Tag: classical

#20231 Indian Agra: circa 1850

Agra Carpet
Northern India
8’0” x 10’0”
Circa 1850


Warp: cotton, white, natural, Z-6 to 8-S
Weft:    cotton, white, natural, Z-3-S, Z-4-S, Z-5-S
2 shoots of weft alternating either 1 straight and 1 wavy, or both shoots straight.
Knots: wool, Z-2
Either Persia (asymmetrical) knots open left, horizontal.  15 x vertical 13 = 195/in².
Persian (asymmetrical) jufti knots, open left, horizontal.  7.5 x vertical 13 = 98/in².
Alternate warps depressed 80-90°
Finishes: not original


This carpet is an excellent mid 19th century interpretation of a classical c.1600 Indo-Isfahan in the iconic in-and-out palmette and cloudband pattern, on a claret red lac ground.  The pattern is not centered and the actual vertical axis of the design is displaced approximately 9” to the right.  In a larger carpet it would be exactly centered, but it should be noted that even period rugs in this pattern may have design offsets.  The ability to shift the pattern indicates the use of a cartoon or a talim (a coded pattern book “read” out loud by a “talim reader”).

The border also follows the classical manner closely with an in-and-out palmette and thin vine design on a nicely abrashed sapphire blue ground.  The inner directional arrow head border also is consistent with the classical model.

The detail colors of blue-green, orange-ochre, tan, dark brown and buff are also traditional.

It is still an open question as to whether the classical prototypes are Persian (Isfahan) or Indian (Agra), but only Agra carpets of the 19th century carry on the design tradition virtually unchanged, although the long and narrow 17th century format has been replaced by more Western proportions.  Many Agra carpets, often of exceptional size, were woven by inmates of the local jail, but this is more likely to be a regular creation of fine quality by a local merchant.

The Jufti knots occur in areas of plain color and in irregular patches overall.  They may be seen both on the front and back of the rug.  The use of Jufti knots, allowing for quicker execution, seems to have appeared in Agra around 1800 and is an import from Khorossan in NE Persia where it is the standard knotting technique.  Although the weaving quality of jufti-knotted carpets in often severely compromised if their overall wool quality is low, their carpet is piled in excellent quality wool and the knots are closely packed.  As a result, it has aged well and is still in fine condition.  It is a decorative carpet with no elements of later design trends or tastes.

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#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.

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