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Early Shirvan "Marasali" rug, c. 1800, Azerbaijan.

Estimate: 20,000 - 30,000 USD
LOT SOLD. 25,000 USD (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium)
approximately 8ft. 2in. by 7ft. 7in. (2.49 by 2.31m.)
circa 1800

New York | 25 November 2008 | N08503


Warp: wool, Z3S, natural ivory

Weft: wool, Z spun, 2 shoots, madder red

Pile: wool, symmetrical knot

Density: 11 horizontal, 15 vertical

Sides: not extant

Ends: not extant

Colors: madder red, rose, mauve, aubergine, deep blue, light blue, blue-green, green, light green, yellow, buff, walnut, ivory

This highly unusual carpet with a design of broad indigo and ivory stripes enclosing a variety of stylized blossoms including irises, pinwheel motifs and palmettes, may be unique in the published corpus of Caucasian rugs and carpets. The fine weave, crisp and detailed drawing, and color palette suggest that it was woven in the Marasali area of the Shirvan district in the Eastern Caucasus. Here, the angularly drawn, stylized floral-motifs echo the lilies, palmettes, and vine leafs that characterize the sophisticated large-scale 'dragon' and 'blossom' carpets produced in the workshops of Karabagh and Shirvan in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, see Charles Grant Ellis, Early Caucasian Rugs, Washington, D.C., 1976, pp. 71, 89 and 101. Certain design elements, such as the fan-like palmettes in the indigo stripes of the field, exhibit classical Persian influences as these recall those of seventeenth century Isphahan spiral-tendril carpets. The origin of the pinwheel rosettes in alternating colors is harder to determine with certainty but it is possible that they are modifications of medallions found in 'Sunburst' carpets of the time, see Ellis, ibid., p. 65. Similar pinwheel motifs also appear in Azerbaijan embroideries of the eighteenth century such as the one illustrated in E. Heinrich Kirchheim ed., Orient Starts, Stuttgart and London, 2003, fig 50, p. 75 and on an unusual rug sold Rippon Boswell, Wiesbaden, 17 May 2003, lot 94. Unlike most workshop carpets from the Caucasus, this piece is also characterized by an overall sense of freshness in part due to the crisp ivory bands in the field. The broad use of a light colored ground is rarely found in larger carpets and it renders the palette of the lot offered here particularly brilliant. This brilliance may also relate this piece to Caucasian embroideries that most often have color compositions where crisp whites are juxtaposed with saturated reds, blues, greens, earthy browns, and fresh yellows. Here, the contrast is not only in hues but also in design, with the intricate flowering stem design of the white bands juxtaposed against the bolder elements within the indigo stripes. These flowering branches can be found in larger workshop weavings from Karabagh and, in a more naturalistic version, also in some carpets produced in Khorossan in the 1600s, see Kirchheim, ibid., pp. 130-131. The border design of this carpet alternates the rosettes and palmettes found in the field, which are separated by elongated spiked leafs. This orderly border composition echos and complements the methodic field arrangement. The inner and outer guard borders display highly stylized carnations that are prototypes for those emblematic flowers that populate the borders of later nineteenth and early twentieth century Shirvan rugs. The overall design scheme of this carpet, including irises and fan palmettes, can be seen in a later Shirvan rug in the Baku Museum, see Liatif Kerimov, Rugs and Carpets from the Caucasus, Leningrad, 1984, pl. 42. Design elements in the field, including the palmettes, and in particular the geometric lily-forms, become more stylized and frequently used in Shirvan weavings within a century, see Ian Bennett, Oriental Rugs, Volume 1, Caucasian, Wels, 1981, figs. 243-245, pp. 200-201. The fine weave, modified workshop design, unusual carpet format, and the wide color range suggest that the lot offered here is the product of a cottage works