The medallions in the present lot are centred by an eight pointed star within a white interlace that forms a rosette. The more frequently seen central motif employs a change in colour on one side of the outer ‘petal’, which links to the ring of volute motifs, creating the appearance of a whirling central star, see for example, Thompson, Jon, Milestones in the History of Carpets, Moshe Tabibnia, Milan, 2006, Fig.1, p.38. Whilst it is of course possible the painter simplified the motif, the rug which appears in The Mass of Saint Giles has an identical central rosette, and intriguingly, each of the stars in the ‘star and bar’ motif has a white dot marking the tip of each point, a feature also seen in the present rug. An extant example also featuring a rosette rather than whorled centre is the large-pattern Holbein carpet, probably Central Anatolia, dated to the 16th century, 108 by 178cm, in The Textile Museum, Washington DC, R.34.2.1 acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1928, and illustrated in Hali 126, p.114 in Danny Shaffer’s review of the Textile Museum’s exhibition ‘The classical tradition in Anatolian carpets’. (The divisional borders of the Myers rug also include angled hooked vines with small trefoil motifs which are identical to those pictured in the rug in The Mass of Saint Giles; these same small trefoils decorate the narrow borders of the panels in the present example.) A later rendition of a two-octagon large-pattern Holbein rug with similar centres is seen in portrait of Catherine Knevet, Countess of Suffolk, attributed to William Larkin, circa 1615, English Heritage, Ranger’s House, Blackheath, illustrated Hali 66 p.97.
Issuing from the central rosette is a ring of eight palmette-like volute motifs with scrollwork, here in alternating colours of blue and forest green. The dotted crosses which bisect the green motifs are relatively unusual. These volutes are further surrounded by an interlace forming the ‘star and bar’ motif. In addition to the white tips to the stars previously noted, the diamonds formed by the interlace are also ‘tipped’ and the bars are also edged with white dots; these serve both to articulate the geometry of the interlace and to create a kind of sparkle amongst the close tones of the motifs. Unusually, there is a further, outer ring of trefoil motifs with scrollwork, whose flat bases form the inner edge of the medallion. The elaborate arrangement of motifs in these medallions may suggest an earlier date. Examples with notably complicated interlaced medallions include the fragmented two-octagon large-pattern Holbein carpet from the Ulu Mosque Divriği, now in the Vaklifar Museum, Istanbul, Inv. A-217, dated to the 13th/14th century, illustrated Hali Winter 2015, p.74, and detail Thompson, op.cit. Fig.2, p.39, and the example in the Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo, illustrated Thompson, ibid., Fig.142, p.142. A rug with medallions of interim design related to the present lot, and sharing the dotted bars and stars feature is the early Turkish rug, dated to the 15th/16th century in the Türk ve Islam Eserleri Müzesi, Istanbul, Inv.No. 417, found in Alaeddin Keykubad Mosque, Konya , 146 by 233cm (or 176cm by 234cm), illustrated http://www.azerbaijanrugs.com/anatolian/early-ottoman-rugs/turk_ve_islam_eserleri_muzesi_turkish_rug_15th_century-417.htm, accessed 8th March 2019.
The frame of the medallion is filled with alternating dark and light spiky rosettes with hooks. An identical border to this is seen in the large pattern Holbein carpet, dated to the second half 15th century, 118 by 132cm, in the Cathedral of St. Catherine, Sion (Sitten), Canton Valais, Switzerland.
The spandrels are also relatively elaborate, consisting of an endless knot in red within blue and white scrollwork. They would appear to be simplified versions of the spandrels found in the Cairo rug mentioned above. This rug or similar may also have provided the inspiration for the divisional borders of the present lot, which appear unique: the angular outlines of the ‘guls’ with their V-shaped projections echo those framing the small stars which border the two medallions in the Cairo rug. These border motifs are beautifully articulated; their unusual angles are achieved with extensive use of offset knotting, indicating a highly sophisticated approach to rendering the design. Fragments with similar offset knotting were found in Fostat, Egypt, c.f the examples dated to the 15th century in The Röhss Museum of Arts and Crafts, Gothenburg, see Lamm, Carl Johan, Carpet Fragments, Uddevalla, Sweden, 1985, pls.15 & 16.
For an extensive discussion of the development of the design of ‘Holbein and ‘Lotto’ carpets, see Thompson, op.cit., pp.33-87. Whilst the present lot is assigned to the 16th century, a 15th century date is feasible.
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