In the pre-sale report on the Rothschild Sale (Hali 105, page 148) the Rothschild/Qatar Safavid carpet(1) was compared favourably to the Poldi Pezzoli Hunting Carpet in Milan, but with some differences: the shape of the central and secondary medallions, the different borders and the absence of hunting scenes. Otherwise the pieces are said to be "stylistically related".
A number of other examples are also cited that basically follow A.U Pope, who neatly bundled them together in his Survey.
The Parish-Watson carpet(2)
with medallion corners and a border similar to the Milan Hunting carpet, which emerged from the Yale University Art Gallery to appear at Sothebyís N.Y in November 1985, selling, and then not selling for $26,400.
A mere shadow of its former self, it re-appeared on May 31, 1986 at the same venue bringing $33,000. Pope described the carpet as having a colour palette similar to 19th century Karabagh work.
The Asfar and Sarkis carpet(3) with cloudbands in the field and medallion corners has a similar interlocking border and older style medallion.
A fragment in the possession of Yusuf Kemal(4)
has cloudbands on a busy field with medallion corners and a strange double interlocking border.
The Yerkes/Blumenthal carpet(5), now in the Metropolitan Museum also has cloudbands in the field, but no medallion corners and a border similar to the Rothschild/Qatar carpet. This is one of the largest N.W Persian medallion carpets with a length of forty feet. There seems to be no colour photo available now, nor was it published in the Yerkes catalogue.
The MacMullan Carpet, ex- Yerkes,(6) now in the Art Institute of Chicago has cloudband field, no medallion corners and a border as on the Rothschild/Qatar carpet,which it resembles albeit with more vigorous drawing and an older style central medallion.
The F.R Martin fragment(7)
seemingly cut in the middle with a field of scrolling vines and no medallion corners belongs, however, to a different group.
Kurt Erdmann succinctly ordered the Tabriz medallion carpets into two groups. The first group have a medallion and corresponding corner- pieces with strong and brilliant colours. A good example was in the Berlin Museum(8) before the war but it was unfortunately burnt during an air raid.
The second group(9) have somewhat smaller medallions with no medallion corners and a field of spiral scrolls with arabesque loops. The colours are invariably more pastel, such as the Berlin Museum piece(this one is missing and is not the burned one)
However there are exceptions, one of which is obviously the Gulbenkian(10).
and Barbieri/Alexander (11)group of rugs, which have medallions, medallion corners and a field of spiralling vines.
A further missing Berlin example(12) seems to have stumped Erdmann, as itís a second group carpet with strong colours.
More eccentrically, a piece in the Philadelphia Museum(13) has an old style medallion, medallion corners, scrolling vine field and border and animal figures as well!
There is a salient piece in the MacMullan collection(14).
Friedrich Sarre considered the absence of East Asian design elements to be an indication of age. Here the cloudbands have been banished to the medallion corners. "Austere" is the commonly repeated adjective for carpets of this group, nowhere more applicable than in this case - fit for a king!
Obviously the medallion carpets were made over a long span of time. They may also have been woven during the reign of Shah Abbas but stylistically must have evolved over time. Their influence on Turkish carpet making is commonly accepted and, interestingly enough, just as there are two types of Tabriz medallion carpets there are also two main types of Ushaks- the Star and the medallion varieties.
After the battle of Chaldiran in 1514 the Ottoman Sultan Selim went down to Egypt in 1517 and put an end to the Mamluke dynasty. As in Iran, Egyptian (or Syrian?) carpet weavers were deported to Anatolia, thus there were Mamluke and Safavid carpet masters working simultaneously for the Ottoman court. The Anatolian-Cairene carpets and the Ushak tradition seem worlds apart, yet might there also have been interaction here?
Surpassing all expectations the Rothschild/Qatar Safavid carpet sold at Christie`s, London on 8th July 1999 for a resounding $2,488,950.