Presented by Sotheby's, Arts of the Islamic World this April 14, 2010 (Sale L10220, 10am and 2:30pm).
Some spectacular record breaking rugs have been brought to and sold at auction in the past few years. This particular piece caught our eye, measuring in at 5' x 7', it's a Safavid Hunting rug from East Persia, estimated to be late 16th, early 17th century.
According to the catalogue notes, this is one of a pair of rugs, for which the other remains in a North American private collection. With an estimate range of $225,000 to $300,000, we can't help but wonder if this may be another case of an underestimated rug as we saw in Sotheby's last October 2009. With the high end rug market seemingly superceeding record hammer prices each consecutive year, we think this lot 357 is certainly another rug to keep an on.
This rug is, unusually, one of a pair; its companion piece is in a North American private collection. For a comparative pair of medallion hunting rugs, late 16th century, incorporating animals and birds, but with the addition of figures, please see Dimand, M. and Mailey, J., oriental rugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1973, the first known as The Caponi Hunting Rug, 254 by 178cm, (Inv. no. 17.120.127); and the other The Cochran Hunting Rug, 251 by 171 cm, (Inv. no. 08.100, pp. 99101, nos 9a, 9b, and p. 138, fig. 71).
For discussion and illustration of specifically comparable pieces see Bennett, Ian, 'Splendours in the City of Silk, part 2: Ten Safavid Masterpieces', in Hali, 33, pp. 3849, with additional captions by Kurt Erdmann, 1987, and of particular interest two late 16th/early 17th century, tabriz medallion Hunting Carpets from the Musée Historique des Tissus, Lyon., pp.42-42, Pl.III and IV (Inv.no.23.921 and Inv.no.24.573), the latter with similarities to the present carpet in having no animals or birds in the outer border which has a light coloured ground, a red field, dark ground spandrels.
For comparable layout and iconography, see examples in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano, including the Béhague-Sanguszko Carpet, late 16th century, with red border ground, and light field ground, and similarly reduced central strapwork
medallion, and the Béarn Hunting Carpet, second half 17th century, with red ground to main field and border, both illustrated in The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Carpets and Textiles, Friedrich Spuhler, Philip Wilson, London, 1998. pp.80-83, no.15., and pp.96-99, no.19. respectively.
In addition to the identifiable animals in the composition of the offered carpet, the spandrels have conforming stylised dragons clasping a shield surmounted by an animal mask. Different versions of animal mask motifs against a tendril covered ground,
incorporating a dragon head clasping a tendril, appear in the border of the Vaq Vaq,carpet fragment (32 by 79 cm.) in The National Museum, illustrated in Pope, Arthur Upham, The National Museum of Stockholm, 193839, pl. 1212B, 16th century, Persia or possibly Indian. Dragons, of which a stylised version is incorporated as confronting pairs in the spandrels of the present carpet, are rare in Persian carpets. A distinct interpretation of a dragon appears in the border of a Medallion and Animal Carpet, Persian, Kirman (?), 17th century, from The Joseph Lees Williams Memorial Collection (Inv. no. 55-65-26), illustrated in Ellis, Charles Grant, Oriental Carpets, philadelphia Museum of Art, The Herbert Press, London, 1988, No. 48, pp.160-167. Distinct animal masks appear in the centre of foliate motifs in the border of the Peytel small silk carpet, composed with animals interspersed with plants on a blue ground, from the Musée du Louvre, Paris (Inv.6741), No.5, pl.3, illustrated Exhibition Catalogue, Sheffield, Mappin Art Gallery, 10 April to 19 May 1976, Carpets of Central Persia, May H. Beattie, World of Islam Festival Publishing Co, 1976. For an additional comparative Hunting Carpet, late 16th/early 17th century, (with a light coloured border, dark ground spandrels, and a red main field), with large blossoms and unusual detail of central masks, see Wearden, Jennifer, Oriental Carpets and their structure, Highlights from the V&A Collection, V&A Publications, London, 2003, pg. 26. pl.28, (Inv. no. 23-1883), and pls.25-27, for other hunting fragments.
Warp: Silk, natural dark ivory, 2 strands, Z spun
Weft: Silk, natural dark golden, 2 shoots, each of three strands
Knotting: Wool, asymmetric open to the left, Z-spun, 2 strands, Sw plied, ivory, ochre, pale blue, midnight blue, light grey, light rose
madder, crimson, dark forest green ,dark jade green
Sidecords: not original
Density: 6 V/6-7 H per cm.