Carpets of the Ottoman Period

Carpets of the Ottoman Period

Kurt Erdmann was the first to undertake the work of evaluation of the carpets of this period by unearthing examples of animal-fig-ured carpets in various regions and then carrying out the dating of them, He placed them in a two century period, from the beginning of the 14th to the end of the 15th century. This was based on the depiction of these carpets in the paintings and frescoes of European artists.

The carpets in various paintings of that period indicate that those displaying a pattern of small squares enelosing geometric motifs were being produced. These may well be regarded as forming the first stages in the development of the type of carpet later to be known as “Holbein.” Three carpets of this type depicted in three İta Han paintings, the first two dated 1451 and 1460, display Kufic borders. İn the third carpet depicted in a painting dating from the end of the 15th century by Rafellino del Garbo (formerly housed in Berlin but destroyed by fire during the last war), the Kufic border takes the form of a chain pattern (III. 25). A similar Kufic border is to be seen in the Pistoia altarpiece by the Florentine painter Lorenzo di Credi (1478-1485).

By the middle of the 15th century carpets with geometric motifs, which until then had been few in number compared with those with arıimal figures, began to replace the latter to such an extent that by the end of the century animal-figured carpets had almost completely disappeared, leaving those with geometric patterns predominant The first examples of these carpets are depicted in pictures by the painters of Florence and Assisi at the beginning of the 14th century. A carpet with geometric motifs can be seen in a fresco by a painter of the School of Giotto dating from the beginning of the 14th century. Other examples can be found in a fresco in the Church of Santa Maria Novella, Florence and in the Church of San Spirito, Prato. Similar examples can also be seen among fragments of carpets discovered in Fostat.

Carpets dating from the middle of the 15th century onwards display a predominantly geometric type of pattern with floral motifs stylized and formalized to such a degree as to have lost all resemblance to their originally derived natural forms. Such carpets are to be found depicted first in a fresco dated 1541 by Pierro della Francesca in the Church of San Francesco, Rimini, and a liftle later in a painting by Mantegna of the “Mother and Child”, dated 1459, in the Church of San Zeno, Verona.

The fragment discovered by Riefstahl in the Eşrefoğlu Mosque, Beyşehir on 30 May 1932 may be regarded as a forerunner of the type of carpet later to be referred to as “Holbein”. This carpet which was brought to the Mevlana Museum, Konya, has a dark blue field divided into large squares enclosing large, red, octagonal, more or less lozenge shaped medallions surrounded by one yellow and one blue strip. The partial lozenges in the corner fillings produced by a combination of the quarter lozenges intersecting the corners of the squares are red. The center of each of the large lozenge like octagons is filled by a design stylized lotus with stems issuing from the four sides of a yellow rosette. The wide border contains angular Kufic-derived decorative motif s arranged in rows of symmetrically placed sguares to form a sort of meander desigin in light blue on a dark blue ground. The narrow borders contain purple floral motifs on a crimson ground with yellow, schematic leaves on each side, arranged in the form of rows of stylized motifs pointing alternately upwards and downwards. The field and the borders are surrounded by a band of broken “S “s in yellow on a light brown ground. The carpet which is actually a fragment of a large carpet of some 5 m in length, can be dated to the first half of the 15th century. The present fragment consisting of four squares discovered by Riefstahl was completed by the addition ofthree other fragments discovered in the museum storerooms in the summer of 1969 form in g a total of ten squares, which were then sewn on to canvas in four large pieces.

Fragments found in Fostat include examples of carpets with octagons, hexagons and lozenges arranged in staggered rows. Of the various pieces to be found in Swedish museums, the fragment in the Röhss Museum, Gothenburg, displays a border identical with the border displayed by the Beyşehir carpet.

Small pattern Type I Holbein Carpets

From the middle of the I5th century onwards there is a steady increase in the number of carpets with patterns composed of octagons and lozenges arranged in staggered rows depicted in European paintings. This type of carpet is erroneously linked with the name of the German painter Hans Holbein. Actually, this type of carpet is to be found in paintings by Italian artists long before the time of Holbein the Younger. This group of carpets, which prepared the transiti on from the I5th century to the classical period of the 16th century, consisted of four different types, only two of which were depicted by Holbein. İn the first of small pattern type of Holbein carpet the field is divided into small squares, the basic pattern consisting of squares with an octagon in the center, with lozenges produced by the combination of the quarter lozenges in the corners ofthese squares, thus repeating the geometric composition of the Beyşehir carpet with its division into small squares. The contours of the octagons consist of braided strips, while the octagons themselves each contain an eight pointed star with a small octagon in the center. The fillings are composed of cruciform palmettes with highly stylized and schematic lotuses with lozenges between them. This produces an alternation of lozenges and octagons in staggered rows. İn addition to this, the motifs are surrounded on ali four sides by small octagonal rosettes each enclosing a star. İn this type of carpet the field is normally blue or red, green being very rarely found. The original carpet, measuring i.59×0.89 m, now in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin, is a typical specimen ofthis type, with a Kufic border in the form of a plaited interlace. This carpet, originally from the Düsseldorf collection, is dated by Erdmann to the 15th century. The others all date from the 16th century. The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul, has fragments of two carpets of this type, one of which has a Kufic border. These carpets were produced over a period of two hundred years, becoming rather scarcer in the 16th century and disappearing altogether in the 17th. Hans Holbein included a carpet of this type in a portrait he painted in London in 1532.

One of the last examples of this type of carpet is to be seen covering the long table in “The Somerset House Conference”, a painting by an unknown hand dated 1604 and now preserved in the National Gallery, London. The Kufic border is depicted in a very lively fashion (Pl. 49, 50).

A carpet from the McMullan Collection now housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, with a Kufic derived border, and blue lozenges and white octagons on a red ground is a very rare specimen from the end of the 17th century.

A very rare and in some ways quite unique, though rather worn, specimen of the Type I Holbein carpet has recently been added to the Keir Collection. Octagons with alternate white and light blue fields, lozenges formed by two symmetrically placed, highly stylized lotus blossoms in full bloom and, between them, motifs consisting of eight-pointed rosette stars without any connection between them, are arranged on a dark blue ground. This carpet, which is rather reminis cent of a kilim, may be dated to the end of the 16th or the beginning of the 17th century (Pl. 52).

The carpet on which the Prince of Rimini is shown kneeling before St Sigismund of Burgundy in a wall painting by Piero della Francesca dated 1451 in the Church of San Francesco, Rimini is the first example of this type of carpet to be depicted in a European painting.

A similar type of carpet with a Kufic border is to be seen in a miniature (ca. 1429/30) of the Herat School preserved in the Topkapı Saray Museum, İstanbul (Inv. No. 2153).

The small pattern type of Holbein carpet depicted in the 1451 fresco in the Church of San Francesco, Rimini is to be found in a number of other İtalian paintings, as well as in Spanish and North European paintings up to and as late as the 1550s. Paintings in which this type of carpet is depicted include: the 1459 altarpiece by Montegna in the Church of San Zeno, Verona; the picture by Baldovinetti dated 1460 in San Miniato, Florence; the picture by Lorenzo Credi dated 1480 in the Cathedral of Pistoia; the St Cecilia series by Carpaccio dating from 1495; and the 16th century frescoes in Siena painted by Pinturicchio and dated 1505.

These specimens ali point to a chronological development in the Kufic and interlaced Kufic borders in these carpets. Typical stages in this development can be seen in the Kufic border in the carpet used as a table cover in Hans Holbein’s portrait of “The Merchant George Gisze” in the State Museum, (Museum of Islamic Art), Berlin and in the interlaced Kufic border of the carpet beneath the throne in the painting of the “Madonna and Child” by Rafeilino del Garbo dating from the end of the 15th century, which was lost in the fire which destroyed the Berlin Museum during the last war. Another example of the development of the Kufic border is offered by the carpet in Van Orley’s painting of “The Holy Family” in the Prado. The attractive nuances in color and design to be found both in the borders and in the field greatly enhance the success and hchness of these carpets. This all clearly indicates that the small pattern Type I Holbein carpets from the looms in the Uşak region of Anatolia were exported in large numbers to the various countries of Westem Europe, that they were greatly prized and admired, and that a number of imitations were made.

İn a carpet fragment in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul dating from the beginning of the 16th century, the interlaced Kufic border is developed in the form of a chain pattern. The decorative quality of this very successful Kufic border is further enhanced by the use of rosettes.

A carpet of this type from the Ulu Mosque, Divriği, displays rows of rosettes used as filling between the interlaced octagons.

İn a very small, very worn carpet in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul, the field is divided into eight sections by means of plaited bands, with indistinct lozenges formed by the plaited band in the corners of the squares, which are of different colored grounds in each row. This carpet is similar in pattern to the Type I Holbein example, and can be seen depicted in 15th century miniatures belonging to the Herat School of the Timurid Period. This carpet must have been a product of a later period. The division of the field into equal squares is a form of composition stili to be found in the Tekke Türkmen carpets of the 19th century. But here the octagons are placed in the center of lozenges produced by the corners of the intersecting squares.

A very close imitation of the field characteristic of this type of carpet can be found in a Swiss embroidery of 1533 in the Landesmuseum,  Zürich  (III.  26).   The  very worn carpet in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, istanbul can be dated to around the same period.

İn the carpet with a red ground measuring 1.60×2.40 m from the Ulu Mosque, Divriği,acquired by the Vakıflar Carpet Museum, İstanbul, a modification of the Type I Holbein pattern has led to the disappearance of the lozenges, so that the rows of interlaced octagons alternate simply with rosettes. This carpet, with its border composed of highly stylized cloud bands and interlacing tendril motifs, may be dated to the end of the 16th or the beginning of the 17th century.

On the other hand, in another Anatolian carpet with a geometric pattern of which only a small, very worn fragment has survived, the field is divided into small squares (probably four in each row) filled entirely with geometric motifs. İt displays features characteristic of a later period which extended into the 18th century.

This museum also has another Western Anatolian carpet with a geometric pattern displaying the characteristic features of a comparatively late period. This carpet, which measures 1.74×1.23 m, hasa very simple pattern of octagons and very small yellow lozenges on a red ground. There are two projections on each side of each square, the color of the octagons being arranged diagonally in yellow, blue, red and dark blue. The border, which consists of a row of stars, (flowers and rosettes, is of no particular interest. This Holbein type carpet may be dated to the second half of the 18th century, and evidences a development extending to the Türkmen carpets.

Type II Holbein or “Lotto” Carpets

Although at first glance they appear very different, these carpets preserve the same pattern, except that here plant motifs predominate. As the octagons, the contours of which have completely disappeared, and the cruciform lozenges lose the geometric character displayed in the first Holbein specimens, motifs with indistinct outlines are produced by combining rumis and palmettes into a loose, symmetric pattern by means of slender stems. The triangular leaves serrated on the upper and lower edges form a new feature of these carpets. The design consists of rumis and palmettes, usually in yellow on a red ground, but sometimes in yellow on a dark blue ground. As this type of carpet never appears in any picture by Holbein but is to be seen depicted in several pictures by the Venetian painter Lotto, it has recently come to be referred to as a “Lotto” carpet. Actually, this type of carpet can be seen depicted in Italian paintings from 1516 onwards, in Portuguese paintings from 1520 onwards, and in a number of North European and English paintings of the second half of that century. Very often depicted in Dutch paint­ings as a table cover, this type of carpet con-tinues to be depicted in European paintings until 1660, and can even be seen in a few paintings of a later date. The first examples of “Lotto” carpets appear quite suddenly at the end of the I6th century, to disappear just as suddenly at the end of the I7th. Of the hundreds of “Lotto” carpets preserved in various museums and collections some are as much as six meters in length, and bear an armorial crest. These carpets vary in size, and display either sparsely or densely arranged patterns. İn addition to the pseudo Kufic borders, there are also borders with cloud bands reminis cent of the traditional Uşak carpets, as well as very ornate and unusual borders with cartouches and interlacing tendrils.

These carpets are depicted in great detail by Lorenzo Lotto in the altarpiece in the Church of San Giovanni Paolo, Venice, as well as in the family group in a painting in the National Gallery, London (Pl. 59). As far as Italian painting is concerned, they are also very successfully depicted in the group portraitby Sebastian del Piombo dated 1516, for-merly in the Harwood collection, and in a painting by L. Longhi in the Gemâlde Galerie, Berlin.

This type of carpet was widely known in İtaly where it became very popular, and the tvwo examples in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and in the Kunst und Gewerbe Museum,   Hamburg,   bearing  the  coats  ofarms of the Centurione and Doha families, indicate that carpets bearing the armorial crest of the owners were sometimes made to order in Turkey.

Turkish fabrics were very popular in Poland and had been imported into that country since medieval times. This trade further developed as the result of an agreement signed in 1439. King Sigismund Augustus and Stefan Batory imported a quantity of Turkish carpets and textiles, and the nobles and high dignitaries ordered a number of carpets bearing their own coats of arms. The populahty of Turkish textiles in Poland is evidenced by inventory entries, tax ledgers and laws. The largest quantities of artistic artifacts from the East were imported during the reign of King John III.

A very well preserved “Lotto” carpet with a Kufic type border from the end of the 16th century is to be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (Pl. 62).

İn a 17th century “Lotto” carpet in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul, with a yellow pattern on a red ground, a swastika filling is to be found in the center of each of the rosette flowers set amidst cloud band motifs, a characteristic of the traditional Uşak carpet. This carpet, measuring 5.18×2.75 m, was brought from the Murat Pasha Mosque, Antalya on 10 May 1930. There are also examples with patterns on a dark blue ground. An unusual specimen in the Vakıflar Carpet Museum, İstanbul, has a blue pattern on a brown ground, with red fillings between the palmettes. This carpet, with its rather vague pattern, may well be dated to a later period, probably towards the end of the 17th century.

Another very well preserved “Lotto” carpet with the traditional Uşak border is to be found among the collections housed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Typical examples in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul, include a carpet with a blue ground dating from the end of the 17th century displaying a very unusual pattern with red octagons, compressed lozenges with red grounds and yellow double palmettes containing a filling of blue palmettes. Other “Lotto” carpets with blue fields are to be seen in the McMullan Collection in New York and a private collection in Holland. Another carpet with a blue and green pattern on a brown ground in the Vakıflar Carpet Museum, İstanbul, may be described as the last example of a “Lotto” carpet. This pattern, composed of rumi and palmette motifs, was to be continued in a rather modified form in the medallion Uşak carpets.

The Type I, or small pattern Holbein carpet, and the Type II Holbein or “Lotto” carpets prepared the transition to the Uşak carpet group. More particularly, the palmette and rumi motifs in the “Lotto” type carpets were continued and further exploited in various forms in the medallion Uşak carpets.

Carpets of the Ottoman Period 2