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Cartouches and Panels: Inscriptions Vs. Signatures and Dates


oriental rug signature/inscription panels and cartouches have a lot in common, and are sometimes referenced interchangeably.  In regards to shape, they are both woven enclosures within a rug, often oblong which some say resemble clouds.  In regards to content, more often than not, they both feature writing: Most commonly either a signature or inscription.

So what are the differences between panels and cartouches?  Although there's no exact definition for each, most in the industry would indicate "signature" or "inscription" before noting panel or cartouche. Here are some additional notes on each.

 Signature panel

Many people in the industry we know refer to smaller, non-repeating enclosures as panels (left). 

Often, panels are limited to just a single name of a weaver or commissioner of the weaving.  There are always exceptions to the content.

See bottom of the page for higher resolution image.

When people refer to a cartouche, it's often a larger enclosed area, or sometimes repeating enclosed areas with writing as seen in the border of this rug (right).   Don't let the size fool you, the cartouches are almost 1 foot larger than the panel above! 

The contents of a cartouche vary greatly.  From poetry to historic information to illegible writing.  All else aside, cartouches will generally feature more than just a simple signature. 

See bottom of the page for higher resolution image.

Inscription Cartouches

 Natural Dye Gabbeh

Seen left is an example of a dated rug.  More specifically, a gabbeh.

Note it appears in an empty space without the enclosure/outlining of either a panel or cartouche

There are some woven examples where both date and/or signature will not be featured in a formal enclosure.  Keep an eye out for these loose signatures in the overall field, medallion fields and sometimes corners of the rug!

Oh boy! 

Well, we just got done explaining what you may find in both panels and cartouches.  

Seen right is an example of a panel.  An empty panel.  A Very Empty Panel.

There's no real exact science to what type of writing goes into these...  If anything!!!

 Sotheby's Joshegan

Below:  One of the most well known Panels from one of the twin Ardebil Carpets.  This photograph is actually the cartouche of the Ardebil Carpet located in LACMA, CA, which was subsequently reduced in size to restore its' twin located in the Victoria Albert Museum in London.  We will be writing more about these carpets in the weeks ahead.  Although the enclosed area may contain more than just a signature (i.e. cartouche), some may consider it a panel as enclosed inscriptions do not repeat throughout the rug, but rather is isolated to this one area at the top.

Ardebil Carpet from LACMA


Below:  An interesting example we caught at the Sedlin Gallery View at Sotheby's NY.  It's a "Milani" Kerman, signed in the top panel.  Note below the signature panel there is also writing although not in a formal enclosure. 



Below:  Detail of Inscription Cartouches in the main border of an Oriental Rug.

Inscription Cartouches


Below: Detail of a signature panel.  Note we added a highlight to differentiate the field from the outlinings.

Signature Panel

Ardebil Carpet Inscription Panel Photograph Courtesy:;id=16582;type=101



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