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HERAT CARPET WITH SCROLLING VINES AND ANIMALS

cat. no. 80
East Persia,
Herat, mid-16th century
744 x 350 cm
Warp, weft silk
Knots wool, asymmetric
Knot count 5200
Inv. no. T 8334/1922 IP


The Vienna collection includes three Herat carpets with scrolling vines and animal decoration of exceptional quality, their material and differentiated design placing them amongst the court carpets of the first half of the 16th century. The transfer from the Imperial House to the museum also included a counterpart, which was sold in 1925 and is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The field pattern is based on a quarter cartoon and consists of two vine systems, interspersed with occasional fauna and groups of fighting animals: fabulous beasts from Chinese sagas an mythology, such as dragon or khilin, also real animals, including lion, leopard, tiger, jackal, cattle, ibex, and birds. Cloudbands of Chinese inspiration animate the main border, lion masks are inscribed in larger palmettes. A small human mask can be detected on each outer edge. The inner minor border has elongated cartouches with Nastalik script, verses apparently first composed for this purpose comparing the carpet with a meadow and the sky and singing of flowers and precious stones. The text closes with a blessing for a Shah, who is not precisely named. There is no doubt that the cartoons for the carpets with scrolling vines and animals are the work of painters so talented they could only have been artists to the court. Source location of this carpet group is accepted as Herat in East Persia, formerly the Timurid capital – particularly on account of the evident Chinese influences. Documents do not exist for a carpet production in Herat in the 16th century; this appears improbable to some experts, since the Usbekians conquered Herat in 1506/07 and 1528/29 and took artists and artisans with them to Buchara. Carpets with scrolling vines and animals are linked in motifs and style to the silk carpets of the 16th century made in Kashan and later in Isfahan – capital under Shah Abbas I from 1599 (cf. cat. nos. 70–76). Localization of the so-called Herat carpet group in this region still needs stronger documentary evidence, however.
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