corresponding photography - 1) Upper end re-woven 2) Lower end re-woven 3) Cotton highlights 4) A re-woven section measuring approx. 30 by 15cm 5) a larger area of re-piling, covering an area in the region of 66 by 24cm, and a horizontal re-weave measuring approx. 29 by 5cm. 6) Four examples of smaller re-woven sections 7) Vertical re-woven section, approx. 9 by 52cm. 8) Right hand outer guard half re-woven 9) Two small cobbled repairs 10) An larger area of re-piling Please contact the department - harry.grenfell@sothebys.com +44 (0)20 7293 5556 For extra images and condition notes.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Before the appearance of Persian imports in the West, rugs and carpets from the city of Oushak in Western Anatolia were among the most appreciated and sought-after oriental weavings among the European elite. From the early sixteenth to the eighteenth century works from Oushak formed the largest part of oriental carpet collections in Europe, and were admired for both their beauty and their exotic nature, and became symbols of wealth and status. Oushak carpets and rugs often also appeared in the works of the most distinguished artists of the time, such as Lorenzo Lotto and Carlo Crivelli, after whom some of the indigenous Anatolian patterns were named in Europe. There is a rare depiction of a 'Star' Oushak carpet under the throne  Venetian doge in a painting by Paris Bordone dating to 1534. Written records indicate that carpets and rugs were woven in Oushak as early as the late fifteenth century. These weavings were produced with many different patterns arranged in accordance with the principle of the endless repeat, but few were as complex in their arrangement of motifs as 'Star' Oushak carpets. The degree to which the medallions are reduced by the border, depends on the format in each individual case. Most are of moderate dimensions with those over 13ft being rarer. As surviving pieces and written accounts suggest, 'Star' Oushak carpets were not produced after the seventeenth century. Interestingly, these carpets never showed any signs of demise before their sudden disappearance in the late 1600s. They were so popular that it is possible that some may have been made outside the control of the regular workshop. 'Star' Oushak carpets can have variants of the star motif and it has been suggested that pieces with four-lobed stars predate those with eight-lobed stars, see Donald King, ‘Turkish Carpets in the Victoria and Albert Museum’, Hali, Vol. 6, No. 4, 1984, p. 367. It has also been suggested that the designs of the tiles of the sixteenth-century Gök Mescid mosque in Tabriz could have been a source for the development of the 'Star' Oushak pattern, see Oktay Aslanapa, One Thousand Years of Turkish Carpets, Istanbul, 1988, Chp. V, pp.103-123, 16th & 17th century classical Turkish carpets (Uşak carpets), Star Uşak carpets, pp. 107-113. This architectural association will have appealed to Christopher Alexander, when he obtained it for his collection. It was the negative space and shapes created between the medallions which attracted Alexander, and the use of colour in the lot presently offered. The field around the emblematic star and diamond-shaped medallions is represented by evenly scattered stylised polychrome flowers and palmettes on the red background. These floral motifs are juxtaposed against both the angular medallions and the restrained arcaded design of the border, creating an overall harmonious design. unusually, it also has the addition of some cotton highlights, in the curvilinear and knot design with the medallions. Alexander cited two examples of 'Star' Ushaks, in his discussion of this piece, both of which are eight lobed: an exceptional late 15th century example, with border complementing the field design, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Acc. No. 58.63), and a 16th century example in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (Acc. No. T.274-1910). For similar and comparable 17th century 'Star' Oushak carpets, with similar design in the use of the indigo and yellow eight-lobed star and diamond medallions and the stylised floral pattern and delicate trellis, against the red ground, with variations on the border types, see examples in the Textile Museum, Washington, D.C., Museum of Decorative Arts, Paris, two fragmentary examples in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin, and an example in the Museo Bargello, Florence. 

Related Literature:

Aslanapa, Oktay One Thousand Years of Turkish Carpets, Istanbul, 1988, ill.33, p.111.
Denny, Walter B, The Classical Tradition in Anatolian Carpets, Washington, D.C., 2002, p. 96.
Erdmann, Kurt, Oriental Carpets, London, 1976, Ushak Carpets, pp.52-55, ill..142.
McMullan, Joseph, Islamic Carpets, Near Eastern Art Research Center, New York, 1965, No.67, pp.230-231.
Spuhler, Friedrich, Oriental Carpets in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin, London/Boston, 1988, Cat. No. 9-10, pp.33-34, ill, pp.151-152.