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Salon du Tapis d'Orient

The Salon du Tapis d'Orient is a moderated discussion group in the manner of the 19th century salon devoted to oriental rugs and textiles and all aspects of their appreciation. Please include your full name and e-mail address in your posting.

The Italian Rug

by Daniel Deschuyteneer

The purpose of this Salon is to have a wide ranging discussion of the attribution and characteristics of a rather large (10' x 4' 5") carpet that is highly unusual. It may even be unique. The most likely attribution is to either Northwest Persia or the Transcaucasus, but other origins are possible.

Parviz Tanavoli referred to this rug in his article, "Shahsavan Pile Weaving" (HALI
#45, p. 33, 1989). Alberto Boralevi previously advertised it in HALI (#43, p. 32). At the Milan ICOC in 1999, it was part of the Sovrani Tappeti (Sovereign Carpets) exhibition and appears in the catalog of that name as plate 81. There, Mike Tschebull, Wendel Swan and I had the opportunity to see it in person for the first time. I am told that it was the first time Tanavoli actually handled the rug.

Because the rug's long connection to Italy, its inclusion in two Italian carpet books, its appearance at the Milan ICOC and because it is difficult to give it another name, I will refer to it as the Italian rug.

The primary motifs in the Italian rug seem to be versions of what are often called "egg palmettes." In Early Caucasian Rugs, Charles Grant Ellis used the term "egg palmettes" to refer to motifs in some 17th and 18th Century dragon carpets and variants. Some of these carpets have cotton in their foundations and some have been attributed to (Armenian) Karabagh.

While other examples can (and later will) be shown, here are comparative images of the egg palmette as interpreted, from left to right, in McMullan plate 42, plate 15 from the Ellis book, the Gohar carpet and the Italian rug:

Similarities in scale and proportion between the "Italian palmette" and the "Caucasian egg palmettes" are striking but not unexpected or definitive for attribution purposes. These palmettes are also similar to floral images of stylized "tulip-like" flowers and having essentially the same shape, primarily in Anatolian rugs.

Some may want to discuss various filler elements in the rug. I have also considered whether some of these smaller details might help in making an attribution. I have noticed several features that may be of interest and we can discuss them. Here are some images that you may not be able to see clearly on your screen in the full view of the rug:

1. People (Men, women?).

2. Amulets and combs (not often seen in Northwest Persian or Caucasian rugs).

3. The border, with an ashik design that looks like borders on Shahsavan sumak bags.

4. And nearly familiar botehs (or are some of them animals?).

5. Speaking of animals, here are those seen in various areas of the Italian rug:

The structural analysis may not be definitive, but it is of interest:

Size: 3.05 x 1.35m (10' x 4'5")
Pile: wool
Knot: symmetrical, H32 V23 or 732/dm² (H8 6V or 48/in²)
Warps: natural light gray brown 2 ply (Z2S)
Wefts: cotton natural (some cotton and wool), 2 singles, 2 picks; lack of weft ease
Sides and ends: not original
Handle: very soft and pliable

Attempting to determine an age for the rug will be difficult. The Italian rug with its simple "ashik" border system without guard borders looks nevertheless very old.

Enjoy the discussion and comments.

Deschuyteneer Daniel