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Early Karabagh "Dragon" carpet, 1650-1700, Safavid Period, Karabagh Province (Beylerbeyi). Textile Museum. 239 x 544 cm

Dragon Rug with Drop Repeat Design. Shirvan, Shemakha Area or Karabagh. Mid or Late 17th Century. Textile Museum R 36.1.1 (formerly R 2.54).

A good, though faded example of the dragon rug's earliest and most complete phase in which a drop repeat design translates the delicate vine latticing of the Persian vase rug into the crude vernacular of the Caucasus. Against a field color of soft, winy red is projected a double network of jagged bands. One network is dark medium blue; the other a light sand yellow except for the moustache-like pairs of "leaves" immediately below the dragons, which are ivory, as are the dragons themselves.
The field pattern opens with partial plaques and feather-like forms which can be seen to be the backs and flames of magic lions, such as hover over the chilin in the panel directly above the dragon. From that level the pattern repeats, item for item, whatever it has displayed below. It is worth noting that the dragon, the flaming lion, the chilin, together with the mandarin duck and the golden pheasant, which appear, quite distorted, on the dark blue leaflike portions of the band system, have been used as symbols of rank in the Far East, which was also the source of the "chi" or clenched fungoid forms which appear on the blue bands. The pairs of little onagers or fawns in smaller panels are not Far Eastern, but come from the Persian repertoire.

The tree palmette in the panel below the pheasants and the elaborate, vertically aligned palmette where the blue bands cross are particularly handsome. The figures along the center line were ruined by a tear down the carpet's center, through which several inches of surface have been lost. The dragons are among the best that can be found in the entire dragon rug series.

The ivory border, a single stripe and narrow in the vase rug tradition, shows a complex vine in varied colors. Simplified versions of this vine appear in the later dragon rugs of Shusha and have continued in use in semi-antique Karabagh and Karadagh runners.

Five other complete rugs of comparable pattern are known, aside from fragments. The live include two which are almost a pair: one. formerly in the Hanotaux Collection in Paris, now in the Siesta Collection, Milan, and the other in the Great Mosque of Divrik in Anatolia. The third is in the Burrell Collection in the Glasgow Museum, 9/38; the fourth in the Brooklyn Museum, 58.130; the fifth, with a blue ground, was formerly at Stefan Bardini's in Florence and reportedly went to America. A fragment from the upper part of a carpet of this kind, in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul, No. 204, offers panels of different colors, a well-known vase rug tradition. It came from a mosque at Edirne. The lower part of this carpet, filled out with new weaving, was in the Italian art market some years ago and is said to be in a Swiss collection.

Size: L. 5.44 m. (17'10") x W. 2.39 m. (7'10").
Warp: Z2S, wool in a full range of natural shades, with some barber poles. Alternate warps depressed.
Weft: Z2S wool in light natural mixtures, dyed a variable light red. Two shots. At variable intervals single shot. (Z2S) 3S and (Z2S) 3Z, dyed light or very pale red.
Pile: 2Z wool. Gordes knotted, pile slanting to left. 9 or 10 horiz. x 9 or 10 1/2 vert., per in. (81 to 95 per sq.in.)
Sides: Cut. Ends: Cut.
Colors: Ivory; black-brown; dull yellow-orange/tan; light sand yellow; wine red; dark medium, light medium and light blues; light medium blue-green, abrashed dark medium green; dark violet.
Condition: Cut down the center and rejoined, with some loss. Considerable areas of reweaving in upper left quarter. End borders and parts of side borders rewoven. The field may have been reduced somewhat at the top Sundry patches and small repairs. Coloration duller and lighter than in comparable carpets, perhaps due to fading.

Published; Aga-Oglu 1948: No. 4; Ellis 1970; Fig. 1.