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Yıldızlı Uşak halısı (Star Ushak rug), XVI (16th) century, Turkey, Ottoman Empire.

 

A 'STAR' USHAK CARPET
WEST ANATOLIA, LATE 16TH CENTURY

Price Realized 86,500 ($143,676)
Estimate 70,000 - 100,000 ($115,920 - $165,600)

Sale Information
Christies SALE 1519
ORIENTAL RUGS & CARPETS
8 April 2014
London, King Street

Lot 50
A 'STAR' USHAK CARPET
WEST ANATOLIA, LATE 16TH CENTURY
Localised minor repairs, overall very good condition
10ft. x 6ft.5in. (304cm. x 194cm.)

Pre-Lot Text
THE PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE FLORENTINE COLLECTOR


Lot 50
Light blue Star Ushak carpets are extremely rare in the the canon of these iconic classical weavings. With the exception of a fragment in the Vakiflar Museum, we know of no other examples (Belkis Balpinar and Udo Hirsch, Carpets of the Vakiflar Museum Istanbul, Wesel, 1988, pl.40, pp.256-257). These carpets are products of the commercial Ottoman court workshops in Ushak, West Anatolia from the 15th century. The design is an endless repeat of star medallions set on floral vine backgrounds which was a product of the Ottoman court nakkashane, and relates to a number of other motifs produced there in the 15th century, such as architectural tile designs (Jon Thompson, 'Carpets in the Fifteenth Century', Carpets and Textiles in the Iranian World 1400-1700, Oxford, 2010, pp.31-57). Most Ushak carpets are characterised by a palette of tomato-red, indigo and yellow, with highlights in the secondary colours of white, green and light blue. Indigo field Ushak weavings such as those in lots 27 and 96 in the present sale are a much less common than the habitual red-ground weavings. However, whilst the field designs are remarkably similar across the group the use of colour in these carpets is often very playful, creating startlingly different effects on carpets that share the same cartoon.

The effect and importance of colour in Ushak design can be seen when the present carpet is compared with the very closely related Star Ushak carpet in Hali 110, p.94. Apart from a very slight difference in width, the design of the field it is to all intents and purposes the same and yet the effect is completely different. There is something especially striking about the juxtaposition of the light blue and red in our carpet. The indigo outline around the stars and diamond lozenges surrounded by an additional outline of red has the effect of creating a profile around the main design elements which gives a feeling of three-dimensionality. The biplanar effect is increased by the lack of a clearly defined outline due to corrosion in the floral vine of the field, the medallions appear to push forward whilst the floral vines spread out from the two central star medallions like a star-burst. The archaic main border of the present carpet is rare and fascinating. It is derived from the curled leaf design of the Turkmen and demonstrates a shared Turkic ancestry, see lot 90 in the present sale. There are a number of weavings with related borders such as the triple Star medallion piece in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv. no. 08.235, formerly in the collection of Wilhelm von Bode (M.S. Dimand and Jean Mailey, Oriental Rugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, cat.73, p.221), an early 16th century example from the Transylvanian Lutheran church of Bistrita (Stefano Ionescu, Antique Ottoman Rugs in Transylvania, Rome, 2005, cat.9, p.84) and a fragmentary rug in the Vakiflar Museum (Belkis Balpinar and Udo Hirsch, ibid., Wesel, 1988, pl.42, pp.260-261). Whilst all three of these examples share the same design of confronted curled leaves or fronds, none of them have the same elegance and movement of the border of the present carpet. The von Bode carpet has a similar whimsical use of colour but each of the confronting fronds is depicted in the same colour rather than ours where there is a juxtaposition of different colours.

The popularity of these beautiful court carpets is demonstrated by what was clearly a thriving export market for these weavings from the early 16th century. A number of Star Ushak carpets survive in the inventories of the Transylvanian churches and museums of Romania and they begin to appear in Western paintings in the first half of the 16th century. The first Star Ushak rug to appear in a European painting is one of a similar narrow format and eight lobed medallion to the present lot, depicted under the throne of the Venetian Doge in Paris Bordone's 1534 painting Fisherman Presenting a Ring to the Doge Gradenigo (Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice). Star Ushak carpets also appear to have been a favoured design of the English King Henry VIII (r.1509-1547) who is depicted standing on top of a Star Ushak in at least three paintings by Hans Holbein and Hans Eworth ('Portraits of King Henry VIII', Hali, Vol.3 no.3, pp.176-181).