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Est: £1,000,000 GBP - £1,500,000 GBPSold:
Sotheby'sOctober 06, 2010London, United Kingdom

Item Overview


THE "KARLSRUHE" SAFAVID NICHE RUG, CENTRAL PERSIA, approximately 180 by 112cm., 5ft. 11in., 3ft. 8in. second half 16th century


Eiland, M.L., Jr. and Robert Pinner, eds., Oriental Carpet and Textile Studies, vol. V, part 2: The Salting Carpets, ICOC, 1999, no. 47, colour plate 7, pg.99


Private Collection;
Formerly: Private Collection, Karlsruhe;
Rippon Boswell, Wiesbaden, sale by private treaty


Qur'anic inscriptions in different scripts
Outer border: Koran, II, 285-6
Main border: Koran, II, 255
Inner border: Koran, VII, 204-6
Band forming arch: Koran, XVII, 78; IV, 103; LXVIII, 51-2
Cartouche in arch: God is Most Great, Most High
Field around arch: Koran, LIX, 23, followed by more Attributes of God
Top rosettes in main border, in seal Kufic, in positive (right), and negative (left): Glory to God, and praise be to God, and there is no god, but The God, and God is Most Great
Middle squares in main border, in seal Kufic, in positive (right), and negative ( left): The Prophet, peace be upon him said: Exaltation to the command of God, and compassion upon the creatures of God
.(See Eiland and Pinner, opcit., pp. 121-122, Appendix D: Inscriptions on Persian Niche Carpets.)This rug is one of the corpus of Safavid Persian niche rugs previously regarded as part of the 'Salting' or 'Topkapi' group of rugs. Named for a carpet bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum by George Salting upon his death in 1909, the attribution and dating of this group of rugs fell into question in the mid-20υth century with some scholars suggesting they were copies of Safavid work manufactured in late 19υth century Turkey. Revered by early scholars such as A. U. Pope, F.R. Martin, F. Sarre, E. Kühnel, W. von Bode and G. Migeon they were considered superb examples of Safavid weaving. When these rugs appeared on the market they were purchased by renowned collectors such as Charles Yerkes, Dikran Kelekian, Albert Goupil, Stefano Bardini and E. Paravicini; with several of them now in institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Carpet Museum in Tehran, and the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. In 1999 Michael Franses studied and documented the 89 then known niche rugs of Persian design that were considered part of the 'Salting' or 'Topkapi' group, see Eiland, M.L., Jr. and Robert Pinner, eds., Oriental Carpet and Textile Studies, vol. V, part 2: The Salting Carpets, ICOC, 1999, pp. 42-67.

These rugs all feature a Persian design and, as in the example here, the majority (70) includes calligraphic inscriptions, with 41 examples having metal thread brocading, ibid, p. 53. Thirty-five of these prayer rugs remain in the collection of the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul, with at least 20 now in Western museums and collections believed to have once also been in the Topkapi collection, ibid, p. 42. These rugs were most probably sold by the Topkapi palace during the throws of the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78, see Mills, John, The Salting Group: a History and Clarification, ibid, pg. 10. The authors further present evidence that the 'Salting' or 'Topkapi' rugs are the product of Safavid Persia with the confirming support of Carbon 14 dating results. Scholarship now accepts that these rugs were indeed produced during the Safavid period; more recent discussions of the carpet group being Jon Thompson, Milestones in the History of Carpets, Milan, 2006, pp. 220-223; "Auction Price Guide," Hali, issue 144, p. 115 and Sheila R. Canby, Shah 'Abbas; the Remaking of Iran, London, 2009, pp. 80-81.

It is possible to form sub groups based on direct correlation between the numbers of shared structural features and the closeness of relationship between examples. The present rug, illustrated in Eiland and Pinner, op.cit., no. 47, colour plate 7, pg. 99, as The Karlsruhe Rug, shares its overall design directly with a Topkapi Saray Niche Rug (no. 46 – Istanbul inv. No. 13/2162), illustrated ibid. no. 46, pg.91, and another Topkapi Saray Niche Rug (no. 10 – Istanbul inv. No. 13/2051), 16υth century, illustrated ibid. no. 31, pg.93.

Comparable Topkapi Saray Niche Rugs

Safavid prayer rugs such as the example offered here rarely appear on the market, with the most recent example being a silk and metal thread Safavid Prayer rug (163 by 110cm., 5ft. 4in. by 3ft. 7in.), from the Collection of Rudolf Martin (1864-1925), (renowned Anthropology professor, who taught at the University of Zurich and the University of Munich, and wrote the handbook, Lehrbuch der Anthropologie in Systematischer Darstellung, Mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der anthropologischen Methoden fur Studierende, Ärzte und Forschungsreisende, first published in 1914 and re-printed in 1928 and 1956), and thence by descent. It was sold at Sotheby's, London, 7υth October 2009, lot 276, and shared its unusual asymmetric design with one of the Salting rugs known as the "Dancing Dervishes Persian Niche Rug" now in the Mevlana Museum, Konya, see Eiland and Pinner, op.cit., no. 55, p. 101.

Another recent example market being the 'Perez "Topkapi" wool and metal thread prayer rug,' sold Christie's London, 13 October 2005, lot 50, subsequently published in Thompson, op.cit., pl. 22 and most recently included in the British Museum exhibition, "Shah 'Abbas; the Remaking of Iran," 19 February to 14 June 2009, and accompanying catalogue, see Sheila R. Canby, op.cit., pl. 45, pp. 80-81.

The British Museum exhibition, "Shah 'Abbas; the Remaking of Iran," 19 February to 14 June 2009, and accompanying catalogue, see Sheila R. Canby, op.cit., 122, pp.248-249, also exhibited a prayer rug, 17υth century with wool and metal-thread, from the Collection of Moshe Tabibnia, and a comparable illustrated prayer rug, 17υth century, from the Museum of the Shrine of Faimeh Ma`sumeh in Qum. The present example sharing features of the border design type and the top field patchwork design with the Museum example, and the lower mihrab design with assymetrical scrolls and vase with the exhibited private collection rug, previously published Eiland and Pinner, op.cit., The Paris Niche Rug, Private Collection Switzerland, no. 30, colour plate 5, pp. 91-92.

Structural Analysis:

Warp: silk, Z spun, 2 ply, dyed yellow
Weft: silk, Unspun, dyed pale yellow, 2 shoots
Pile: wool, Z spun, 2S ply, 8645 asymmetric knots per dm2.
Metal brocading: silk, 2Zw plied, undyed, S wrapped with flat silver metal strip
Upper end: approx: 18mm brocading of warp threads wrapped in two plied strands of silk wrapped silver metal thread strip, interspersed with charcoal wool wrapping to form calligraphy
Lower end: approx. 2 mm undyed silk weft faced kilim and 15mm silver metal thread and charcoal wool calligraphy warp wrapping (similar to upper end finish)
Colours: Ivory, light tan, golden yellow, dark orange, grass green, blue green, pale sky blue, dark blue, rose pink, crimson, charcoal (11)

Laid and couched to light tan silk ground, mounted on stretcher, some breaks and losses to sides and ends, oxidised charcoals

Dye Analysis:

Tan: tannin; golden yellow: mordant yellow;
Orange: mordant orange: grass green: mordant yellow+ indigotin;
Blue green: mordant yellow+indigotin;
Pale blue: indigotin: dark blue: indigotin;
Pink: insect red;
Red: lac;
Black: tannin

[spectrophotometry and thin layer chromatography by Textile Research Associates, York, 1995]

Carbon-14 Dating:

1488-1662 AD (95% confidence –See Eiland and Pinner, opcit., pp. 116-117, Appendix C: Carbon Dating).

Auction Details

Arts of the Islamic World

October 06, 2010, 12:00 PM GMT

34-35 New Bond Street, London, LDN, W1A 2AA, UK