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Early Azerbaijan "Garden" rug fragment, Von Hirsch Collection, 17th century

Sotheby's Carpets from Distinguished Collections
New York | 31 Jan 2014, 10:00 AM | N09104

LOT 92
approximately 7ft. 9in. by 2ft. 11in. (2.36 by 0.89m.)
17th century

ESTIMATE 80,000-120,000 USD
Lot Sold: 221,000 USD

The Robert Von Hirsch Collection, Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, June 20-27, 1978, lot 501

Through the Collector’s Eye: Oriental Rugs from New England Private Collections, Rhode Island School of Design,
Providence, Rhode Island, November 1991 - February 1992 Through the Collector’s Eye: Oriental Rugs from New England Private Collections, The Textile Museum, Washington,
D.C., March 1992 - May 1992

Julia Bailey, et al., Through the Collector’s Eye: Oriental Rugs from New England Private Collections, Providence,
Rhode Island, 1991, no. 31, pp. 86-87

This lot is one of four pieces that together would have comprised a carpet fragment measuring nearly 18 feet by 7
feet. The present fragment features two and a half lobed stars, partial crosses, and two sides of the single red floral
border. The central star features a green cypress, while a date palm is partially visible in the top star. The overall
design of the original carpet, with two stars across the width and six along the length, is different from other Persian
garden carpets which were more architectural in their depictions of a chahar bagh, or a formal Persian garden with
rectangular plots connected by a series of water channels emanating from a central source. Rather than visually
concentrating on the garden’s geometric layout as it appears from a birds-eye view, this carpet’s design, interestingly,
focuses on the organic and curvilinear qualities of the trees and flora within the garden.
This lot's design can be related to other Safavid carpets, but the large size of its individual motifs and its coloration
mark it as different from other Persian garden carpets. The arrangement of the individual trees also sets this carpet
apart as they do not point to the same direction, resulting in a carpet that is not directional but can be viewed from
many angles. The drawing of the trees and plants in the present lot have been traced to the Jaipur Garden Carpet in
the Albert Hall Museum
in Jaipur, as explained by John Eskenazi and Michael Frances, Il tappeto orientale dal XV al
XVIII secolo, London, 1982, pp.43-4. The fact that the Jaipur Garden Carpet is a ‘vase’-technique carpet, meaning
that it was woven in Kirman, indicates how successful designs traveled throughout Safavid Persia in the form of
portable cartoons. Carpet weavers, who were often commissioned by wealthy individuals or the court, were able to
draw on varied sources of inspiration because most carpets were woven from such cartoons which were produced
and disseminated throughout the Safavid empire.



Reconstruction of the von Hirsh carpet



HALI, Vol.II, no.1, advertising p.66 (Alan Marcusson).
HALI 42, November/December 1988, p.89.
Alexander, Christopher: A Foreshadowing of 21st Century Art, the Color and Geometry of Very Early Turkish Carpets, New York and Oxford, 1993, pp.280-2.

Lot Notes
This is one of four fragments which together comprise almost all of a carpet which is one of the most brilliantly coloured and powerfully drawn in the entire history of Persian carpets. It is also a carpet for which there is no close parallel. The scale of the drawing is remarkable. While the designs can be related to those of other Safavid carpets, it is the size of the individual motifs coupled with the intensity of the various colours which immediately draws the viewer's attention.

There is a notable group of carpets from north west Persia in the 16th century which have a great variety of trees, notably the group relating to the Schwarzenberg carpet (Pope, Arthur Upham: A Survey of Persian Art, Oxford, 1938, pl.1203, together with pls. 1126-1129, 1140-1141 and 1203). None of these however relate in type as closely to the present carpet as do the trees in a carpet made the other end of the country. Both Eskenazi and Franses (Il Tappeto Orientale dal XV al XVIII secolo, London, 1982, pp.43-4) and Professor Alexander (op. cit, p.280) comment on the similarity of the drawing to that of the Jaipur garden carpet. All the design elements can be traced back to that carpet, including each individual tree motif. The Jaipur carpet can be dated with certainty to before 1632 through the Jaipur records. How the design passed from Kirman to north west Persia remains less easy to explain. Eskenazi/Franses point out how some of the group relating to the Schwarzenberg carpet also have technical features which also make them difficult to place; those structures however differ from that of the present carpet. The precise place of manufacture of this carpet therefore remains difficult to define. Multi-ply warps are found in the North West Persian region (see lot 301), as, at a later date, are red wefts. Alan Marcusson, when he advertised this piece, tentatively suggested Bidjar, but more evidence is needed to place it with certainty.

One remarkable feature of this carpet is the alignment of the trees in the various cartouches. Not only do they not follow the normal Perisan rule of all facing the same way, but they do not even all point to the centre or to a particular point, as is found for instance in a number of Indian carpets. The carpet is designed so that, wherever the viewer is placed, some of the cartouches are correctly aligned.

The Robert von Hirsch garden carpet was sold in 1978 as a fragment. From the catalogue illustration it is possible mentally to reconstruct the field of the original carpet; this is done in a drawing in Eskenazi/Franses (op. cit., p.43). The top right hand piece is in the Wher
Collection; the top left hand in the Keir Collection (Robinson, B.W. et al.: Islamic Art in the Keir Collection, London, 1988, no.T28, pp.78-80); while the lower left is in an American collection (Eskenazi/Franses: op.cit, pl.24). The present lot is the lower right hand quadrant (the carpet as sold was lacking the lower half of the lower star panel). Wherever it was produced, it is not surprising that in the HALI 10th anniversary review, this was held by the entirely unbiassed editors to be 'one of the most beautiful objects advertised in 1979.