Rugtracker, aka john taylor would be oriental carpet historian and pundit, has published another of his picture books with captions. This one focuses on those ghastly, in RK’s opinion, Ispahan (Polonaise) rugs.
While some of them are genuinely early, probably circa 1650, and undeniably flashy when not ruins, they are just so boring on account of their propensity to lose their colors on light exposure and most being worn to the nubs having often been used on the floor, a place they were definitely not intended to cover.
These shortcomings create not an iota of RK passion, after all who could drum up enthusiasm for a group of carpets described by other writers and taylor as well as having this distinction: “ Black and white photos are often preferable to colour”
Then there’s the iconography, which is by and large just so predictable and mechanical, frankly we can't see why anyone would covet them or want to pay the inordinately high prices they always bring.
But we digress, so back to taylor’s Polonaise showcase.
Once again Rugtracker’s most laudable aspects are well-scanned pictures and the occasional insider tidbit concerning an example's history or sale-prices found in the short captions accompanying each illustration.
What is, once more, far from laudable are taylor’s attempts to provide anything deeper.
For instance we found the quote below, which we have put in bold typeface, to be the worst of those attempts. It concerns this example.
The “Rothschild” Winged palmette carpet, referred to in taylor's quote below; circa 1650; Islamic Museum of Art Collection, Doha, Qatar
Detail of trefoil border; Rothschild Polonaise
“The above is one of eight known examples with a winged palmette design(including a pair at Skokloster). Some are presumably fragments from a larger piece. This most conspicuous of all Polonaise designs also signals the entry of the "trefoil" border into carpet history.
It does? Really?
Actually and in fact, no it doesn’t.
This is nothing but another incorrect ‘taylorized notion’, and although dating any early carpet is fraught with insecurity the following examples present decidedly earlier appearances of that border.
Proto-Large Pattern Holbein(LPH) carpet from the Ulu Mosque in Divrigi, dated 13th century in “Carpets of the Vakiflar Museum” Balpinar/hirsch, plate 2
Detail of fully developed “trefoil border” surrounding the central medallions
Just for drill let RK suggest just how “the trefoil border” may have developed prior to the 13th/14th century.
In the Carl Johan Lamm early carpet fragment collection, which was the subject of a Weaving Art Museum exhibition and re-examination, can be found the following fragment.
Probable proto-trefoil border iconography; Plate 29 “Carpet Fragments”; Carl Johan Lamm Collection; National Museum; Gothenburg, Sweden
This pile fragment was purchased by Lamm in Egypt but based on the technical analysis we did, which showed a symmetric knot with Z spun S plied warp, it is fairly certain the place of production was not there but rather north, most probably in Anatolia or perhaps the southern Caucasus.
It is conventionally dated to what is known as the Islamic Period (in Egypt) circa 6-8th century AD.
And while the trefoil is not fully developed it is nonetheless clearly present, as too is the right side up then upside down juxtaposition seen in the later fully developed trefoil border.
If there is any doubt this border is related to the trefoil this Small Pattern Holbein, which is probably many hundreds of years later, has the same iconography in its secondary ‘major’ border.
detail archetypal Small Pattern Holbein (SPH) carpet illustrated in “Seven Hundred Years of Oriental Carpets”, Kurt Erdmann, illustration 50
Close-up of the proto-trefoil border
More than ten years ago when we wrote the Weaving Art Museum description for Lamm’s fragment we discounted his published idea this border was associated with SPH rugs, as we completely missed the connection the Erdmann illustration proves.
We now realize Lamm idea was correct.
There are other examples we could show to disprove taylor’s naïve notion the ‘winged-group’ of Polonaise rugs initiated the trefoil border but trust those above sufficient.
We have repeatedly suggested taylor refrain from commentary and just post his picture-books to leave readers to do their own work to understand them.
It is patently clear taylor’s comments are, like this one concerning his incorrect assumption about the trefoil border, at times misleading and as here others that are dead-end wrong.