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Fragmentary Dragon rug with Balanced Design and Sunburst Center, Karabagh
or Shirvan, early 18th century, late Safavid Period, Shirvan or Karabagh Province (Beylerbeyi),
Azerbaijan. Dr. Murray I. Eiland, Jr. 270 x 300m
published Oriental Rugs from Pacific Collections, Plate 231
Merely the upper portion of this carpet survives, remarkably broad for an early Caucasian rug. Perhaps it represents a half, if the original design below has reproduced what we see at present, mirror-fashion. It would produce a very stubby format, although we might consider that the elements of the lost lower half may not have been so compressed as they appear here. The very prominent sunburst which intruded upon the design at its center, or somewhat above the center, is a highly unusual feature in a dragon rug-scheme, but not unique and seems to have provoked several modern copies.
The field is a bricky or brownish scarlet. One band system is light yellow and the other light medium to medium blue. The sunburst is ivory white. Its yellow center is ringed by-violet and orange petals, from which extend blue-green stalks which bear orange buds. Beside it on the side axes are large enigmatic forms with hooked outlines: apparently the bases of palmettes placed upside down. These are mainly violet on yellow on black-brown. On the yellow "leaves" above these palmettes are black-brown pheasants, poorly drawn.
In the red half-panels between sunburst and palmette the dragon or lion, its normal arena now too constricted, is replaced by a queer, blue-green blob. The ducks are violet, with yellow wings. The ivory dragons have black-brown tails. The design continues in the manner of the lower portion of a drop repeat dragon rug pattern which has been inverted. It closes with two strangely spreading small ivory palmettes between the usual plaques.
The border stripe displays the same vine with diagonally placed palmettes as in Plate 7, on ivory. Changes in the colors from rug to rug produce a different effect. There arc narrow7 guard stripes in blue, with short stretches in red, carrying a ribbon vine in red and yellow.
The dragons are similar in drafting to those of Plate 7 and the small rug formerly in the Siesta Collection mentioned with it, but are more close-coupled. Dressing the dragon's body with several colors is not infrequent, as in Baron Thyssen's carpet (Beattie 1972: Pl. XI). The centralized, mirror-image layout has perhaps come closest to that of the Sharpies carpet of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Turner et al. 1973: p. 31), the central blazon having been replaced by the sunburst. Palmettes similarly inverted on the side axes half way along the design seem to have also existed in a strange dragon rug that was owned by the dealer Gourko in Paris in 1928. In all of these rugs a stiff, palmette form replaces the concentric rosette on the side axes at the level of the dragons. The central sunburst occurs in a very degenerate dragon rug in the Kest-ner Museum, Hannover (H. Erdmann 1966: Abb. 27).
This fragmentary carpet, found in the Paris market, appears to be the long-sought parent of a series of rather small, mirror-image modern "dragon rugs". Campana (1945: PL 82") illustrated one as "Hereke". Kurt Erdmann pictured one several times (1935: Fig. VII: 1900; Fig. 101) before he realized its true age and nature. Several have come to the surface in England. From one seen in a country house there we learn of cabled warp of very fine ivory cotton, presumably machine spun. (Z5Z)3S and weft of Z2S ivory cotton, a knot count of 180 to the square inch. The dimensions were approximately the 9' x 6'4" of the rug shown by Erdmann. One imagines that this series was made in Paris, as was a "Persian animal carpet of the 16th century" with similarly compound, machine made warp which passed from a "French Collection" into one of the best-known collections in the Middle West many years ago.
Warp: Z2S wool in ivory and in a light range of natural shades. Two levels.
Weft: Z2S wool in light natural ranges, dyed light red. Two shots. No singles noted.
Pile: 2Z wool. Gordes knotted, pile slanting to right. 7 or 8, or 8 horiz. x 7 or 6 or 8 1/2 vert. (49, 51, 68 per sq.in.).
Sides: Remains of red wool selvage on 3 or 2 cords. Inner cord a single, weft attached.
Colors: Ivory; black-brown; light yellow; dull yellow-orange; scarlet; medium blue (abrashed light medium); blue-blue-green; dark green; medium violet.
Condition: Entire lower portion lost, with a new run of border added; outer guard stripe at upper end is also new, with some reweaving of this stripe at the sides. Severely worn, with much pile replacement and in-painting.
Published: Oriental Rug Co. Newsletter, Berkeley, Vol. IV, No. 1, Jan. 1975. Fig. 8.