Home > Archive >Ardabil Fight-Club Round 2
Author:john taylor
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Mon, Jun 21st, 2004 08:24:52 AM
Topic: Ardabil Fight-Club Round 2

Writing in the latest issue of Ghereh, Eberhart Herrmann discusses the Poldi Pezzoli Hunting carpet

linking it as a pair to the Rothschild carpet now in Qatar.


This seems farfetched as design-wise they have little in common.

Opinions are divided as to the Hunting Carpet - Ian Bennett was skeptical about its age and Jon Thompson, writing in the "Hunt for Paradise" catalogue, is obviously uncomfortable with the piece also. However, as the Asia Society exhibition also took place at the Poldi in Milan he was obliged to comment.

Thompson`s criticisms are basically aimed at the bunched up lower half of the carpet, i.e its asymmetry, and the stiff, angular drawing of tracery in the field. He presumes the figures were woven by more professional weavers and the simpler designs by more pedestrian workers. This is a method still used in Iran today.

Herrmanns`s counter argument is of an esoteric nature and will not concern us here.

The origin of the hunting carpet design can be found in miniature paintings. There may be textiles earlier than the mid-16th century, which sport this theme. There seem to be less Hunting Carpets than Animal Carpets(i.e those with depictions of pure animal combat, without human predators). EH describes the Milan carpet as "one of the great beauties of carpet art". How he would order the Vienna Hunting Carpet is difficult to say but a comparison of the drawing on both pieces is interesting.

Note the naturalistic, effortless style of the Vienna rug.


The slain animal(a leopard?) oozes blood whereas the stag from the Milan carpet has white cotton in its veins.


The background tracery could almost be found on a Caucasian or Kurdish carpet, albeit in a simpler form.

Both authors disagree on a number of points. Thompson`s central idea regarding the Ardabils is that they were woven from sketches, not from graph paper with the designs drawn out knot for knot. This was first pointed out by P.R.J Ford in his seminal work on the Ardabil, published as a series in Rug News during the `80s. EH believes that the Poldi Pezzoli carpet was woven from a scale of 1:20(or 1:10?)

EH dates the Milan carpet to 1522-23, which is the accepted dating found in previous publications. Thompson“s reading is 1542-43, which is more widely accepted today.

The dated inscription in the center of the Milan Hunting carpet is a real obstacle. Without it we might all be looking at the piece with different eyes. In the same way the inscriptions on the Ardabils are more of a hindrance than a help.

EH also attributes the resting place of the Ardabils to Mashad on the grounds they would not have fit into any building in the Ardabil shrine except the Jannat-Saray. This argument is complicated and, as yet, unresolved but Martin Weaver, who measured the buildings for Unesco, could find no fitting place for the carpets at Ardabil. However the buildings have been changed many times over the centuries and the carpets may even have been used in the open court at the shrine just as large Durbar carpets were used in India.

Mashad was sacked by the Shaybanid Uzbeks in 1582, who against all conventions(they were Sunnis) attacked and pillaged the shrine and presumably took with them everything of value.

But both authors do finally seem to reach a common ground - concerning the theme of "Paradise" or the afterworld.

"Hunt for Paradise" is the title of the Asia Society exhibition and accompanying catalogue. EH speaks of "The soul living on after death and starting its journey to the next world"or "the silk at both ends would close the cosmic circle with the arrival into paradise". Both ideas would seem to have their origin in Arthur Upham Pope`s "Paradise Park" concept.

A more prosaic interpretation would be the Hunt as a favored pastime of the nobility down through the ages and behind that hunting as a preparation for war.

Elias Cannetti has demonstrated(in "Crowds and Power") how the Mongols adapted their game hunting strategy to hunt people. It`s well known that one of Shah Ismā`ģl`s great pleasures was the hunt-along with wine drinking, drugtaking and lechery.

Truly immanent, however, are Los Ardabilos.

Author: john taylor
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Mon, Jun 21st, 2004 08:24:52 AM

Did you know?
Before Eberhart Herrmann, there was Hermann Eberhard.
Published 1955,Frankfurt/Stuttgart.

Author: jc
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Mon, Jun 14th, 2004 09:11:39 AM

John: I imagined Shah Ismā`ģl and not Shah "Imail" is the lucky guy you reference at the end of your post and now we have gone ahead and changed it. Thanks for the confirmation.

Author: jc
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Sun, Jun 13th, 2004 10:55:28 AM

John: excellent post, thanks from me and, I am sure, RK.com's readership. Clearly you have spent quite a bit of time studying these amazing rugs and your perspective is both interesting and enlightening.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to see the Vienna rug and the Pezzoli in the flesh and must admit both are tour de force examples of Safavid art and technology.

The art value of these Classical carpets is well commented upon, however, they were also immense technological achievements. From the designing to the gathering and production of the constituent materials and finally to the actual weaving processes the making of such carpets, for the time period, were equal perhaps to something akin to our space program today.

These weaving required an enormous amount of both labor and technical expertise - facts often overlooked and overshadowed by appreciation of their visual beauty. Someday, perhaps, documentary evidence will be uncovered to allow us, five centuries later, to understand how the marshalling of resources, both natural and human, were prepared, organized and focused.

As for Hermann's posits and positions? What more can we say other than he is reinforcing the fact he has fallen off the deep end.

The first signs of this appeared more than a decade ago when, at a private invitation only affair held at sotheby's in New York, Hermann "introduced" some wild and comical "theories" about the sacred bird being the source of many carpet designs. I was there and must say it was hard to keep from laughing out loud at the absurd and preposterous opinions Hermann presented as "facts".

Sometime later we all know about how he vacated his showroom, stole his inventory, left his wife, reneged on his financial responsibilities to his family and commercial lenders, screwed rippon-boswell and a number of his suppliers. Since then Hermann has produced several equally distorted and nonsensical tracts, which like the piece you mention, have been published in Gereh. These "works" are basically gibberish and basically unreadable in English, as is probably the case in German as well, right?.

To say Hermann has shot himself in the foot is, in my opinion, a gross understatement. So naturally could his latest and greatest be any different?

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