Posted by R. John Howe on 10-28-2006 10:50 AM:

Qashqua'i "Mille-fleurs" Niche Design Rugs

Dear folks -

These are all Qashqua'i pieces in a niche "mille-fleurs," seen to have Mogul antcedents.

Again, I will offer the pieces first side by side, then follow by repeating those same images sequentially each followed immediately by a closer detail.

Folks who are deeply troubled by Sack's "Good" category are encouraged not to jettison the ratings and rationales sequence but instead to rename the "Good" position "Not Good."

Mille-fleurs A

Mille-fleurs B

Mille-fleurs C

To repeat, if you are offended by "Good" change that category to "Not Good." Then do the two-level rating with rationales.


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 10-29-2006 09:08 AM:

Nobody is taking it, so I’ll have a go…

Rug B (I know it: from Opie’s “Tribal Rugs”) has the most pleasing composition. It gives me a sense of spaciousness while the others appear too compressed horizontally.

C seems having muddier colors from a distance, but in the close-up they look good and more sophisticated. It has also a very fine weave with more detail than in B.

Unfortunately the close-up of A is rather small but it seems to have the finer weave, assuming the sizes are more or less the same. Design is too crowded but I don’t mind. Very nice reds.
I like its inner border very much. On the whole it conveys an impression of jewel-like flowers, suppleness and lightness, like a Pashmina shawl.
It’s not my genre but I’d like to see it on a wall in my house.

A - Best 8
B - Best 7
C - Best 7


Posted by Marvin Amstey on 10-29-2006 01:42 PM:

I score them all a "3" with the bias that they may be my least favorite rugs. Those dark niches on the red grounds appear to be "humpty dumties" or "bombs". Of the three, I agree with Filiberto - again. The marketplace seems to value them only by whether or not they have silk wefts (finer weaves).

Posted by R. John Howe on 10-30-2006 06:23 AM:

Dear folks -

I don't know this variety particularly but here are my own ratings and reasons.

A: Best: 8

Rationale: I like the coloration of this rug best of the three and what seems to me to be a kind of visible fineness. Proportions not quite as good as B, but not objectionable to me.

B: Better: 5

Rationale: I see what folks are talking about when the cite the spaciousness of this version of this design, but for me, especially in the close-up, this piece became less attractive. This is a design that is supposed to be rich and densely decorated. For me, the spaciousness works against an optimum rendition of its type. I also think the use of a strong yellow works agains the aesthetic attractiveness of this piece. I agree that the proportions of this piece are the best of the three. Drawing is visibly controlled and good.

C: Better: 4

Rationale: I would have rated this piece lower on the basis of inferior colors, but the close-up suggests that they are quite good. It seems too narrow a rendition of this design in relation to height and I rate its proportions as the least satisfactory of the three. Again, I don't like the strong yellow in the palette.


R. John Howe

Posted by Richard Larkin on 10-31-2006 09:16 PM:


Hey folks,

Marvin, you're too hard on these pieces. For myself, I'm predisposed in favor of South Persian tribal group weavings unless they do something to push me strongly in the other direction.

I view the "mille fleurs" rug as an exotic tour de force sort of design to accept at face value. It does seem somewhat contrived, but the profusion of flowers in the arch has charm. I do think it has to be well executed to be successful. It can't get away with being clunked up (for me, at least) and still be OK, in the manner of Richard T's flatwoven panel C, for example. As far as the arch reminding one of Humpty Dumpty, no moreso than the chuval gul recalls a cough drop. (Side note to Steve: I'm just kidding! )

Anyway, coming to the three examples and taking the view I do, I have to place B well ahead of the other two. It has the necessary balance of design, due chiefly to the weaver's success in mastering the vertical/horizontal proportions. This is best seen in the white corner pieces flanking the top of the arch. Their axes are about 45 degrees to the vertical axis, but they are fairly accurately symmetrical, in contrast to A, which is quite out of shape, and B which is slightly better. It is this failure to get the horizontal/vertical right that makes A and C seem squeezed horizontally. The effect also shows up in the proportions of the borders. On the other hand, B has a terrific look. With Filiberto, I'd be happy to put it on my wall.

I think the drawing and spacing of the floral motifs is also superior in B, as well as the end treatments. It also seems to have the edge in color.


A gets 5
B gets 8
C gets 6

Rich Larkin

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-03-2006 07:48 AM:

Wendel's Suggested Example

Dear folks -

Wendel Swan is one of those who thinks that "mille-fleurs" pieces can be impressive.

He offers this one from the McMullan Collection.

I think he sorrows a bit that many don't consider this type more seriously.


R. John Howe

Posted by Marvin Amstey on 11-03-2006 08:16 AM:

Wendel's choice is 200 years older and was made in India. I agree that this is a beautiful rug. Here the vase is distinct; the flowers more accurate; the proportions better designed. It's a different rug and would look great hanging on my wall.

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-03-2006 09:06 AM:


We got four sentences out of Marvin!

How did we do that? Gotta remember.

I think it might have been the word "sorrows."

That's it!


We need better baiting.


R. John Howe

Posted by Wendel Swan on 11-08-2006 08:14 AM:

Hi Marvin and all,

McMullan included this millefleur in his "19th Century Pesian" group, but at that time there was considerable confusion about Persian versus Indian weaving.

I saw this one at the Fogg and others at the Art Institute in Chicago. There is also one at Biltmore, as I recall.

McMullan's is a magnificent weaving and almost needs to be seen in the flesh, but B is a reasonably well done version.


Posted by Wendel Swan on 11-08-2006 02:09 PM:

Hi John,

I hadn’t intended to abandon this discussion. I’ve been familiar with both the Mughal millefleur rugs and their Qashqai interpretations for a long time.

On your scale, I would comparatively rate the three Qashqai millefleur rugs:

A – Good – 3
B – Best – 8
C – Better 6

Comparing the three is made a bit easier by the fact that the fields of all three are based upon the same cartoon, although that is less evident in A. Both the fields and the borders of B and C were executed from the same cartoon, even though different colors were used. For A, the border cartoon is entirely different.

If A and C are narrower and more crowded than B, it may be because an identical number of warps were used but more narrowly placed on the loom.

Texture and fineness within this group of luxury rugs is highly important. It might be that the green ground of C could be much more beautiful in the flesh, causing an upward revision in its rating.

Close examination reveals many differences in the care taken by the weavers and/or the supervisor in implementing the design and the selection of the colors. The aesthetics of this group require that the weaving be precisely balanced and that many colors be used in such a way that each color is positioned against another so as to make them distinct. In my view, B and C meet this standard, but A does not.

It may be helpful to look again at the McMullan millefleur rug to see what the Qashqai were copying.

Note that the lower portion of the arch in the McMullan rug is flanked by Cyprus trees contained in pots and that those trees determine the shape of the “mihrab.” The arch is above the background that we see behind the cypress trees. In B, the outer curve of the lower half of the arch (in effect, the trees) is very graceful, less so in C and too vertical and awkward in A. There is far less intricacy in the scalloping of the portal in A.

In A, the large inner border is too much of the same scale as the primary border, creating an imbalance. The blue ground anchors in the upper corner of A are asymmetrical, probably because the design has been compressed across its width in order to accommodate the extra border. This results in what I view as a portal that is too narrow.

Because those anchors have a blue ground, the lower contrast means that they stand out far less than do the ivory ground anchors in B and C. The red base of the portal in A is blocky, indelicately executed and lacks the intricacy one sees in B and C.

The concept of a green ground for C is initially appealing, but the portal elements are done in colors that provide much less contrast than we see in B. Each of the flowers (with a prolific use of ivory, orange and yellow) stands out in B, whereas the low contrast of the colors in C results in a less distinct image.

The border system of B provides and almost perfect frame for the portal and the flowers one see through it. C is a close second in this regard, but A’s nearly “dual main” borders is not consistent with great carpet and Koran cover designs. Also, the inner border of A makes a peculiar transition to the field, essentially without a tertiary border or guard.

Both the McMullan rug and B create vivid color contrast, even though the scale of the individual elements (mainly flowers) is consistent.

I do think that it is a pity that such weavings are summarily dismissed.


Posted by Marvin Amstey on 11-10-2006 07:11 PM:

For all you lovers of this type, here is a modern version that is up for sale in the upcoming Skinner auction:

Posted by Steve Price on 11-10-2006 07:55 PM:

Hi Marvin

Your link just goes to the Skinner sale page, not to the rug. Since we don't normally talk about rugs that are for sale unless there's some peculiar reason for doing so, please don't fix the link or make any comments about the desirability of the rug.


Steve Price

Posted by Marvin Amstey on 11-11-2006 01:05 PM:

Sorry about that. When I first previewed it, the rug appeared. The only reason for showing it was how the design elements had deteriorated in a late 20 c. version.

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-11-2006 06:17 PM:


The first time I clicked on that link, I got a generic sales page from the auction house. I tried it a second time and got the rug. This online computer stuff is a mystery to me anyway.

There's a world of difference between that Indian model and a good South Persian version of the "mille fleurs" design, such as John's B entry in the comparison derby. At least I think so. I know you don't.

Rich Larkin