Herat was an empire stretching from the Tigris to the border of East Turkestan, and the designs used in the region were collectively know as the Herat style, and it is the blossom and lattice patterns that were adopted in Khotan, along with representing the pattern as an overall repeat, creating impression of continuous tendrils. The present field design is unmistakably a Turkestan interpretation from Mughal floral carpets. The floral trellis repeats, the diamond motifs alternating with blue iris motifs, are distinctive Indian influences, and the border type is of Chinese derivation. There are no confirmed production dates for most East Turkestan carpets, and a parallel piece with an almost identical field design (with different border) to the Thyssen example cited, was published as a drawing by Kendrick (1915), pl. XXXV, identified as the property of G.B. Croft of Lyon, who brought the fragment back from Beijing in 1889, and it was therefore described as being a Chinese piece. Earlier sources, including Bidder (1979), have noted that most East Turkestan carpets were sold to the West via the Beijing markets.
For a striking example with this field design against an ivory ground, with a coloured Yün Tsai T'ou border type, see Spuhler (1998), [48-52], pp.184-205, p. 202, No. 52, 19th century.
For a 19th century rug (317 by 171cm) with comparable field design on a dark copper/terracotta field, with the golden Yün Tsai T'ou border type, see Wearden (2003), pl. 71 (Inventory Reference 05308 (IS), pp.30. & 80
The carpets and rugs of East Turkestan
East Turkestan (far West China: Xinjiang) geographically is a large region in the Tarim basin in the centre of Asia, isolated from the West, India and China, by moutains in the north, west and south and deserts to the east. The oases situated in the south developed their own characteristic ways of life due to the variety of tribes, religions and cultures, and being on the silk road had various influences upon them. Their carpets and rugs are a striking and identifiable group, and the three known designated tribes from oases along the silk route are those of Yarkand, Kashgar and Khotan and all have distinctive elements in their designs, some of which were used across the centuries, and through the region.
The Yarkand weavings are unmistakable due to their very distinctive pared back designs and limited colour palettes, and combination of elements from Central Asia and China which are symbolic and still resonant. Traditionally they include two predominant designs, one being the ‘vase and pomegranate design’, the field with overall pomegranate boughs with small vases, and the other is the ‘medallion design’, with medallions against plain grounds (See lot 53, for a silk yellow and red example of a ‘vase and pomegranate design’, & lot 59 for an example of a ‘medallion design’ rug). Kashgar, at a major cross roads of the silk road, was a very influential centre for the arts, with sources derived from various cultural sources including India, Turkestan, Persia and China. The earliest Kashgar knotted pile weavings are believed to be from the late 17th/early 18th century, and the Mughal influence from India, and especially the lattice pattern, was represented in the silk carpets. See an especially lustrous and elegant example of a floral silk Kashgar carpet in this sale, lot 52.
Khotan administratively was a dependency of Kashgar, and it did not have a court to rival those of Samarkand (West Turkestan) or Herat (Afghanistan), but is recorded as having a favourable reputation as a manufacturing centre for gold, silk carpets, of floral rapport pattern, which according to Chinese accounts by Fu Ching in Chi-yi Hsin-pien, late 18th/early 19th century, were a sensation, and they had a distinct five blossom design. Khotan is represented in this sale by three smaller, early 19th century rugs, including distinctive examples from the ‘coffered gül pattern’, with ‘cloudhead’ motif, lot 45, a version of a yellow ground ‘gül pattern’ with rosettes (uncoffered), lot 82 and a version of the ‘Herat and floral pattern’ lot 86, in stylised borders including a version of the geometric recurring Buddhist swastika character, symbolic of good luck.
Bidder (1979): Bidder, Hans, Carpets from Eastern Turkestan, Washington International Associates, Tübingen, 1979, Chp.III, The Khotan Carpets, D, 1., pp.43-85, 3., ‘The ‘Herat’ and floral style of ‘endless rapport’, pp.74-77, plates XVI & XVII
Kendrick (1915): Kendrick, Alfred Frank, Victoria and Albert Museum catalogue, London, 1915, (pl. XXXV)
Spuhler (1998): Spuhler, Friedrich, The Thyssen –Bornemisza Collection, Carpets and Textiles, London, 1998, Carpets, East Turkestan silk carpets [48-52], pp.184-205, p. 202, No. 52, 19th century
Wearden (2003): Wearden, Jennifer, Oriental Carpets and their Structure, Highlights from the V&A Collection, London, 2003, pl. 71 (Inventory Reference 05308 (IS), pp.30. & 80
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