Category: European Rugs

Antique Carpets of China: NingXia

The Western Chinese province of NingXia has a mostly Muslim population and is the source of many of the oldest Chinese carpets of the modern era (Ming Dynasty and later).


The designs are typically Chinese: fretwork or Greek key borders, paeony palmettes, bats, butterflies, Fu Dogs, clouds, dragons, shou symbols, etc.  Pillar carpets designed to wrap around monastery columns and displaying a dragon above waves are a specialty.

The weave is course and soft, with several wefts between knot rows, and a longish pile.  Yellow golds, dark and light blues are common colors.  The outermost plain border on pre-1800 examples is a corrosive brown.  Formats include large square “throne” carpets, parallel meditation runners, chair seats, and scalloped backs.

to view these rugs on our website, please use the following links:




#19160 Besserabian Kilim: circa 1850

Rug #19160

Rug Type: Besserabian – Kilim

Origin: Russia

Size: 7’5″ x 10’5″

circa: 1850

material: wool

The Present Besserabian Kilim is a published piece and can be seen in “European and American Carpets and Rugs” by Cornelia Bateman Faraday.  Originally published in 1929 by the Dean-Hicks Company – Decorative Arts Press, the book was later re-published by the Antique Collectors’ Club.  The published kilim (seen below) Cornelia points out, is “very close in style to the Savonnerie and Aubusson originals which were the inspirations for extensive Besserabian weaving industry in the 19th century, and industry geared principally to satisfy the ever increasing demand of the Russian bourgeoisie for French style furnishings.  This is a particularly sophisticated example of the type which in turn was copied with varying degrees of sucess by village and peasant weavers in Azerbaijain throughout the 19th century, where the pattern became known as the gul farangi (‘foreign flower’).”

Though much of what we know about carpets and kilims has evolved over time, and may not have been known to Mrs. Faraday, much (if not most) of the information she provides in this book remains pertinent today.

Cornelia’s 1929 original preface:

“After many years of careful study, and wide experience with the individual characteristics of European and American rug fabrics, the author ventures to put for this book, with the hope that it may be interesting and useful.  The process of assembling the rugs and carpets of Europe and America into one volume has seemed much like gathering a huge bouquet, where each blossom is not only lovely in itself but also enhances the beauty of all the others.

The author is deeply grateful for the authoritative information and valuable assistance so cordially offered and wishes especially to acknowledge indebtedness and extend thanks to (see images for full preface, only lines pertinent to this rug have been included below):


Mr. Forzen Olrik, Director of the Dansk Folkmuseum, Copenhagen; the Director of the Norsk Folkemuseum, Oslo; and Miss Emelie Von Walterstorff of the Nordiska Museet, Stockholm, for assistance on rugs of the Northern Countries.

Mr. Claudius Filasiewicz, Director of the Industrial High School in Lwow, for important information and illustrations from Poland.

Also to that best of friends, her mother, whose constant and helpful encouragement are woven into the pages of this book, and to her hosts of other friends who have helped along the way.”

New York City                                                                              C.B.F.

July 27, 1929

To view this kilim on our website, please use the following link:


#21100 French Tapestry

Rug # 21100

Tapestry, probably Beauvais, France

7’0” x 7’8”

Probably second half of the 19th century

In the style of Francois Boucher (mid 18th century)



Structure and Materials:

Warp: wool, natural, tan, Z-3-S, 19-20/in

Weft:    wool, Z-2-S, 50-60/in

silk, Z-2-S, 50-100/in


The present panel depicts a scene from classical mythology, but a full identification is not yet possible.  In a mountainous, wooded landscape a herdsman plays a flute beneath a tree on a hillock, all to the right.  A lyre rests at his feet and a shepherd’s crook lies in his lap.  At the upper right, Mercury (Hermes) flies in clutching a quiver and bow.  Behind the tree at far right are several cows.  A youthful, winged figure, almost certainly Cupid (Eros) listens raptly to the music.  Three maidens in dancing poses approach from the left up a slope.  The image is closed on the left by a full, leafy tree and floral garlands hang from trees on both sides.   There are still lifes of fruit in the foreground as well as naturalistically depicted flowering plants.

The subject of the tapestry hinges on the identity of the piping figure.  The lyre would indicate Apollo, but since it has been discarded in favor of the flute, the identification is less likely.




What Beauvais  series this is not from is easier to determine.  It is not a part of either The Loves of the Gods (Amour, des Dieux) nor Scenes from Operas, both executed at Beauvais from 1750 onward.  The former series has much larger (up to 14’0” x 17’0”) panels and more complex iconography.  The latter series of only four subjects is not comparable in subject matter.  The style is certainly derivative of Boucher, but the rendering seems less assured and more generic.  It is not the work of Gobelins: there is a Loves of the Gods series from that manufactory, but neither the large panels nor the subsidiary sections, executed from 1757 onwards, are in any way similar to the present piece even though a few share subject matter with the contemporary Beauvais ensemble.

We are left with two possibilities: first that this panel is part of a larger, untraced mid 18th century tapestry, itself likely part of a series, of Beauvais origin.  Less likely since all the action is directed toward and converges near the Cupid figure.  Secondly, that it is a 19th century quasi pastiche of Boucheresque themes and depictions.  The relatively small size (see below), a feature of 19th century production, may militate in this direction.  The date, then, could well be in the 2nd half of the 19th century.  The standard work on Beauvais weaving (Jules Badini Le Manufacture des Tapisserie de Beauvais, 1909, Paris) does not discuss 19th century production in any detail and is, in any case, out-of-date.  No such piece appears in major museum catalogues.


Originally there was a faux giltwood picture frame border about 6”-8” wide, giving and overall size of 8’0”-8’4” x 8’8”-9’0”.  It has been slightly framed all around, especially on the right.  A plain woven two tone brown selvage has been added.

There are areas of wear and powdering in the silk; minor splitting, and creases.  The colors are slightly faded, but the red of the piping figure has held up well.  The distant landscape is quite pastel.

To view this tapestry on our website, please use the following link:

#17577 Aubusson: circa 1800

Rug #17577
Aubusson Carpet
France, Aubusson Workshops
Size: 15’6” x 25’6”
Period: Directoire, 1797-1804
warp: wool, tan to light brown, natural, Z-2-S, 8/in.
weft: wool, Z-2-S, 24/in
technique: slit tapestry

This flatweave carpet is a fine example of the relatively short-lived “Pompeian” style with purely two-dimensional surface decoration popular in the years after the French Revolution, but before Napoleons’ grandiose imperial aspirations.  The open, classicizing ornament in distinct panels is an adaptation at several removes of wall frescoes discovered at Pompeii in the later 18th century which came as a revelation to European designers who, except for the grotesques of the Golden House of Nero in Rome, had no experience of classical wall décor.  The light, airy, spare, elegant patterns were first promulgated in France by Percier le’Fontaine, particularly for furniture and objects, and were then interpreted by designers working for the major Aubusson workshops.  The artists include Koby, la Segliere Desfarges, Lagremee, Dubois, Barraband and most prominently Harmayde de Saint-Ange, the most innovative of the lot.  Unfortunately signed cartoons or sketches by these artists do not seem to have survived in any significant quantity and one cannot attribute particular carpets to individual artists.  But our piece is surely the work of one of these designers.

The period of popularity of the Pompeian style was quite short.  The Revolution abruptly cut off what was in the 1780s a steadily increasing demand for Aubusson rugs of all types.  May workshops closed so that by 1796 the local industry was at such a low eve that unemployed workers were rioting and a military regiment had to be garrisoned in town to prevent looting.  Thus, the style has to begin after that time as there is a radical break with what went before.

After 1804 style quite rapidly changes from Directoire neo-classical chasteness to the much heavier full Empire style with thick wreaths and garlands, military elements in abundance, and so obvious Imperial symbols, more three dimensional and generally richer and opulent appearance.  Thus our piece, of purely Pompeian character may securely be dated circa 1800.

It must be noted parenthetically that much of Aubusson production, especially after 1800 when a workshop was set up in Paris in the Marais district by Sallandrouze de Mornaiz, who previously operated only in Aubusson, to make pile carpets, is in full knotted structure and so it is incorrect to call all French, pile rugs Savonneries.  Sallandrouze became the leading merchant-entrepreneur in Aubusson, often collaborating with another dealer, Kegier.  He certainly had the resources to make rugs of any size and it is not impossible that our carpet may have some connection with him.  A third shop, that of Debel was also active in Aubusson at this time and his may be another candidate for its source.

By 1807 an improving economic situation had drawn other businesses to Aubusson and shops were owned by F. Roby, P. Maingonnat, L. Fournier, F. Desfarges, J. Peyroux and especially Bellanger & Vayson, but these are too late for our piece.  Unlike Brussels or Antwerp tapestries, pieces are not market to indicate workshops and the few designs do not have factory indications.

After 1806 Rogier & Sallandrouze were busy with many court commissions for pile rugs and the designer Saint-Ange who supplied them with designs had shifted to the heavier Empire style, but before that date that combination could be the source of our rug.  But any of the other designers could have done the work as well.  Thus Jarry gives neither designer nor workshop in her book’s plate captions.

As for a possible patron, the matter is inconclusive at best.  It has been suggested that the rampant lion in the central square and the lion masks in the corner squares are quasi-armorial, referring to the possible patron or at least to his status.  But there are many examples of this period where a pictorial motif appears in a setting of panel borders, geometric flowers, anthemion scrolls, garlands, rosettes, etc. with no external reference, and not just in rugs.  In silks designed by Rony of c. 1800 from Lyon we find a cupid on one, a nymph on another, in precisely the same sort of paneled array, among exactly these same decorative elements.  The same type of baguette with scroll ornaments and intermittent lozenges appears on another c. 1800 silk textile.  Eagles and cryphons appear on rugs of the period in central devices or in border medallions.  Similar border styles and ornamental panels with muchan or animal figures also appear on painted wallpaper of the period.  A good selection of these designs appears in Les Nouvelles Collections de l’Union Centrale des Arts Decoratifs, 19th series, esp, pls. 85-7, 89, 91-2, 97, 106.  Therefore the lion is most unlikely to be referential, but merely decorative, and could be replaced by any one of several other animals or other devices appropriate to a neo-classical design scheme.

The use of borders with prominent square corner elements is very characteristic of the period.  The double panels at each end allows an otherwise square composition to be enlarged without changing the proportions of the central section.  For a somewhat shorter rug a single extra panel at each end would suffice.


The lion masks in the corners ensuite with the central beast provide a consistency of motif which again appears in any number of variants: musical instruments, classical military trophies, grapes (corners) and classical wine cup (centre), etc. (Cf. Nouvelles Colls. Pls. 88, 95, 100).  Other animals in the center may include the peacock.





#21189 Donegal – Arts & Crafts: circa 1905

#40-570 Flander Tapestry: circa 1700

Flemish Tapestry Panel
Audenarde, c. 1700
7’0” x 9’0”
Warp: wool, ivory to light brown, some mixing, natural, Z-Z-S 8-9 warps/in., a few areas up to 12/in.
Weft: wool, Z-1, Z-Z-S, 28-30 pattern shouts/in;
Woven sideways, left to right, on a horizontal loom as finer pieces were done vertical looms.
Generally in good condition with colors well preserved; small areas of reweaving or re-wefting; plain outer salvage trimmed with loss of town and weaver’s marks. Some brown outlines improved.


King David (to right) gives Uriah the Hittite (on left) a secret order to be conveyed to the commending general ??????. This order places Uriah in the frost line of battle, thereby assuring his demise. Uriah is the husband of Bathsheba whom David covertly covets and who will marry him after Uriah is killed. David’s penitence will eventually follow.

Probably from a Life of David series or perhaps from a series of old Testament scenes. There seem to be no other panels from this cycle recorded in the literature.

Attribution: The attribution to the provincial weaving town of Audenarde is loused or close similarities to pieces possessing the town & weavers’ marks in the outer plain border. Diagnostic are the following stylized background elements:

  1. The “building block” castle;
  2. The round, puffy “cotton ball” trees in rows blanketing the landscape.
  3. Pointy, sharply outlined distant mountains.

In comparison we may consider:

  1. H. Gőbel, Tapestries of The Lowlands, no. 357, a landscape with similar, but better, mountains and trees.
  2. Christie’s, London, Mayorcas Sale, 12.2.99, lot 316, Game Park 9’5” x 14’6”, 16c (late) with similar pointy mountains, cotton ball trees, identical trees, and similar foreground foliage elements. All wool, no silk. Probably from the same workshop as our example, but lacking identifying marks. Sold for ₤40,000 = $64,800
  3. The same pointy mountains with cotton ball trees appear in a panel from a different Life of David set depicting the Death of Absalom, 3.27 x 5.25m, end of the 16c., Beaune, Musee des Hospices. Pub in Dhondt, no. 9.

The curly hair and beards arc virtually identical to our example which is from a                 somewhat less distinguished series, however.

Interestingly, de Meuter in her magisterial surrey of Audenarde weaving does not focus on any Life of David series. Could our example be from a later edition of the same cartoon as the Beaune examples, albeit with different borders? The Beaune piece has a town mark, but lacks that of the weaver.

  1. The same mountains and trees recur in tapestry of Jason & Medea with Golden Fleece, c 1580-1600, 3.04m x 4.24 from the Abbey of Kremsműnster (de Meuter, p. 177)
  2. The same larger trees, mountains, etc. again appear in a Game Park panel, 1580-1600, with an unidentified weaver’s mark from the Audenardo Galerie d’Art M. Ragge-De Baere (de Meauter, p. 178) The floral border with round cartouches centering each side is no identical to recent published examples, but there are the same useful parallels.
  3. Similar elliptical/round cartouches in border centers appear on a Game Park examples, c.1580 – 1600 (de Meuter, p-143). The trees and mountains are also in the usual formula. The weaver’s mark, again & alas, is not identified. The border on our example was constructed from
    1. The left and right borders (left woven first) are identical in content and direction’s
    2. The top border is an axial reflection across the centre;
    3. The lower border uses the same cartoon as the upper with similar axial reflection, but in addition.
    4. The pumpkin still life is inverted from right to left;
    5. The central roundels with castles are unchanged in both end borders.

These simple manipulations of a few basic modules allow the weaver to produce variety without the expanse of additional cartoon. This is characteristic of production for the middle class in a provincial production centre.

Diagrammatically we see

The castles in the roundels are top/bottom and right/left identical, and are generic buildings with no reference to particular estates.

  1. Gőbel, no. 448 has side borders repeated in the same direction and has roundels in the centers of all 4 sides. He dates it c.1640 but clearly it seems earlier, c.1610
  2. A Brussels panel, early 17c. 8’8” x 11’4” with an unidentified Biblical scene was sold Sotheby’s N.Y., 23.5.03, lot 81, est. $10 – 15,000. It was of slightly finer execution and equally preserved color. (see p. for more comperanda).

Weaving in Audenarde is comprehensively covered in two recent exhibitions catalogues:

L. DeMeuter, M. Vanwelder, etc. al Tapesseries d’Audenarde du XVI au XVII Siecles, Tiele, 1999

L. Dhondt and F. Van Ommeslaeghe, Audenarde: Tapisseries Flamandes du XVI au XVIII Siecles, Arras, 1994

The illustrations only partly overlap and neither includes additional members of the series of our piece, thus it seems to be unknown to the specialist literature.

  1. Of roughly the same quality and period, but slightly larger is a hunting tapestry from Audenarde, end 16c. 8’9” x 11’2”, sold Sotheby’s, N.Y., 13.1.95 lot 78, est. $20-25,000
  2. A Biblical panel, c.1600 probably from nearby Enghien, 10’6” x 12’9” was sold Sotheby’s, N.Y. 6.6.94, lot 168, est. $20-25,000

#18888 Tapestry: circa 1650

Rug #18888
Subject: Scene from a life of Moses Series, probably the reconciliation of Miriam and Zipporah
Size:10’0” x 12’8” (3.07m x 3.86m).
Period: Late 16th / early 17th century.
Origin: Brussels, no mark
Maker: No mark.
Structure: Warp, wool, tan natural, Z-4-s, 19 – 20/in.
Weft: wool Z-2, 60-64/in and
Silk, Z-2 or z-3, 68-74/in


The likely cast of characters is follows:

  1. Moses with halo in center, slightly to rear, presiding over the foreground event, the “horns” of the Old Testament text refer actually to rays of light. The goat-like protuberances of later art are really a literal and incorrect reading of the text.
  2. The pair of figures on the left hefting an urn-like Ark of the Covenants one of which with a particularly fine back view and striped loincloth, are very Mannerist in style, indicating an origin in Italy, outside the Netherlands, in the circle of some early 16th century artist, possibly Giulio Romano, Mark Antonio Raimondi, Rosso Fiorentino or someone else of that trend. The figures are imported as a unit into the composition. Interestingly the two figures and their burden reappear in the 17th century French tapestry of the Triumph of Alexander after Charles Le Brun, but they have been swung around to nearly parallel the picture plane, although the rear orientation of the figure is still prominent.
  3. The two female figure in the foreground may well be
    1. On the left Zipporah, the wife of Moses; and
    2. On the right Miriam, the sister of Moses.
  4. A servant woman holds the train of Zipporah
  5. Other Israelite women.

Miriam and Zipporah are reconciled after a long period during which Miriam criticizes and speaks out against Moses and his policies as tribal leader. For this she is punished by God: her skin instead of being the brownish hue of the Israelites becomes white. Only when she ceases her dissent is she healed. This event may be depicted here. (cf Ex.. 4:14-16, Micoh 6:11, Deut. 24:9 for details)

The life of Moses was depicted in various other sets from 1530’s on ward with among others the following subjects:

  1. Passage of The Red Sea
  2. Brazen Serpent
  3. Finding Gathering of Manna
  4. Moses Receiving The Tables of The Law
  5. Rebecca and Eleazar
  6. Moses Prohibited from Setting Foot in The Promise Land
  7. Worship of The Golden Calf
  8. Joshua Defeats Amalek at the Battle of Rephidim

Among the extant sets we may list:

  1. The earliest a series of 9 panels (of 10), Brussels, 1530-40, designed by Bernard Van Orley and woven by Jan Gheetels, at Chateau Chateaudunt Somzee Coll.
  2. Another set from the same cartoon also woven in Brussels, lacking a maker’s mark, 1545-1554, 9 panels (of 10) at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
  3. Five panels (of 10), c. 1575 woven by Martin Reymbouts in Brussels now at the Chartres Musee De Beaux Arts, given in 1578 to the cathedral by Bishop Nicolas de Thou
  4. Two panels (of 10) in the San Francisco Palace of The Legion of Honor; Brussels, c. 1550, possibly by Peter II van Aelst (unknown artist, but the same as that for the panel from the life of Jacob in the same museum, some of the same figures are even used)
  5. 7 panels (of 10) from Oudenarde, 2nd half of the 16th century, now Monuments Historiques de France, much more traditional in style and lacking the Italianate mannerist elements. The whole effect is more planar and flat. The border could have come from a Verdure.

The Life of Moses was popular later, and a set of indeterminate size, was woven in 1660’s in Brussels by Jan Parmentier with one panel, in square format, surviving.

Apparently there are other panels surviving from The Life of Moses, but whether they constitute disjecta membra of true a series relating just Moses or whether they are single mosaic episodes along with other O.T. scenes in different cycles is open to question. They could belong with such non-mosaic scenes as Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, David and Goliah, Susanna and The Elders, David and Bathsheba, the Judgment of Solomon, etc. to illustrate various salient O.T. events.

The border is slightly broken into at the top and bottom centre. The same effect, though more prominent, appears on a 12 Months of The Year series by Jan Franz van den Hecke, Brussels, c. 1590. It is possible that our piece may have some connection with his workshop.