National Gallery of Art - EXHIBITIONS

Image: Artistic Exchange: Europe and the Islamic World

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Possibly Isfahan 17th Century
Medallion and Animal Carpet
c. 1600, wool pile on silk warp and wool and cotton weft, 437 x 225 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Widener Collection
Image: Possibly Isfahan 17th Century
Medallion and Animal Carpet, c. 1600
Widener Collection

This belongs to a very important group of early carpets of the "Herat" type, named after the fifteenth-century Persian cultural center located in modern-day Afghanistan. Though it is not known where these carpets were made, their materials, bold colors, and drawing set the group apart from the large medallion and animal carpets then produced in northwest Iran.

Shah Tahmasp (r. 1524-1576) encouraged the spread of carpet-making in Persian provinces recently reunited under the Safavid dynasty. Weavers adopted the designs and the use of cartoons from book ornament. Chinese motifs introduced during the rule of the Mongol khans (1256-1353) were still prominent: lotus blossoms, "cloud bands," and mythical animals such as the blue quilin outside the central medallion. The traditional hunting theme of Persian art inspired the naturalistic animals shown stalking, attacking, and fleeing. Promoted by Shah Abbas I (r. 1586-1628) through diplomatic gifts, the new carpets were an instant success in Europe.

Compare the carpet's animal designs with those of the Chelsea carpet from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, in the Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition.

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