Lot 64
  • 64

An East Caucasian rug

20,000 - 30,000 GBP
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  • wool pile
  • approximately 261 by 147cm; 8ft. 7in., 4ft. 10in.


Overall measurements: 147cm across the top, 140cm across the bottom, 261cm the left and side, 255cm the right hand side. Pile varies from approx. 3mm in the white, down to areas of wear and oxidisation, with spot foundation visible. The black/browns heavily oxidised with some re-piling in a slightly lighter shade of brown in border of upper left hand quarter of field and lower border. An 'L' shaped tear to top end measuring 8cm long and 3cm approx. There is a hole, visible from photograph, approx. 5 by 6cm and a patched repair, also visible, adjacent measuring 19 by 13cm approx with a further, smaller, hole within the patch. A further patch, approx. 9 by 2cm, within the 'bird' or 'scorpion' motif, again visible. Above this is an area of severe wear where warp threads are showing, this is again visible from the photograph. Sidecords re-overcast. Ends lacking, now cotton taped to the reverse of each end. In honest condition. Would benefit from cleaning and judicious conservation. A wonderfully archaic work with clear colour. A rare example.
"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

This dynamic design of layer upon layer of colour, in the form of overlaying concentric lozenge medallions with serrated edges centred by four small palmettes radiating to the respective outer edges, is derived from a very distinctive and original group of weavings  known as ‘Portuguese’ carpets. The association with Portugal is due to the presence of a pictorial scene occupying the corners at each end depicting small sailing ships with European figures in Portuguese dress. These scenes were most likely inspired by the miniature painting (or perhaps a print of it) by Lal, illustrating 'The Death of Bahadur Shah, Sultan of Gujarat, While Visiting the Portuguese Fleet', in 1537, see Ellis, Charles Grant  in “The Portuguese Carpets of Gujarat,” ,Richard Ettinghausen, ed., Islamic Art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1972, pp.276-286, fig. 23. The ‘Portuguese’ carpet design was adapted by Caucasian weavers in the 18th century, and a small number of examples of the genre survive. The unfamiliar images of galleons and the flailing figures in the water metamorphose into fish, and creatures with multiple hooked legs and horns. For an interesting interpretation in a Shirvan, Caucasian weaving, late 18th century, with the central section including the four palmettes, four concentric lozenges, and corner spandrels with sea and a single fish, within a narrow banded border, (now reduced, 245 by 179cm; originally around 290cm), see Spuhler, Friedrich, Oriental Carpets in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin, 1988, No.105, pp.97 & 245.

Ellis, op.cit., also discussed the manufacture of pieces in the Caucasus inspired by the original composition, including two comparable examples, one with the lozenges incorporating little birds predominating the field and small spandrels in each corner with a large leaf and small animal motifs (The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Rogers Fund 08.234.2; purchased by the museum in 1908), and a Caucasian (or Kurdish) interpretation, late 18th/early 19th century, of very similar design to the present example, with the same long creature and more animal type motifs at both ends, and with an ivory central group of joined palmettes forming a star motif (Bleichröder Collection: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin), see Ellis, Charles Grant, op.cit., pp.280-283, figs. 19 & 20.

For a fragment from a 17th century ‘Portuguese’ carpet, see Howard Hodgkin: Portrait of the Artist, Sotheby’s, London, 24 October 2017, lot 174, with extensive footnote and related literature on this iconic group of carpets.