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Small pattern Holbein carpet, XVI century, Ottoman Empire, Western Turkey. Sold for $25,000 at Lefevre in 1978 ; later with Christopher Alexander; sold at Christies on 1 May 2003 for $57,360 (Information: John Taylor, rugtracker.com)
A 'SMALL PATTERN HOLBEIN' RUG
WEST ANATOLIA, FIRST HALF 16TH CENTURY
Price Realized £35,850 ($57,324)
Christies SALE 6715 —
ORIENTAL RUGS AND CARPETS
1 May 2003
London, King Street
A 'SMALL PATTERN HOLBEIN' RUG
West Anatolia, first half 16th century
The field with three columns of alternating red and green panels containing octagonal hooked panels with knotted outlines and rosette or interlace centres flanked by smaller octagonal flowerhead panels, the large octagons divided by open quartered lozenge medallions formed of overlapping split palmettes, in a sang-de-boeuf stylised kufic border between light red barber-pole and spiralling ribbon stripes, even wear and differential corrosion, some colours repiled, small old repairs, very slight loss to outer stripe
7ft.8in. x 4ft.6in. (234cm. x 137cm.)
Lefevre, London, 3 February 1978, lot 7
With Dani Ghigo, Turin (per Ellis op.cit, p.73)
Prof. Christopher Alexander, Christie's, London, 15 October 1998, lot 208
Ellis, Charles Grant: 'Ellis in Holbeinland', in Pinner, Robert and Denny, Walter B.: Oriental Carpet and Textile Studies I, London, 1985, p.73, no.R-60, not illustrated.
Ellis, Charles Grant: 'On 'Holbein' and 'Lotto' Rugs, in Pinner, Robert and Denny, Walter B.: Oriental Carpet and Textile Studies II, London, 1986, p.171 (fig.9).
Alexander, Christopher: A Foreshadowing of 21st Century Art, the Color and Geometry of Very Early Turkish Carpets, New York and Oxford, 1993, pp.220-225.
The 'small pattern Holbein' design is one which is part of the international Timurid style. Amy Briggs in her seminal article clearly demonstrated the link between the 'small pattern Holbein' rugs and Timurid Persian arts (Briggs, A.: "Timurid Carpets, I: Geometric Carpets", Ars Islamica 7, 1940, pp.20-54). Links at the time between the Ottoman empire and their Timurid (and, in the second half of the century Ak-koyunlu or White Sheep Turkman) neighbours in Iran were strong, albeit interspersed with periods of confrontation. Persian craftsmen for example were imported to create the tilework for the Yesil Cami in Bursa, the then Ottoman capital in the 1420s, and again later in the century at Edirne. Thus it is not surprising that many rugs depicted in Timurid miniatures are very similar to rugs of the 'small pattern Holbein' group. It has also been noted a number of times how the design of these rugs relates very closely to that of Turkman rugs (Pinner, Robert and Franses, Michael: 'Turkish Carpets in the Victoria and Albert Museum', Hali 24 (vol.6, no.4), p.363-5 for example). One minor feature not mentioned there, which is common to both types in certain examples and well represented here, is a playfulness with the design of the centre of the medallions or guls, where in this rug there are at least four different designs within the central octagon.
The dating of a large number of these rugs to the 15th century is supported by evidence from European painting. John Mills shows paintings including rugs of this group dating from between 1451 and 1655, although the massive concentration appears between 1450 and 1550 with only a couple of isolated examples being shown thereafter (Mills, John: 'Small Pattern Holbein Carpets in Western Paintings', Hali, vol.1, no.4, pp.326-334). The border designs have been studied to form a typography by Robert Pinner and Jackie Stanger (''Kufic' borders on 'Small Pattern Holbein' Carpets', Hali, vol.1, no.4, pp.335-338). The present border, with its bars rather than crosses between the kufic elements, while a variant on their type C, is not illustrated. It appears in one other published example, a rug with two columns of four and a half medallions in the Bardini Collection, Florence (Viale, M. and V.: Arazzi e Tappeti Antichi, Torino, 1952, no.34, p.229 and pl.152; also Boralevi, A.: Oriental Geometries, Stefano Bardini and the Antique Carpet, Livorno, 1999, no.12, pp.50-51.)
This rug is included as one of the then exhaustive list of 70 known rugs and fragments of the 'Small pattern Holbein' group by Charles Grant Ellis as no.R-60. Of this list, excluding the numerous pieces, mostly fragmentary, in the Keir Collection, all but 13 are held either in museums or in other institutions or churches.
image source: www.rugtracker.com, John Taylor