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Antique Derbend or Southern Shirvan (Salyan) prayer rug, 1870s, Rippon Boswell, 17 January 2001, lot no: 74, 77 x 158 cm

5'2 x 2'6, circa 1880

The pattern of rising palmettes often appears in east Caucasian prayer rugs; in Shirvans, Daghestans, Akstafas, and more rarely, Kubas. A good example, ascribed to Daghestan, is published in Schurmann, Caucasian Rugs, pl.125; another, attributed to Shirvan, in Caucasian Prayer Rugs, pl.81 (coll. Wells Klein). In our example, the palmettes, which are sometimes likened to floral shields or giant insects, are combined with a variety of motifs which include hexagons, octagons, botehs, cruciforms, and rayed motifs resembling pineapples. Only one other similar example is known to me, a Daghestan offered by Nagel on 5/25/1979, lot #189 (color plate 107). Both rugs share many characteristics, including the linked arrowhead borders, large arrow-like motifs beneath the prayer arch, as well as field decorations. Nagel's is more structured, ours more free-form. Nagel ended their catalog caption with - ".....a piece of baffling charisma and beauty".