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Dragon carpet fragment, late 17th / 18th Century, Azerbaijan. Thompson Collection
A Dragon Carpet Fragment, East Caucasus, Azerbaijan, 17th / 18th Century,
mounted and backed, holes and losses. 198 x 216 cm
This is approximately the lower half of a 'middle phase' dragon carpet. The vigorous dragons have multiplied and come to occupy successive compartments on the long axis of the carpet, displacing the Hsieh-chai* or flaming lion in combat with the ch'i-lin . The other members of the menagerie found in the earliest carpets have not entirely disappeared for a vestige of the mandarin duck's striped wings can still be seen disappearing at the bottom. Green ground dragon carpets are rare. Two closely related pieces are the green ground carpet belonging to Howard T. Hallowell III illustrated in color in Ellis, Charles Grant: Early Caucasian Rugs, Textile Museum, Washington, D. C., 1975 plate 10, and another green ground carpet, almost the pair, in the Turk ve Islam Eseleri Milzesi ' Istanbul, published Yetkin, Serare: Early Caucasian Carpets in Turkey, London 1978, vol. 1, pl. 17.
* Hsieh-Chai – the ancient Chinese supernatural animal, goat-like in appearance but with only one horn. It is endowed with the faculty of detecting the guilty, and can distinguish between the crooked and the upright. In the days of the Shun (legendary sage – ruler, circa 2200 B.C.) when the famous minister Kao Yao tried cases in which guilt was uncertain, he would order the Hsieh-Chai to butt the guilty. Those who were, in fact guilty would be butted whereas it would not butt the innocent.