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Sotheby’s London is delighted to announce its new Spring Rugs and Carpets sales to be held alongside London Islamic week. Our sale includes distinguished collections and offers a wide range of property drawn across Europe and the USA, with selected works representative of the international weaving centres of Persia, Caucasus, Anatolia, Central Asia, China, and Europe. We also include the second instalment of the prominent collection of Christopher Alexander; the first half formed the core of our NOVEMBER SALE last year. This second group being offered focuses almost exclusively on early and archaic Anatolian examples, with the exception of a beautiful vibrant green Khorossan fragment.

Further highlights included are a large Karapinar rug fragment formerly in the Bernheimer and Wher Collections, a Kum Kapi silk ‘Emperor Carpet’ of extraordinary quality and remarkable size (approximately 630 by 314cm),  an extremely fine Pashmina rug with design after a pair of Safavid compartment carpets, both from the early 20th century. A striking 17thor 18th century Caucasian rug with design harkening to the so called ‘Portuguese’ carpets of Khorossan and unusual Yomut main carpet. Striking 20th century weaves from Iran and a charming collection of works bought in the 1930s by Lt. Colonel D.R.Thomas, O.B.E., I.M.S., Chemical Examiner to Government, Punjab, Lahore whilst posted in India.

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Lot 28. From the Alexander Collection. A 'Karapinar' rug fragment, South Central Anatolia; approximately 275 by 134cm; 9ft., 4ft. 5in., late 17th or early 18th century. Estimate 50,000 — 80,000 GBP. Lot Sold 65,000 GBP (74,165 EUR) (91,156 USD). Courtesy Sotheby's 2018.

incorporating two fragments from the same rug

Provenance: the larger fragment with Eskenazi, London, by 1985, the smaller acquired from Gary Muse, London, 1985

LiteratureOakley. P., 'fact or fiction 'Karapinar' rugs from Central Anatolia', Hali, Winter, 2010, issue 166, p. 50

Eskenazi, J.,'The Alexander Collection: Part I Weaving as Liturgy', Hali, April/May 1994, issue 74, p. 82, fig. 2.

Alexander, C., A Foreshadowing of 21st Century Art The Color and Geometry of Very Early Turkish Carpets, New York, 1993, pp. 172 - 175, ill pp. 86, 175 (details) & 173.

Hali, issue 28, October/November/December, 1985, p. 45.

Note: Characteristic of the prestige of the Alexander collection, this present lot is a rare example with a richness in design almost unparalleled and, in common with other examples of this genre, it presents a quandary in terms of exact origin. In his opening statement for his entry on this work, Alexander says it is 'Perhaps one of the most interesting carpets discovered in recent times.' Alexander, A Foreshadowing, op.cit, p 172, a statement not without foundation.

Within the rug are elements shared with weavings from Turkmenistan, East and Central Persia, the Caucasus and Central Anatolia. In examining the border there is a clear correlation with the ‘Karapinar’ affectionately known as the Pink Panther, sold Sotheby’s London, 7 November 2017, lot 30. In both examples the border is composed of an intertwined trellising with stylised rosettes, the Panther with red and underlying blue and the present work vice versa – they each also share the same inner guard design too. In addition the present lot has vibrant ivory white rosette flowerheads within the border, further shared with another of the Alexander ‘Karapinars’ within this sale, see lot 45. This brilliant ivory, also seen within the field, is a trait which is associated with Karapinar weaves, see Beattie. M., ‘Some Rugs of the Konya Region’, Oriental Art, London, Spring, 1976, vol. 22, pp. 60 – 61 for further reference to the weaving region.

Interestingly this meandering border draws comparison with 17th century examples from Khorossan, see Sotheby’s New York, 1 October 2015, lot 97, and also later re-appears in other works such as 19th century ‘C’ and ‘Eagle’ Yomut main carpets, (for example Sotheby’s London, 1 November 2015, lots 22 and 23). Yet the border, whilst relating to Persian design, does seem to have an inherent Anatolian identity, whereas the main, and highly unusual, field design appears to derive from Safavid courtly carpets, the stylised mosque lamps a replacement for the traditional vase. When looking at what Alexander calls ‘flaming animal spirits’ it seems more likely these are a derivation of sickle leaves, again reminiscent of ‘vase’ carpets. Even with Central Persian weavings as an apparently compelling precursor, on closer inspection the spirits or leaves  have a semblance more indigenous to the area; the Quercus cerris or Turkish oak, which grows along the southerly coastline of modern Turkey. This would suggest the present lot could have originated at a Southerly point of the Karapinar region and that the weaver was informed of the great courtly productions in Persia.

What is less explainable is the highly unusual three ‘V’ shaped splayed leaves within the field. There are some possible influences, again hearkening to the courtly productions, these ‘V’ shaped leaves could be an interpretation of latticed vinery or leaves. When reviewing a black and white image of such an example this comparison becomes a little clearer, see the ‘vase’ carpet fragment in the MAK, Vienna, illustrated in Campana. P., Il Tappeto Orientale, Milan, 1962, pl. 36. In this black and white negative the vase, or urn, and the vines and leaves show a clear resemblance to the offered Karapinar, again there is correlation in the border design. It is also worth noting that these extravagant sweeping leaves are a rarity in any weave and are only really seen in the rarest of ‘vase’ techniques carpets, the sickle leaf pattern. The legendary Clark Sickle-leaf carpet sold Sotheby’s New York, 5 June 2013, lot 12, whilst very different in many respects, displays some design traits which the offered ‘Karapinar’ seems to take inspiration from. There is one other 17th/18th century ‘Karapinar’ example which compares more directly than others. Now in the Türk ve Islam Eserleri Müzesi, Istanbul, formerly in the Alaaddin Keykubat Shrine, Konya, and cited by Oakley. P., op cit, p. 44, 48, 49, fig 9, this example shares the field design elements such as the ‘V’ splayed leaves, oak leaves, vertical palmettes and the mosque urns of the present lot. However these designs are inverted to meet at the centre of the rug; they are also of a similar scale and have a related border design. Oakley ascribes this example as the earliest of the second of her chronological groupings she assigns to the works with known provenance to Karapinar, the ex-Bernheimer to group one and the ‘Pink Panther’ group 3.

See also a 17th century Konya fragment, possibly from Ladik, which compares  both in colour tone and design elements, published in Franses. M, Tapis Present de L’Orient A L’Occident, Paris, 1989, pp. 98 & 99. This is probably a larger town production and the motifs are arranged in a more linear fashion seeming to emulate architectural reliefs, a viewpoint shared by Oakley who likens to tilework in the Topkapi Palace and also refers to embroidery, op cit, p. 48, see Riefstahl. M., 'Primitive Rugs of the “Konya”' Type in the Mosque of Beyshehir' The Art Bulletin, vol. 13, No. 2, p. 201, figs. 19 & 22. However the field design of triangular palmettes organised into a ‘tête-bêche’ composition interspersed with vines and rosettes also in a ‘V’ shaped formation does bear a striking link to the offered work. It is interesting that in the entry for the Konya fragment it too is compared with Turkmenistan weaves and that the leaves and design format bear so much in common with the offered work.

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 Lot 62. 'Emperor' silk carpet, Kum Kapi, Istanbul, Turkey, early 20th century after the original 16th century Persian, Safavid, design.; approximately 630 by 314cm; 20ft. 8in., 10ft. 3in. Estimate 200,000 — 300,000 GBP. Lot Sold 393,000 GBP (448,412 EUR) (551,143 USD). Courtesy Sotheby's 2018.

Knot density: V: 9/cm; H: 9/cm; the inner border with cartouches with inscriptions of Persian couplets in praise of the carpet and its patterns, with no date, the poets pen name may be ‘Homa' (not a recorded Safavid poet).

Note: The design elements of this present carpet are taken from one of the most complex and sophisticated groups of classical carpets of the early Safavid period in the 16th century. They have many features in common, being of elongated format and often more than twice as long as they are wide, with designs which incorporate motifs of palmettes, cloud-bands, realistic and mythical animals (dragons and Chinese antelope, ch'ilins, lion and buffalo, tigers and leopards, snakes, ducks and pheasants) and delicate layers of spiralling vines. They use many colours (often between fifteen and eighteen), and have structural similarities, including high knot counts (circa 200-325 knots per square inch) and asymmetrical knotting, the finest have silk warps and wefts. The 16th century pieces were attributed to eastern Iran, with Herat having been recorded as an important centre of court art and carpet production, during the Timurid period in the 15thcentury onwards, and although not all pieces originate from Herat (as some were from Isphahan and Kashan), the high quality of the 16th century pieces, does attribute them to being inspired by the designs of the Timurid period, extending into the early years of the 17th century. Seemingly contemporaneous carpets similar in pattern and style survive in multiple quality grades. It is not rare to find pairs of Persian carpets, and therefore has been suggested that it must have been widespread practice. However not all are of the same quality or warranted being diplomatic and royal gifts, and therefore copies of those that were would still hold some of the same prestige, by virtue of the quality of the piece alone, and a consideration for the present carpet.

This design type was comprehensively discussed by Christine Klose, in her ICOC paper presented in Istanbul, 2007 and posthumously published as ‘Imperial Puzzle, Sixteenth-century Persian spiral vine carpets with animals’, Hali, Issue 170, Winter 2011 , pp.76-85. In the group known as ‘spiral vine carpets’, nine of the group (I-IX) are known, based on five cartoon variations (A-E). Only three of the nine early pieces now survive and the most famous pair (Carpets I-II) are known as the ‘Emperors’ Carpets’, Iran (probably Herat), second half 16th century, asymmetrically knotted, silk warps and wefts, wool pile. (The third carpet, with cartoon B, is in poor condition: MAK: Vienna T 8376). It is the Emperors’ carpet design (with Cartoon A), and which are within their class considered supreme and possibly the earliest examples, that has inspired the composition of the presently offered carpet.

The ‘Emperors’ Carpets’, were purported to have been a diplomatic gift in 1698 from Tsar Peter the Great of Russia to the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I (1658-1705) to adorn his summer residence, and this companion pair were separated and are now located in different international museum respectively. One of the pair (744 by 350cm), originally in the Imperial Habsburg Collection is now in Vienna (Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst: MAK), see Völker, Angela, Die orientalischen Knüpfteppiche im MAK, Böhlau, Wien- Köln- Wiemar, 2001, Cat.No.86, pp.244-247 (Inv. T8334 /1922). In 1925, on the fall of the Habsburgs, to raise funds the Viennese museum sold the other to the London dealers, Cardinal and Harford, and now the companion ‘Emperors’ carpet’, (751 by 330cm), is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York (Rogers Fund, 1943 – 43.121.1)

The Emperors’ Carpet group, the pair being the largest of the ‘spiral vine carpets’ with the finest drawing, have the distinctive design elements in a pattern that is symmetrical in all essential details, on both the vertical and horizontal axes, with each quadrant mirroring the others. This repeat suggests the weavers used a large and elaborate cartoon. The design is a refined overlaid series of arabesques, with palmettes and rosettes, together with cloud bands and pairs of birds, and various fighting animals, on a saturated red ground. They are juxtaposed over two delicate spiral vine systems in different colours and on different levels. In striking contrast the wide border against a green/indigo ground incorporates arabesques, exuberant cloudbands and spiral vines. The narrow outer border with red ground and cloudbands over a vine with flowers, and the inner border with yellow ground cartouches with inscriptions, alternating with palmette motifs. The present carpet shows some variation in composition, and is not an identical copy. It is however still of extraordinary quality and with silk pile, unlike the ‘Emperors’ Carpets’ which are wool.

Although the layers of symbolic meaning of these carpets, which were accessible to the Persian courtiers of the 16thcentury, linking the prestige of the cultural association with the metaphysical and mystic Sufi interpretations of the soul searching for God through poetry, may not be completely understood now, they do sometimes have inscriptions which assist with the understanding of the intentions of the carpets. These cited pair of comparable 16th century, silk ‘Emperor’ animal hunting carpets have calligraphic inscriptions within the cartouches in the narrow inner border, of a poem by the 13thcentury poet Zahir-al-Din Faryabi, in Nastaliq script, which praises nature, love and the King of the world, for whom the pair of carpets were made, and describes the carpets as a celestial meadow and invokes God’s blessing on the ruler. 

The present carpet, with all the similarities, in the overall design, and with calligraphic inscriptions in the inner border, against a saffron coloured ground, does not copy the same poem. Instead is an interpretation of the calligraphic inscription of Persian couplets in praise of the carpet and its patterns, found on another 16th century carpet, known as ‘The Darius of the World ‘Tiger’ carpet, with paradise park design, (504 by 225cm), in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Milan (Inv.no. 424.1855), circa 1560. It is considered to have been made for the Shah Tahmasps’ royal court, and then acquired in a private auction in 1855 by Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli, and is one of the from another category of carpets known as the ‘Salting Group’, and incorporates a central medallion and metal thread highlights (originally gilt). This is one of only two complete 16th century Persian carpets that exist in Italian museums (the other also being in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum). Through the inscription it is considered ‘to have been conceived as a reflection of heaven, and to walk within in it is to enter Paradise on earth’ (see Franses, Michael, Curator of exhibition and catalogue, Il Giardino del Paradiso nel tappeto “del tigri” del Museo Poldi Pezzoli e nei tappet persiani del XVI secolo (The Garden of Paradise in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum ‘ Tiger’ Carpet and in 16th century Persian Carpets, Exhibition, 23rd May – 1st September 2014, Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Milan, pp.1-80, Darius of the World ‘Tiger Carpet’, Tavola 4, p.11, p.42-49, 75-77.

For a later example inspired by the ‘Emperors Carpet’ design, and signed, see a Teheran carpet, North Persia, circa 1900, Sotheby’s, London, 24 April 2013, lot 303, with similar field design, an alternative border type, and with calligraphic inscriptions limited to entablatures in the top corners of the borders, 'Work of Ustad (Master) Amir' and 'Order of Haji Yahuda’. 

This example is ascribed to the Istanbul Kum Kapi workshops.  The red kilim end finishes banded in golden yellow are a feature seen on Toussounian rugs, and this example may have been made under his oversight.  It is a remarkable tour-de-force to have woven a silk carpet which so accurately renders the original models  in such detail and fineness and on such a scale.  The Kum kapi workshops are known for their small silk rugs, and very occasionally produced small carpets.  A piece on this scale is an extraordinary rarity.

Bibliography: Alcouffe, Daniel, ed., Great Carpets of the World, Chp.IV, The Carpets of Safavid Persia: Gardens of Earthly Delight, Paris, 1996, No.101, pg.130. 

Bennet, Ian, ‘The Emperors’ old carpets’, Hali, July-August-September, 1986, pp.11-19

Denny, Walter B. ‘Textiles and Carpets in the Metropolitan Museum's New ALTICALSA Galleries’. Arts of Asia 2012 (2012). p. 105, ill. figs. 7, 8. Provenance of Emperor Carpet Czar Peter the Great, Russia (by tradition, until 1698); Austrian Imperial House, Vienna (1698–1921); Österreichisches Museum für Kunst und Industrie (1921–25; to Cardinal and Harford); [Cardinal and Harford, London, 1925–28; sale, Christie, Manson & Wood, London, July 5, 1928, no. 146]; [ International Art Gallery, London, 1928, sold to Arthur U. Pope for Rockefeller McCormick]; Edith Rockefeller McCormick, Chicago (1928–d. 1932; her estate until 1943; sold to Arthur U. Pope for the Metropolitan Museum of Art). 

Denny, Walter B, How to Read Islamic Carpets. New Haven and London: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014.p.118, illus. pp. 120-121, figs. 104-105. 

Denny, Walter B, Emperor’s carpet’, Hali, Issue 170, Winter 2011 , pp.74-75. 

Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 181, pp. 6,12,17, 172, 259-261, ill. p. 260 (color), fig. 18 (b/w).

Ellis, Charles, Oriental Carpets in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia,1988. p. 171. 

Ellis, Charles Grant, ‘Some Compartment Designs for Carpets, and Herat’, Textile Museum Journal 1, no. 4 (December 1965), pp. 42–56, pp. 42, 43, figs. 1, 2, and p. 52, fig. 15. Franses, Michael, Curator of exhibition and catalogue, Il Giardino del Paradiso nel tappeto “del tigri” del Museo Poldi Pezzoli e nei tappet persiani del XVI secolo (The Garden of Paradise in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum ‘ Tiger’ Carpet and in 16th century Persian Carpets, Exhibition, 23rd May – 1st September 2014, Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Milan, pp.1-80, Darius of the World ‘Tiger Carpet’, Tavola 4, p.11, p.42-49, 75-77. 

Franses, Michael, ‘Out of the shadow’, Hali, Issue 179, Spring 2014, pp.80-85, for discussion on the Darius of the Universe carpet in the Poldi Pozzoli Museum, Milan. 

Klose, Klose, ICOC paper presented in Istanbul, 2007 and posthumously published ‘Imperial Puzzle, Sixteenth-century Persian spiral vine carpets with animals’, Hali, Issue 170, Winter 2011 , pp.76-85. 

Pope, Arthur Upham, A Survey of Persian Art: from Prehistoric times to the present, Vol. VIII, plates 981-1275, Textiles, Carpets, Oxford University Press, London & New York, 1939, vii, East Persia, floral and animal carpet, pl. 1174 (b/w - section of floral and animal carpet, East Persia, 2nd quarter 16th century, Estate of Mrs. Rockefeller McCormick. (L.whole carpet) 24ft 8 in (750cm). W. 10ft 6 in (320cm).

Sarre, Friedrich, and Trenkwald, Hermann, Alt Orientalische Teppiche, Leipzig, 1926-1929, Vol. I, Vol. II. Pl.29. 

Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. Vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. pp. 98-100, ill. fig. 74 (colour).

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Lot 58. A pashmina cartouche compartment rug, probably Srinagar, Kashmir, late 19th-early 20th century; approximately 123 by 81cm; 4ft., 2ft. 8in. Estimate 18,000 — 25,000 GBP. Courtesy Sotheby's 2018.

Knot density: V: 22-23/cm; H: 18/cm; silk foundation; after a Safavid compartment design, of superlative fineness, probably intended as an exhibition piece

ProvenanceSotheby’s, London, 13th April 1988, lot 84.

Note: The compartment distinctive design of the present rug, with its interlocking geometric star pattern comprised of radiating cartouches, enclosing and exotic animals, such as dragons, simurghs, Ch’i lins and phoenixes, incorporates design elements taken from Chinese and Islamic motifs. It is inspired by two recorded examples in museum collections, both from Central Iran, 15th or early 16th century, and considered to have originally been a pair. The first comparable is a complete carpet known as ‘The Baron Compartment with Dragon and Phoenix Carpet’, (800 by 400cm), wool pile on a silk foundation, in the Musée Historique des Tissus, Lyon, no.25.423 (Formerly S. Baron, Paris, 1893), and the other comparable originally woven from the same cartoon, is ‘The Robinson Compartment with Dragon and Phoenix Carpet’, first half 16thcentury, Iran (possibly Tabriz), (reduced in size 497 by 340cm), wool pile on silk foundation, asymmetrically knotted, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Frederick C. Hewitt Fund, 1910 -10.61.3). Similarities to the Safavid bookbindings have been noted, in the format and in the use of the Chinese cloud bands and Islamic cartouches as motif elements. The offered miniature rug is likely to be from an extraordinary group of 20th century Indian weavings. It has been executed with extraordinary dexterity, with a high knot count and small scale of the motifs. The presence of the pashmina wool suggests a Kashmir origin. The presence of elephants within the curvilinear compartments against the dark brown ground in the design may well be an Indian adaptation, for in the cited 16th century examples the same compartments have a spotted wild cat motif . The present rug is a copy of the shortened carpet in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

For comparable miniature compartment rugs, see Sotheby’s, London, 20th October 1993, lot 97, probably 1930 (105 by 79cm), knot density V 17-19/cm: H 16/cm, and another example with a finer knot count, in the same auction, Sotheby’s, London, 20th October 1993, lot 109, after 1928, (129 by 75cm), knot density V 19-20/cm: H 18/cm This piece also had a label stating that it was made by Mohd Rahim for C.M. Hadow & Co. in Srinagar, in Kashmir, which was a factory know particularly for copies of Polonaise rugs. Carpets of this group are represented by their extremely high knot counts (V 15-16/cm: H 18/cm). The Metropolitan carpet was first illustrated by John Kimberley Mumford, in The Yerkes Collection of Oriental Carpets, 1910, pl.XXV, and the Lyon example was published in 1900 by the director of the museum, Raymond Cox. It was then possible to produce cartoons, and a number of copies were produced in different locations, including several factories in India, and they were possibly produced in jail or private workshops, in Agra, Lahore and Amritsar. It was noted in government sponsored reports on Indian weaving in the late 19th and early 20th century, of the occasional use of pashmina wool at this date, and that examples are ‘excessively rare’ (see Marketplace, Hali, 39, pp.92-93). It is highly probably that this piece was intended as an exhibition piece.

For a carpet offered in this sale, taken from the design of a famous pair of 16th century Persian, known as 'The Emperors' carpets', see lot 62.

Bibliography: Ian Bennett, ‘Splendours in the City of Silk, Hali, Issue 32, 1986, pp.42-48; Ian Bennett, ‘Splendours in the City of Silk, part 2 ‘The Safavid Masterpieces’, Hali, Issue 33, 1987, pp.38-49 and Ian Bennett, ‘Splendours in the City of Silk, part 3: ‘The Safavid Masterpieces’, Hali, Issue 34, 1987, pp.42-43, pl.XI, and p.103 (with structure analysis);
Brown‚ David J, ‘Carpets from the Hadow Factory in Kashmir’, Hali, 3/3, 1981, p.219;
Erdmann, Seven Hundred Years of Oriental Carpets, London, 1970, p.182, pl. XIX (detail);
Klose, Christine, ‘Traces of Timurid carpets in contemporary and later carpets from the Near East, pp.72-89, p.72, fig.1, frontispiece, & Safavid carpets with cartouche patterns, pp.82-86, fig. 26, Thompson, Jon, Shaffer, Daniel, Mildh, Pirjetti, (ed), Carpets and Textiles in the Iranian World 1400-1700, Proceedings of the Conference held at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 30-31 August 2003, for The May Beattie Archive, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, in association with The Bruschettini Foundation for Islamic and Asian Art, Genoa, 2010;
Mumford, John Kimberley, The Yerkes Collection of Oriental Carpets, 1910, pl. XXV.

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Lot 63. From the Alexander Collection. A Khorossan carpet fragment, Northeast Persia, 17th century; overall dimensions of fragment approximately 249 by 68cm; 8ft. 2in., 2ft. 3in. Estimate 7,000 — 10,000 GBPLot Sold 63,750 GBP (72,739 EUR) (89,403 USD). Courtesy Sotheby's 2018.

Provenanceacquired from Eskenazi Ltd, London, 1984

Literature: Bennett, I., 'The Alexander Collection: Part II A carpet is a Picture of God', Hali, April/May 1994, issue 74, p. 93, fig. 10.

Alexander, C., A Foreshadowing of 21st Century Art The Color and Geometry of Very Early Turkish Carpets, New York, 1993, pp. 238 - 239, ill pp. 13 (detail) & 239.

Eskenazi. J., Il tappeto orientale dal XV al XVIII secolo, London, 1982, pp. 28, tavaola. 46.

Related LiteratureMcMullan, Joseph, Islamic Carpets, New York, 1965, pp. 164 – 172, plate. 41

Note: The immediate vibrancy of this fragment is staggering, so much so that Alexander places it as early as at least late 14thcentury due to the spectacular colouring and Ian Bennett singles it out in his article, op cit, p. 93. Alexander cites the Tabriz carpet  which he believes to be a century later than the offered lot but ‘is readily’ accepted as 15th century. See Alexander, op cit, p. 121, Sotheby’s London, 7 November 2017, lot 78, catalogued as 16th century. He however owns that there are others, Eskenazi included, who assign it as 17th century and so within the chronological ordering of the book it appears later than the Tabriz– Alexander, ibid, p. 239 and Eskenzi, op cit, pp. 46 & 47. Faced with the other works within the Alexander Collection it should be somewhat acknowledged that dating becomes both complicated and less relevant, than perhaps with other works, with these extraordinary unusual and colourful pieces. With this in mind we have catalogued it as 17th century, in keeping with contemporaneous viewpoints and ascribed Khorossan as the weaving centre in accordance with the jufti knotting, but do acknowledge this fragment could be older than this dating.

There is a companion piece, almost certainly from the same carpet, recorded in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities and both discussed and corroborated by Ian Bennett, op cit, pp. 93 & 94 and pictured Eskenazi, op cit, p. 47, fig. 3. In 2006 Daniel Walker discussed the Khorossan group in further depth in his review of the Textile Museum exhibition ‘Pieces of a Puzzle: Classical Persian Carpet Fragments’ and cites a number of examples. Three of which, at that time, were in private collections and share some similar motifs and colours to the present lot; notably the red outlining to the motifs and the vibrant white ‘hand-like’ palmettes, see Walker. D., ‘Carpets of Khorasan’ Hali, November –December 2006, issue 149. pp. 72 - 77, figs. 5, 7 & 8.

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Fig. 1. The ‘Niğde’ Carpet, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, accession no 56.217, formerly in the collection of Joseph McMullan.

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Fig. 2. The ‘Niğde’ Carpet, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, accession no 56.217, formerly in the collection of Joseph McMullan, (detail).

Perhaps the most compelling of comparisons is the so called ‘Niğde Carpet’ formerly in the McMullan collection and now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, figs 1 & 2. This carpet was initially catalogued as Caucasian, see McMullan, J., Islamic Carpets, New York, 1965, pp. 164 – 172, plate. 41, but now is attributed to Northwest Persia, accession no 56.217. Under inspection the ‘Niğde’ becomes more symbiotic with the present lot: in the use of white ‘hand-like’ palmettes, field rosettes, saz leaf design, bright yellows and blues, the red cloudbands encapsulated in a lozenge with outline centred by open rosettes. The design layout of these works is near identical and it is possible that they were drawn from the same cartoon even though their border designs are entirely different.

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Lot 21. A Yomut main carpet, West Turkestan, first half 19th century; with 'kepse' güls, approximately 311 by 172cm; 10ft. 2in., 2ft. 4inEstimate 8,000 — 12,000 GBPUnsold. Courtesy Sotheby's 2018. 

Note: The present Yomut main carpet, or khali, presents a number of highly unusual traits for this particular group of weavings. For example ‘sheaf’, or kepse, güls are often seen within the group, but the arrangement of diagonal rows in three colourways - blue, green and then white - is more unusual and lends additional dynamism to the field. A simpler arrangement of white alternating with a colour is more usual, see Mackie. L., Thompson. J. (ed.), Turkmen Tribal Carpets and Traditions, Washington 1980, pp. 153 & 155, pl. 65.   The border design is also uncommon and seems to draw inspiration from a number of other Turkmen sources. For example the hooked and stepped güls can also be seen in the border guards of Tekke Torbas, examples can be seen Mackie. L., Thompson. J. (ed.), ibid, pp. 108 & 109, pls. 36 & 37, and sometimes in Chodor main carpets, p. 122. One Yomut main carpet shares a related border design and again published, ibid, p.156, pl. 67, and an example with similar meandering serrated vines sold Christie’s London, 26 October 2017, lot 270. However the inclusion of the ‘C’ gül motifs within the border of the present lot is extremely unusual, although they are sometimes found within the kepse güls of main carpets. Two further irregularities can be noted in the present lot: the first the employment of an elem design more associated with Yomut Ensis, see Loges. W., Turkoman Tribal Rugs, New York, 1980, pp. 78 & 79, pl. 40. The other is the charming inclusion of the chequerboard motif in the corner of one elem. 

Sotheby's. Rugs and Carpets: Including Distinguished Collections, London, 23 Apr 2018, 02:30 PM