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-   1. Animal Rugs in Renaissance Paintings (http://www.turkotek.com/VB37/forumdisplay.php?f=27)
-   -   What are those? (http://www.turkotek.com/VB37/showthread.php?t=913)

Filiberto Boncompagni March 9th, 2011 07:04 PM

What are those?
Dear Pierre,

First thing to clarify: what we are going to discuss here is, obviously, about knotted rugs or carpets – using the terms "rug" or "carpet" as synonyms.

A carpet is a floor-covering textile.
Not all the carpets are knotted: besides the flat weaves there were also embroidered carpets.
Not all the floor-covering textiles should be interpreted as carpets: rich textiles have always been used to honor important personages so we shouldn’t wonder if a brocaded silk is used as a floor-covering prop in a painting that portrays saints or royals.

The first problem in trying to identify knotted rugs, especially in early paintings, is to distinguish them from other kinds of textile.

The first two paintings do not look as knotted carpets. The first one is surely of Byzantine iconography.
Plate 162 of Gantzhorn’s book (1) shows a Chasuble of Pope Boniface VIII with a very similar design. I searched the web for more information and it seem that the fabric was called “sciamito”, a medieval fabric of particular structure suitable for lavish embroidery. Produced originally in the geographic area of the Middle East (Syria, Iran, Byzantium) has spread later in the Mediterranean areas subject to Islam. This particular item, embroidered with a technique "opus ciprense" (I would translate it as "in the Cyprus way") was probably made a Palermo.
Here’s a detail of it:


see detail from the fresco for comparison:


Information and image from:


Plate 162 of Gantzhorn’s has also some similarities to the second painting, The Armenian Royal Family:


This one is in Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, New York. It was made in Spain, 11th–12th century
Unfortunately I have to go. Tomorrow I’ll be able to post more on the subject.


(1) Wolkmar Gantzhorn Oriental Carpets
Quoting a reviewer on Amazon: "a mildly goofy interpretation that claims Armenian Christian origin for oriental carpets, ill organized, with excruciating page layout, but the sources consulted and the rich illustration make an interesting read and as well an incredible bargain"

Pierre Galafassi March 10th, 2011 06:49 AM

Hi Filiberto,

Well, yes indeed, especially in these very early paintings, it is sometimes difficult to tell,(without being able to give a close look to the original), whether the painter represented a textile, decorated tiles (ubiquitous in Renaissance painting) or a proper rug. I suppose that the curvilinear design of the motifs in the first two «rugs» brings water to your mill and speaks perhaps for a brocade or a velvet. On the byzantine origin of the motif (with deep Roman roots) we agree.

There are many other puzzling questions for which I would love to get an answer or a creative hypothesis:

I find it very hard to see in the type 2 and 3 «animal rugs» the work of urban workshops (naive motifs, low knot density, no borders) and fail to identify any obvious Islamic influence in the motifs which could just as well have been the work of Jerome Bosch’s six years old son.
I have a special liking for Fabriano's forked-tail, squinting alien below:

How could these spontaneous, naive motifs have appealed to the urbanized, sophisticated, at times even a trifle effete political elite of 13th-14th century Middle East, be it Kurd (Ajjubid), Turkish (Seljuk), Turco-Mongol (Ilkanide, Timuride), Armenian or even to the rude Mamluk leaders? What about the stark contrast with other contemporaneous rugs like the extant ones shown at the end of the essay or like most fragments attributed to the Seljuks?

Would a tribal or village origin for «type 2 and 3» not seem more likely? Could the motifs give us any clue about the people who wove these rugs? How did these surprisingly «un-commercial» carpets end up in Italy (woven in villages near one of Venice’s Middle East trading posts?).
Why did a fair number of painters (or their patrons) appreciate this style so much and prefer it to more sophisticated contemporaneous rugs?


Filiberto Boncompagni March 10th, 2011 11:48 AM

Wait, Pierre. Before going further I’d like to elaborate on my post of yesterday.

You presented two depictions: a fresco from a church in Bulgaria (ca. 1258) and an illumination from an Armenian manuscript (ca.1250) located in Jerusalem.

I produced two textiles with motifs very close to the paintings. Pope Boniface VIII was elected in 1294 and died in 1303 so his chasuble should have made (in Sicily or Cyprus) in that period. The “samite” fabric of Spain instead is at least a century older than the illumination. It is probably of Muslim manufacture.

Looking for rugs in Armenian miniatures I found this one:


The Armenian Archbishop Jean of Cilicia, 1287.

That should be a rug. Nothing useful, though, apart for a detail that has nothing to do with rugs: it’s the classical Chinese dragon-with-flamed-pearl on the Archbishop garment that is quite surprising.


A Chinese textile used for an Armenian Archbishop's clothes.

This reminds us once more how textiles and motifs - especially the luxury ones - traveled freely and were used even in spite of their different religious origin.



Filiberto Boncompagni March 11th, 2011 03:30 PM

As we saw in the thread “A contribution to the discussion of animal rugs” (by the way, excellent work, guys) the use of zoomorphic repertory on several forms of mediums was quite widespread in East and West. But there was a change in Europe:

Beyond these loans of Eastern bestiary, a double evolution occurred in the Middle Age.
The bestiary grows with several newcomers (the siren-fish, the unicorn). The medieval animal is initially perceived with its symbolic and allegorical dimension. This symbolic system can be profane: the Middle Age sees a growing importance of the heraldic animal, (like the three passing leopards on the coat of arms of English kings), for example. But the medieval bestiary is mainly a Christian bestiary et cetera
These representations became stylized heraldic designs. The use of coat of arms actually became fashionable: it spread from lords and knights to ecclesiastical dignities, burghers and commoners. It wasn’t limited to persons either, because it was adopted by states, towns, cities, even districts (at least in Italy) and as corporate logos for guilds.
Hence, in my opinion, the style of some of the rugs in “animal paintings” is so European that makes me thinks they were of western production.
It could be the case of Benozzo Gozzoli's Annunciation (FIG 20)


so close to the Spanish Alpujarra rug:


An excellent channel for Spanish rugs in Italy was the Spanish court of Naples and its relations to the other Italian courts, often by marriage – like with the Sforza of Milan, the Gonzaga of Mantua and the D’Este of Ferrara.

Also rugs like FG11:


let me highly suspicious.
At first I thought that Gaddi’s representation of the rug wasn’t credible. The fringe was on the wrong side but, given the direction of the composition, it appears to be a rug that has been cut – unless the non-visible part was rolled behind the counter. And there are visible rows of knots, so, it’s a believable and coherent representation of a knotted rug.
But the lack of borders, the heraldic stylization of the motifs, and especially the heraldic “Cross Potent”
(see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_potent)
- or perhaps it’s a version of the “Jerusalem Cross” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_of_Jerusalem), makes me doubt of this being an Anatolian Seljuk rug.
I say Seljuk because it’s commonly acknowledged that Anatolian rugs must have been Seljuk.
More on the subject after I read a John Mills’ article Pierre promised to send me.



Marvin Amstey March 12th, 2011 02:57 PM

Fringes "on the wrong side" are correct in rugs from Poatou and Sinkiang since they were woven with the warps horizontal - so to speak. Also the lozenges in the Gaddi rug could be taken from the coffered guls of East Turkestan rugs. Perhaps this is another example of the exchange of "art" East and West as in the archbishop's dragon.

Filiberto Boncompagni March 13th, 2011 10:00 AM

Thanks, Marvin, for pointing out my somehow obscure phrasing. :o

No, what I meant with “The fringe was on the wrong side but, given the direction of the composition, it appears to be a rug that has been cut” is this:

The fringe seemed to be on the wrong side because it’s in what appears to us the long side of the rug.
But the orientation of the animals is parallel with the fringe’s side.
As we can see in all the other examples shown in the salon (albeit in FIG 12 isn’t clear), the animals are always parallel to the short side, as I would expect in any regular rug.

So, that isn’t the long side but the short one: were every self-respectful fringe should be.


Filiberto Boncompagni March 13th, 2011 11:40 AM

Now, let’s start what I hope will not be only a rambling.

It’s generally assumed that the “animal carpets” visible in early European paintings were made in Konya under the Seljuks’ rule.

I found some interesting observations in this article on “tea and carpets” blogspot:


One is that the first carpets to show up in the paintings are not the kinds of sumptuous and complicated court workshop carpets one generally associates with days gone by.
Instead, almost all the carpets to appear in pictures before 1450 are of rather simple pieces with highly exotic animal motifs. They are rugs that – astonishingly – can remind a modern viewer of our own enthusiasm for ethno and tribal works today.
I would say that they appear quite like rustic product of cottage workshops.


Rug scholar Nalan Turkmen dates the motifs’ appearance in Anatolia to the early 14th century, after the fall of the Seljuks. He writes that the carpets “represent a new stage in Turkish carpet weaving which coves two hundred years from the early 14th century to the late 15th centuries” (‘Tracing Central Asian Turkmen Carpet Designs Through Parallels With Anatolian Carpets,’ Oriental Carpet and Textile Studies, Volume V Part 1, 1999).
which means that, if I understand correctly perhaps they weren’t made by the Seljuks but under the Ottomans.
In the same article there is the reproduction of a fresco painted by Domenico di Bartolo in Siena in 1440.


The rug visible in it is obviously related to the famous Phoenix and dragon carpet (Anatolia first half or middle 15th century).


That Pierre hadn’t included in the salon.

More on the Phoenix and dragon carpet later.

But if animal carpets appeared in Turkish carpets only in early 14th century, who had made this one?


Anonymous, Annunciation, 1252, Church of the Santissima Annunziata, Florence.



Steve Price March 13th, 2011 12:16 PM

Hi Filiberto

I would conclude that the although the earliest extant Turkish animal carpet was woven in the 15th century, the painting in Florence demonstrates that animal carpets were being woven at least two centuries earlier. Turkey seems like the most likely origin, although that might not be the case.


Steve Price

Pierre Galafassi March 13th, 2011 12:18 PM

Hi Marvin, Filiberto,

We seem to agree that at least some of these rugs were not woven according to pure Islamic canons. An influence of medieval Europe is a possibility and IMHO there is nothing terribly outlandish in Filiberto's hypothesis that Gaddi’s rug, for exemple, could have been woven in Italy.

Orcagna’s rug below (1367, Calling of St Matthew, Uffizi, Florence), while more sophisticated than Gaddi’s rug, could also be suspected of strong European or Byzantine influence, with its heraldic eagles sprayed all over both field and border. http://www.turkotek.com/old_masters/1367_Orcagna.jpg

When the first animal rugs appeared in paintings during the 13th century there was no shortage of places were «exchanges of art» between Islam and medieval Europe could have taken place peacefully, in particular Norman and Hohenstaufen Sicily (were symbiosis was much favored by the local Kings), and of course Al Andaluz.

Besides, let’s not forget that at that time a large chunk of Anatolia was still not ruled by Moslems, but by the Latin empire (followed in 1268 by the last phase of the Byzantine empire), the remains of Great Armenia (still including part of Cilicia) and by the byzantine "Empire" of Nicae. The population was still mainly Christian (Greek orthodox, Armenian etc..). Even in Seljuk and Mameluk territory, the authorities had no particular urge for converting the still very large non-Moslem minorities, who contributed a large percentage of the tax money and provided slaves (including soldiers).


Even though several Turkish-, Armenian- and Persian- rug experts and writers have concocted creative theories, trying to make us believe that their favorite ethnic group was the sole inventor of piled rugs (and the weaver of the Pazyryk carpet to boot), there is really no reason to believe that Greek, Coptic or Druze populations, to name just a few, were never involved in carpet weaving.
About the theory that the sophisticated "pregnant animals" rugs were not woven before Ottoman rule, I share Filiberto's scepticism. Just give a look to the border of the Kirchheim rug (main essay). Does it not ring a clear (seljuk) bell?

Best regards

Filiberto Boncompagni March 13th, 2011 05:32 PM

Hi Pierre,

there is nothing terribly outlandish in Filiberto's hypothesis that Gaddi’s rug, for example, could have been woven in Italy
There’s only a drawback: the only historical sources mentioning local production of knotted carpets are related to the 15th and 16th centuries.
Let’s make other hypothesis:

A) They were made locally but they weren’t knotted – especially the ones without typical “oriental” borders. Perhaps they were appliqué, patchworks or quilts. By the way, did you know that quilted objects were relatively rare in Europe until approximately the 12th century, when quilted bedding and other items appeared after the return of the Crusaders from the Middle East?

B) Speaking of Crusaders, Knights and heraldry… perfect candidates for exporting the fashion of geometrical heraldic motifs to the Middle East, aren’t they? And these knotted carpets with animals could have been made anywhere under the influence and contact of Crusaders… Which means (have a look at the map above) at least Anatolia, Syria and Palestine. The know-how was there: knotted-pile carpets have probably been made in the Levant and Anatolia since the second millennium BC or before. Anyway, well before the arrival of the Seljuks.



Yohann Gissinger March 14th, 2011 02:09 PM

The aliens sources

I have to offer you the spanish textile hypothesis as aliens souce:

Spain was the first country in Europe to develop silk production.
The Arabs introduced sericulture (the production of the raw material) and silk-weaving to Spain. Sericulture was established by the 9th century in Al Andalus (Andalusia today) and by the 10th century the production of silk worms had become significant. Silk-weaving developed in particular in Almeria, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga, Lorca and Murcia.
The silks made there were desirable luxury products worn by royalty in the northern Christian provinces. A few garments of such silks survive because their owners followed the custom of being dressed in finery for their burial (e.g. in the Monastery of Las Huelgas, Burgos).

1200-1400 Spain

13th_14th c. Germany_spain?

Could Spain have also produced rugs with such designs?


Source: V&A Museum

Yohann Gissinger March 14th, 2011 02:20 PM

the return of the aliens

Your FIG 10: Fra Angelico, detail from Virgin and Child, 1438-1440, San Marco Museum, Florence with its strange animals looks like a zodiacal pavement to me have a look to this blog pic.3 the Canterbury medieval pavement:http://lenoxsthesaurus.blogspot.com/...thedral-3.html


Filiberto Boncompagni March 14th, 2011 05:15 PM

Right! It could be something like the mosaic floor of Siena Cathedral:


To tell the truth, my first impression was that it looks like inlay wood :baffled:


Anyway, if it is a mosaic floor, it should still exist somewhere...



Filiberto Boncompagni March 14th, 2011 06:10 PM

I’m sorry Yohann…

If a mosaic floor of that design ever existed in Florence, it should have been recorded somehow, somewhere.

Indeed, I searched for reviews of Fra Angelico’s painting: they all speak of “Oriental” or “Anatolian” or “Anatolian design” carpet. Someone mentions the zodiac motifs (Cancer and Pisces). I doubt in any case that an Anatolian rug could have zodiac motifs. Anatolian Armenian perhaps?



Yohann Gissinger March 14th, 2011 07:17 PM


The same problem like in the tile hypothesis: no existing related example (on internet) on the italian's churches grounds nowadays, but apparently zodiacal symbols in this case, it's not the classical bestiary.

All the best,

Filiberto Boncompagni March 15th, 2011 09:34 AM

This is quite embarrassing… I haven’t read Gantzhorn’s book from beginning to the end. I had rather jumped through it erratically. Now, reading about Gaddi’s painting (FIG 11), he says that, in his opinion, the “animal carpets” were related to the European fashion of heraldic which was exported by crusaders in Armenia Minor.
I swear, if I had read that part I had completely forgotten about it.

Nothing new under the sun… Anyway, if for Armenia Minor he intended the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia he may have a point: it seems that the kingdom was “a strong ally of the European Crusaders...

Commercial and military interactions with Europeans brought new Western influences to the Cilician Armenian society. Many aspects of Western European life were adopted by the nobility including chivalry, fashions in clothing, and the use of French titles, names, and language...

During the reign of King Levon (1198-1219), the economy of Cilician Armenia progressed greatly and became heavily integrated with Western Europe. He secured agreements with Pisa, Genoa, and Venice, as well as the French and the Catalans...

As French became the secondary language of Cilician nobility, the secondary language for Cilician commerce had become Italian due to the three Italian city-states' extensive involvement in Cilician economy...

Ayas, a major coastal city of the kingdom, had revitalized as a heart for East-to-West commerce during and after King Levon I's reign. This coastal city was a port and a market center, where spices, silk, cotton cloth, carpets and pearls from Asia, and finished cloth and metal products from the West were made available.”
(Quotes from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenia...dom_of_Cilicia )

So, the possibility for animals carpets being made in Armenia – or in the commercial influence of Armenian merchants – is there.
But there is no proof.


Pierre Galafassi March 15th, 2011 09:50 AM

Hi Yohann,

You might be right, or not: these early borderless rugs can sometimes be confused with tiles and vice versa: Except for outdoor views, the ground of most Renaissance paintings is laid with tiles. They are much more frequent than rugs or precious textiles. Tiles are mostly undecorated or carry a simple geometrical design either strictly repeated or alternated. However, when researching paintings for future threads, I had sometimes a doubt and played their classification as "rugs" or "tiles", with heads or tails, especially in a few Spanish paintings.

Your (superbly documented) hypothesis (in the new thread) about animal-decorated inlaid tiles is well worth considering. Filiberto's counter argument is valid too, especially coming from a pure bred Fiorentino :angelic:


FIG. 1438-1440. Fra Angelico, Virgin and Child, S. Marco Museum, Florence.

Even the full picture of Fra Angelico's painting does not allow to be 100% sure. If it is a rug as I am still inclined to believe, (sheepishly following the opinion of a couple of art historians) it is indeed a huge one. There is what seems to be a rug border though (but yes it could also be part of a pattern of tiles).

Indeed , Al Andalus certainly has played an important role at the time, for all sorts of precious textile. And so did Sicily where King Roger, Frederick II and his son, in particular, favored production of silk textiles by their still mostly arabic and byzantine population. I have seen no mention of Sicilian rugs, so far, but...

Best regards

Pierre Galafassi March 15th, 2011 10:11 AM

Hi all,

As already mentioned, it is rather puzzling that the spectacular extant rugs featuring an «animal-inside-another-animal»,[ illustrated in the essay: FIG 25 owned by MET and FIG 26 published by H. Kirchheim (1)], would never have caught the eye of any Renaissance painter. True, various sources (2) have mentioned a painting by Gregorio di Cecco (National Gallery, London), featuring such a rug, but the low-definition pictures available on the net did not allow me to verify this information :sherlock:.
Well, until I finally got the one below(a):
FIG a)

FIG b)
http://www.turkotek.com/old_masters/...y _ Detail.jpg

A comparison with the MET rug (b), allows to identify a similar «animal-inside-an-animal» motif. Both feature a wide open mouth and a raised paw. In the MET rug the "adult" beast raises a paw, while in di Cecco’ rug the "baby" does it. Di Cecco’s beasts seems to be spotted, a panther perhaps.
The border is clearly visible and, imho, coherent with a Seljuk identification.

Thus, although the painting is dated from about 1410, the rug featured might be much older, perhaps even contemporaneous to both extant ones : The «Kirchheim rug» is dated by the C14 method between 1190 and 1300 and the MET rug between 1040 and 1290, with 95% confidence in both cases (3).

At any rate this seems to get rid of the shaky theory (mentioned earlier in this thread) that this particular type of animal rugs was not woven before the ottoman period. In 1300 the Ottoman still were only the rulers of a little Beylyk in northern / central Anatolia.

Kirchheim mentions an interesting anecdote about the relatively recent discovery of both extant rugs (4): Following the violent troubles during Tibet annexation by China, many monks emigrated, taking with them whichever precious objects they could save from the disaster, including both extant «animal-inside-an-animal» rugs. Wenzel (5) mentions as well some 13th-14th century anatolian silk and metal-thread brocades which followed the same route. All appeared on the market a few years later.
How they ended-up in tibetan monasteries in the first place is another fascinating question.
But Kirchheim has a credible theory about the highly surprising state of conservation of the rugs: The main sources of light inside the rooms of tibetan monasteries were candles made with the fat of Yaks. Their greasy smoke deposited a protective layer on the rugs (Se non é vero é ben trovato).


1) H. Kirchheim, Orient Stars, page 15
2) See for example Heilbrunn’s Timeline of Art, MET, New York.
3) H. Kirchheim, Orient Stars, page 374, note# 318
4) H. Kirchheim, Orient Stars, page 12
5) M. Wenzel, Turkish Textiles, 2002.

Filiberto Boncompagni March 16th, 2011 03:05 PM

Pierre, excuse me if I continue my musing on Yohann’s suggestion about FIG 10: Fra Angelico, detail from Virgin and Child.
Fra Angelico started the painting in his monastery in Fiesole, on the homonymous hill overlooking Florence. I couldn’t find any mention of zodiac floors in Fiesole. The work was then finished in Florence.

We do have in Florence inlaid marble floors (or opus sectile) with geometric and zoomorphic motifs. There are also two zodiac floors, both made by the same artists in the 13th century, one in S. Miniato al Monte. Here you can see the zodiac floor of the Romanesque basilica of San Miniato al Monte:


and another section of the floor in the same church. Both in white and green marble:


scans from the book “La pittura di pietra” (Painting in stone) by Ferdinando Rossi
And here is the other zodiac, form Florence Baptistery, quite similar, a bit more refined, and the only comprehensive Image I found:


As for something vaguely similar to the inlaid tile technique, it didn’t appear in Florence until 1548 into the Laurentian Library, according to the book above.

Now, back to Fra Angelico’s “carpet”.

Every art historian I found mentioned that thing as a carpet.

However, Yohann is right, it doesn’t look as a carpet.

If that was an inlaid floor, the memory of it had disappeared.

My explanation is that the good friar made it up. As an architectural element. It wouldn’t certainly be the first time that a Renaissance painter put some invented architecture in his paintings.
Fra Angelico was also an illuminator. I bet he took inspiration for his “floor” by some medieval zodiacal illuminations.



Pierre Galafassi March 18th, 2011 05:38 PM

Hi all,

In the case of borderless, large rugs, one would often need a much closer view as the one given by the pictures published on the net or in art books, to eliminate the possibility that they are in fact tiles, reeds or textiles.
I managed to select five views close enough to show clearly a very coarse rug structure, (Is this coarseness due to multiple wefts? To thick warps? Structure experts please comment.)
See below detail views of:

FIG 1. T. Gaddi’s «Calling of St Eloi», 1360, Prado, Madrid. (shown in the essay).
Its pendant «St Eloi before King Clothaire» does also show rows of pile with the same orientation.
http://www.turkotek.com/old_masters/1360_T_ Gaddi.jpg

FIG 2. N. Buonaccorso’s «Marriage of the Virgin», 1380. National Gallery. London. (shown in the essay)

FIG 3. Sassetta’s «Virgin and Child», ca. 1433, Vatican.

FIG 4. Sano di Pietro’s «Virgin and Child», ca.1455, Duomo di Pienza.
The same rug is also featured in di Pietro’s «Coronation of the Virgin», ca.1455, Yale University.
The bird might be an eagle. Note the chintamani-like spots.

FIG 5. Sano di Pietro’s adoration of the Child, 1460-1470, Kress Collection.
Raptor, with long neck and asian swastika motif.

There is now little doubt left in my mind that most of these paintings with highly stylized, filiform or well-fed, animals inscribed in an octagon or rectangle, indeed feature (borderless) coarse rugs. A few paintings might show tiles with similar motifs.

OK, let’s assume that the painters indeed intended to show rugs, but were they fully invented? Or did the painter use true models? In the second case who wove them? These are questions we can’t answer.
I do share Filiberto’s, Yohann’s and Marvin’s opinion that they are perhaps the fruit of both European and Middle East influences. Whether they were made in Italy, El Andalus, Cilician Armenia, Byzantine Greece or Anatolia, Trebizond or other exotic places can only be a wild guess as long as no extant fragment will be found.

Best regards

Filiberto Boncompagni March 19th, 2011 11:08 AM

Hi Pierre,

In this close-up, that fringe in Gaddi’s «Calling of St Eloi» looks very strange indeed. Like something attached, and even not very well. :baffled:

I don’t think these rugs were invented. The last one, though, (FIG 5. Sano di Pietro’s adoration of the Child, 1460-1470, Kress Collection)


shows very curvilinear flowers and diamonds between the “animal compartments” that are both rather European and incompatible with the supposedly rough knotting that the overall design and supposed rows of knots should suggest.
Which could be an invented addition, or may be not… :baffled: :baffled: :baffled:



Yohann Gissinger March 20th, 2011 01:16 AM

coats of arms hypothesis
Hello Pierre,

Concerning FIG 1. T. Gaddi’s «Calling of St Eloi», 1360, Prado, Madrid and its pendant:

I bet on a reinterpretation of a coat of arms of Lusignan, kings of Cyprus and Jerusalem, under the form of a kind of flag with fringes;).

Here you can find a description of the cited coat of arms:
Here you can follow the evolution of the cited coat of arms (click crusades->9th->H.de Lusignan):

Note the interesting details on the painting, like the compass, a crown etc...

Concerning FIG 2. N. Buonaccorso’s «Marriage of the Virgin», 1380. National Gallery. London.

I would bet the same way, for an imaginary reinterpretation of something (maybe a rug?), in a coat of arms style, because of the main two colors yellow and red you can find in some italian armorial (Kingdom of Sicily for example) and because of the structure of the field with a central symmetry.

I didn't find a coat of arms with exactly the same design.

Bien à vous,

Filiberto Boncompagni March 20th, 2011 09:23 AM

Bonjour Yohann,

Those could be some clues. What about the two animals – one surmounting a snake and the other a bird - in Gaddi’s painting that I present again here for more convenience:
http://www.turkotek.com/old_masters/1360_T_ Gaddi.jpg

I couldn’t find anything about them. Perhaps you are luckier.


Pierre Galafassi March 20th, 2011 02:44 PM

Hi Yohann, Filiberto and all

Interesting intuitions! From both of you. (You must be smoking good stuff :angelic:).
The naive interpretation of coat of arms is indeed credible, including for the «lion and snake» or «deer and eagle» octagons.

The three interpretations of a «compass rose» on the rug also do ring a bell: This was about 100 years before any european-made compass, but surely one can find «stars» or «wheel spokes» in knight's armorials and similar motifs are also found in Central Asia for example. Here a detail of a flower (?) prominent both in the main field and in one border of the Pazyryk rug. No less!


Bon Dimanche.

Marvin Amstey March 20th, 2011 07:01 PM

Another thought about the fringe in the Gaddi painting: perhaps it was added as often happened with silk fringes added to 18-19c. Ghiordes rugs. In fact the image of the painting certainly leaves the impression that this fringe was an afterthought.

Pierre Galafassi March 21st, 2011 06:59 AM

Hi Marvin,
I agree, added fringes is the simplest and more logical explanation. Takes care of the strange direction of the lines.
By the way, is there a knot type (assuming perhaps thick pile wool and/or thick warps) which could explain such strong longitudinal lines?

Marvin Amstey March 21st, 2011 02:21 PM

The knot type that comes to mind is a Tibetan knot. On old pieces with very thick knots there appears to be some directionality. On the other hand, almost any knot will give that appearance with a lot of wear. Somehow I can't put Tibetan weaving together with the rug in the Gaddi painting in spite of the old animal rugs that were found in Tibet.

Yohann Gissinger March 22nd, 2011 01:18 PM

FIG 5. Sano di Pietro’s adoration of the Child, 1460-1470, Kress Collection:

Chinese texture and palette?
See figure 2 and figure 3 for some design similarities:


Filiberto Boncompagni March 22nd, 2011 04:49 PM

Hi Yohann,

Do you mean, they already started outsourcing to China on these days?
Thanks for the link – and what about the Kyoto carpets of Figure 8 and 9, with those pseudo-Kufic borders? :baffled:

Anyway… Pierre found a John Mills’ article from ICOC 1998.
I’ll quote parts of it:

The Early Animal Carpets Revisited
John Mills

The early animal carpets - and I prefer to call them that
rather than Anatolian animal carpets, which begs the
question as to whether they are in fact all Anatolian -
remain a fascinating if frustrating topic, mainly because
some of the design groups are known to us only through paintings
rather than in surviving examples. In the more than twenty years
since I last published on the subject there have been some
remarkable discoveries, above all of the ’animal within animal' type
discussed in Daniel Walker's paper of which no fewer than three
specimens have appeared, all of them coming out of Tibet. With
other types we are no further forward since then and not much
further forward since Erdmann published his long and pioneering
papers on them in 1929 and 1942. In my 1978 paper [Mills, J.,
‘Early animal carpets in western paintings-a review', Hali vol. 1
no. 3 (1978). 234-243] I grouped
the rugs simply by design motifs but suggested other ways in
which they could be divided up and this is how I shall treat them
now. Some of these groups need no more than a mentio, while I
shall discuss the largest and most enigmatic group more fully.

I come now to my main group, which I shall call the 'large
borderless carpets'. They show a number of designs, not all
animal, but they share so many other characteristics that one may
surely lump them all together. These characteristics are:
• Nearly all appear in Sienese paintings
• They are all placed on the floor
• Most are too large to have been made in one piece
• They have no borders, the field simply stopping at the edges
• They are of very coarse texture with clearly indicated
rows of knots or loops
• Mostly in yellow and red
These carpets may in turn be subdivided into a number of design

Where did these 'large borderless carpets' come from? Are
they Anatolian animal rugs as it has been customary to assume
or are they, as it seems to me, another kind entirely? Nothing
known survives of them, yet l still hope for the day when
some fragment will emerge, perhaps, from the vestry, or the
bottom of some storage chest, of some small Italian church.
Then at last we will know in what technique they are made,
for the Coarse linear texture so insisted upon by the artists
invites speculation. I once suggested that they were possibly

loop-pile weavings though now it seems to me that their large size
makes this less likely. In a recent repeat of this talk to the Oriental
Rug and Textile Society of GB several possibilities were discussed
(various kinds of flatweaves; North African carpets with their
multiple wefts) but the most suggestive was one that had
sometimes occurred to me but which I had not dared to voice,
namely that they were made in the technique of reed screens.
When detail slides are projected they do look astonishingly like
these. especially that in Sano's altarpiece ( Fig. 11). If this is so then
the likelihood of anything surviving would seem to be minimal.
This is the subject of Mills’ Fig.11 – the best I can do unless Pierre provides me with a better scan:

Sano di Pietro, altarpiece Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints,
mid 15th C. detail. The Collegiata, San Quirico d' Orcia, Italy. The 'two birds
and a tree' design here alternate with a non-animal pattern on an unusually
small carpet.



Filiberto Boncompagni March 22nd, 2011 05:03 PM

I also had previously asked John Howe to give me a digest of what Mills had written in his first article (‘Early animal carpets in western paintings-a review', Hali vol. 1 no. 3 (1978).

He kindly obliged:

Mills says that he has “silently changed many attributions that have long been found in carpet books to those which are currently favored…” But in fact he seems not to say much about attribution, and when he does he seems tentative and seems to admit lots of alternative possibilities (e.g., Byzantine rather than Turkish, Caucasian embroideries in one instance, says one similar group might have originated in Europe, perhaps in Florence itself, some he sees as likely Spanish, talks about lots of wefts between rows of knots and the similarity to Moroccan usages. He questions in more than one place what technique was used in the pictured pieces.)

Notice in my previous listing of his table headings that he does not include one for attributing where the pictured rugs were woven. It’s primarily a scheme for describing the paintings not the rugs in them (although he does have a category about whether knots are visible or not)

Thanks, John.


Pierre Galafassi March 22nd, 2011 05:50 PM

Orcia uuh? That’s near Siena right? Enemy territory for any real Fiorentino (even expat ones).
But perhaps an heroic friend of yours Filiberto, armed with a micro-camera could do some covert work in Val d’Orcia? Or perhaps Antonio (Scarano), if you reads us, could you jump on your horse and do some precious reconnoitering :angelic:?
A scoop on Turkotek, how would you like that Steve?

Yohann Gissinger March 22nd, 2011 08:13 PM


When I said :"Note the interesting details on the painting, like the compass, a crown etc..." i was thinking about the eventual symbolic meaning of the goldsmiths tools revealed by this strange perspective on the desk ( not a compass but a pair of dividers?).

Anyway this thread drove me to this interesting silk road chronology, I'd like to share: http://www.silk-road.com/artl/chrono.shtml.

Filiberto, my answer to your question about the China sourcing, is yes why not for rugs too?

Bien à vous,

Filiberto Boncompagni March 23rd, 2011 01:05 PM

Hi Yohann,

Your mentioning of perspective made me recall NOW that there is another perspective of Gaddi’s rug:
1360, T. Gaddi, St Eloi before King Clothaire, Prado


showing that the “thing” was modeled/sewed as a desk cover. Notice the fringe - that must be attached - going around the corner.
Gaddi’s desk cover seems different than the others “large borderless carpets” discussed by Mills, anyway.


Even if I manage to send some fellow Florentine behind enemy lines, I’m not sure it will help us to know more of what we do now.

While I am working on the “Tibetan” thread… any comment, anyone, about the Mills’ reed screen hypothesis?



Yohann Gissinger March 25th, 2011 01:34 AM


About the pseudo-kufic border in the chinese rugs fig.8 and 9 of the Thomas Cole article:


Thomas Cole article:



Pierre Galafassi March 28th, 2011 08:55 AM

Hi all,
A very late animal rug.

William Larkin was an early seventeenth century artist who painted a dozen of full length portraits of members of the English upper aristocracy belonging to the same family. The paintings feature a number of spectacular rugs. Larkin’s patron and likely owner of the rugs, perhaps the Earl of Dorset, might well be one of the Great Ancestors of the Ruggie family, together with Hans Memling and Cardinal Wolsey. We will come back to Larkin and «his» rugs in a later essay. Let me mention here only one of his paintings:

William Larkin. Portrait of Lady Dorothy Cary, ca. 1615. Kenwood House, London.

The beautiful carpet on which Lady Cary is standing (there is another one behind her) could have been one of the thirteenth and fourteenth century stylized animal rugs discussed in this thread. However, it would be insulting for British moths to believe that a rug could still be in this apparently pristine state after two or three centuries. Could the tradition of animal rugs have been kept alive for a while by the weavers of its original ethnic group?
Best regards

Filiberto Boncompagni March 28th, 2011 04:30 PM

Hi Pierre,

This painting (Larkin… Larkin... the name sounds familiar, doesn’t it?) is VERY intriguing.
Looking for better images I found that this one is cropped: some of the carpet is missing.
OK – First let’s have a look at an enlargement of what we have already:


Look at the “stars” main border of the hidden rug.

Now let’s see the enlargement of the rugs area from the other low-resolution but complete image.


And now, for comparison, a detail of a very modern soumak horse-cover from NW Persia or Caucasus I once had (I use it because the photo is at hand):


Are we seeing a Sumak rug? Or perhaps two because the two rugs have the same outer border. The “stars” main border of the hidden rug wouldn’t be too out of place in a sumak (look at Wertime’s “Sumak Bags of Northwest Persia & Transcaucasia”).
Last but not least…
Did you notice the Jaff-Kurd diamonds?


Pierre Galafassi March 28th, 2011 06:24 PM

Quote. Larkin… Larkin... the name sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

"Nomen est omen" as our common ancestors, Filiberto, used to say.


Yohann Gissinger February 28th, 2012 11:48 PM

Darned proof?
Hello to all,

http://www.turkotek.com/old_masters/FIG21.jpg http://www.turkotek.com/old_masters/FIG21_C.jpg
Compared to FIG 21: (Anonymous, detail from Virgin and Child, ca. 1350, Berlin) a "german" XIVc. linen table cloth embroidered with gold threads.

Notice the fringes like rugs.

http://www.turkotek.com/old_masters/FIG21A.jpg http://www.turkotek.com/old_masters/FIG21B.jpg

Best regards,

Filiberto Boncompagni February 29th, 2012 08:56 AM

Hi Yohann,
That’s a very ancient symbol:
In this case, I’ll go for the more recent, European, symbol i.e. as representation of the Holy Roman Empire.

The double-headed eagle is a common symbol in heraldry and vexillology. It is most commonly associated with the Byzantine Empire, the Holy Roman Empire and Russia.

Filiberto Boncompagni February 29th, 2012 09:12 AM

Post Scriptum: but the one in the painting could be very well a Byzantine textile too...

Yohann Gissinger February 29th, 2012 10:20 AM


The symbol is ancient and is frequent in textiles, but the one I show you is the closest I succeeded find, even regarding to its composition and to its palette (red, gold, black and white) and to its period.

Please also have a look at:

http://www.turkotek.com/old_masters/FIG13A.jpg http://www.turkotek.com/old_masters/FIG13B.jpg

Compared to FIG.13 & 5: Details of an embroidered linen table cloth 115cm x 315cm possibly woven in Niedersachsen (Germany) XIIIth c. found in a monastery in Isenhagen (Germany)

http://www.turkotek.com/old_masters/FIG6A.jpg http://www.turkotek.com/old_masters/FIG7A.jpg http://www.turkotek.com/old_masters/FIG6_7B.jpg

Compared to FIG.6 & 7: A detail of a small bag from the same period and area of production...referen ce lost.

Best regards,

Filiberto Boncompagni February 29th, 2012 03:03 PM

Hi Yohann,

Very good finds! As for a Byzantine example, I will see if I am able to find out one. Not for challenging you :duel: , of course, but for the sake of knowledge!

Filiberto Boncompagni March 1st, 2012 05:06 PM

Hi Yohann,

I couldn’t quite find what I was hoping for. The closest is this Byzantine woven silk fragment, V&A Museum, 1200-1399.

which I chose because it made me aware of my subliminal reaction to the textile depicted in Fig.21 as “Byzantine”: it’s because - and besides the double-headed eagle - the endless knots visible in the silk fragment and in the rug were used in Roman and Byzantine mosaic floors, like this one from the church of Nativity, 4th. cent. AD:


and overall, the composition of the rug of Fig. 21


recalls very much a mosaic floor.
Like this, Roman, from the Archeological Museum of Bergamo, Italy:


We can at least assume that the iconography of the rug comes from a Byzantine source.
Where was it made? Well, Germany could be a possibility… :groucho:



Yohann Gissinger March 1st, 2012 09:44 PM


I didn't want to mean the textiles in paintings were made in "Germany", I just wanted to illustrate that some textiles made there in the XVth c. were very close to the pieces illustrated, not only in the details (like some byzantines) but even in their global composition and eventually in their colors.

I am lucid on the fact that such pieces are church's table cloths or whatever else of a great value and were probably not initially destinated to the ground (if the models were table cloths they may have been displayed there only during the painting of the scene...)

In another hand I agree with you about "the sake of knowledge!" as our common benefit.
If we don't succeed in finding all the remnant textile examples of the paintings illustrated there, at least, I hope we succeed in proving that lot of obsessed ruggies including world well known writers, are wrong when they systematicaly see oriental rugs in these paintings. That's one of my own challenges!

Best regards:cheers:

Filiberto Boncompagni March 3rd, 2012 03:04 PM


That's one of my own challenges!
Mine too... :thumbsup:


Pierre_Galafassi March 18th, 2012 09:34 AM

A mystery which comes as a courtesy of George Potter.
George has discovered in a 1475 painting by Niccolò Alunno


Niccolò Alunno, Madonna and Child with St Ann, 1475, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

another example of rug with the same kind of very strange animals, which was already featured in two older rugs: The one in FIG 13 (Salon on Animal Rugs), dated 1425, and the one in FIG 9, dated 1252.


Niccolò Alunno, Madonna and Child with St Ann, 1475, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (detail)


FIG 9. Anonymous, Annunciation, 1252, Church of the Santissima Annunziata, Florence.


FIG 13. Gentile da Fabriano, Detail from Annunciation, 1425, Vatican.

It is amazing that such a strange rug could have been represented three times over a period of 250 years. Even more so, when one takes into account that while the three rugs are very similar, (obviously the brainchildren of the same weaving people) they are not identical. The two later rugs are not mere copies of the first one.
This somehow weakens the hypothesis that, being part of a fresco on the walls of a Florence church, the 1225 rug could have been seen by both the later painters, who could have copied it.
Then what?
Did both Da Fabriano and Alunno take inspiration from the older rug, but modifying it?
Were the thirteenth century weaver "tribes" still active during the fifteenth century?

Please also note the battle of phenix and dragon in blue-black rectangles, which can be seen in both FIG 9 and 13 and is also partly visible under the Virgin’s robe.

Best regards

Filiberto Boncompagni March 18th, 2012 10:55 AM

Hi Pierre,

As you said, the three rugs are similar, but not identical, and the two more recent seem to me a bit more similar:



I don’t think they are modified copies of the 1252 fresco (Fig.9). More likely they are different versions of rugs that were in vogue in 13th and 14th C. Europe.
See also the embroidered linen table cloth posted by Yohann at the top of this page:


different (also on a very different medium) but close enough to justify a comparison.



Filiberto Boncompagni March 18th, 2012 11:12 AM

Carrying on with analogies…

The famous "Phoenix and Dragon" carpet could have similarities too


BUT its system of frames and borders is different, while the same “system” is identical in all of three depicted examples.
Too identical and too consistent to attribute it to “sloppy artistic” copying of the Phoenix and dragon carpet. Apart the fact that the fresco is two centuries older, of course.

Pierre Galafassi March 18th, 2012 05:09 PM

Hi Filiberto,

250 years of popularity seems quite a long time. But who knows.
One point in favor of your preferred theory is that two colleagues of the cross-eyed alien, the phenix and the dragon, were still in fashion too after the middle of the fifteenth century: In addition to Mantegna, 1448 (FIG 8. Salon «animal rugs»), Di Bartolo, ca. 1441, (see earlier in this thread), also Delli Erri (1460-1470) , Obilman (1466), J. Bellini (1444) and others, kept illustrating the domestic row (*) between the dragon and the phenix.

FIG A. 1460-1470. B. degli Erri. Scene of the life of St Vincent Ferrer. Detail. K. M. Vienna.

FIG B. 1466. N. Obilman. Annunciation. Wroclaw.

The place of origin of these bizarre rugs remains a mystery, however the various examples, shown by Johann in this thread, of spanish silks with rather similar animals, including a couple of beast with bifid tail could hint at a Mudéjar origin perhaps?:sherlock:

(*) In chinese tradition the dragon often represented the Emperor and the phenix the Empress.:)

Filiberto Boncompagni March 19th, 2012 02:07 PM

Hi Pierre,

In chinese tradition the dragon often represented the Emperor and the phenix the Empress
Mmmmh….. You gave me the idea to check my “DICTIONNAIRE DES SYMBOLES” (Chevalier/Gheerbrant, Ed. Robert Laffont, 1993 re-print).

About “Phénix” - first mentioned by Herodotus [5th century BCE] (History, book 2) - it says it symbolized resurrection and immortality. “That’s why in all of the Middle Ages it was the symbol of Christ’s resurrection”.
As for the Dragon, in Christianity it was associated to the serpent in symbolizing the Demon or Evil (see St. George, the dragon slaughter ;) )

I guess that the “Phoenix and Dragon” iconography that was imported from the Orient (and whose meaning I don’t remember at the moment, but it goes beyond the Emperor/Empress) was adopted in Europe to symbolize the fight between the good and the evil.

Which doesn’t help us to find the origins of the “Phoenix and Dragon” rugs in those paintings but could authorize us to think that some (I say some) of them could even be European copies.
But this is only a theory…


Jeff Sun March 25th, 2012 03:23 AM


Originally Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni (Post 9847)
Hi Pierre,

Mmmmh….. You gave me the idea to check my “DICTIONNAIRE DES SYMBOLES” (Chevalier/Gheerbrant, Ed. Robert Laffont, 1993 re-print).

About “Phénix” - first mentioned by Herodotus [5th century BCE] (History, book 2) - it says it symbolized resurrection and immortality. “That’s why in all of the Middle Ages it was the symbol of Christ’s resurrection”.
As for the Dragon, in Christianity it was associated to the serpent in symbolizing the Demon or Evil (see St. George, the dragon slaughter ;) )

I guess that the “Phoenix and Dragon” iconography that was imported from the Orient (and whose meaning I don’t remember at the moment, but it goes beyond the Emperor/Empress) was adopted in Europe to symbolize the fight between the good and the evil.

Which doesn’t help us to find the origins of the “Phoenix and Dragon” rugs in those paintings but could authorize us to think that some (I say some) of them could even be European copies.
But this is only a theory…


A word on the Dragon/Phoenix.

While the European concept of the Dragon may have some distant ties to China, the Phoenix does not. In fact the term "Phoenix" is just a western naming laid over top of a completely different Chinese Idea.

The western Phoenix, self-immolates and is reborn from the ashes in a Phoenician legend...hence the name Phoenix....from Phoenicia.

The Chinese legendary bird is actually called "Feng Huang"...which unfortunately sounds just a little like Phoenix..and is so called in the west, but does not share any of the western Phoenix's other traits and in-fact symbolizes quite different things and is depicted entirely differently. Doubtless some 17th or 16th century European trader making landfall in China first heard of "Feng Huang" and said ..."Ah...they must mean the Phoenix"....and the term stuck.

The only thing they have in common is they are legendary birds. They are not related to each other anymore than either are related to the Native American Thunderbird, Quetzocoatl, Garuda, the Arab Roc or Rodan. Ok. Technically the last one is a giant supersonic Pterydactyl and not a bird, but I think you all get the point.

Filiberto Boncompagni March 25th, 2012 09:11 AM

Hi Jeff,
You are right on all accounts. What I wanted to convey in my post was that, in my opinion, the iconographic coupling of "Feng Huang" and the Dragon did not exist in the West. When it appeared - probably imported from China - it was “translated as the “Phoenix and Dragon” with all the related western meanings.


Pierre Galafassi March 29th, 2012 03:18 PM

Hi Jeff and Filiberto,

The fight of the Chinese dragon ( Shen-Long) with the Chinese phoenix, or rather the Fenghuang (as rightly precised by Jeff ) was obviously a well established motif in different areas of central and western Asia. Below it is illustrated on two extant Safavid rugs from the sixteen and seventeen centuries. In a very densely knotted and "naturalistic" version.

Persian. Safavid period 45 silk, phoenix and dragon motif. Detail. XVI-XVII

Persian. Safavid period 31.2 The Mantes rug. Detail 2. XVI. 783X379.Louvre.Paris .jpeg

The Chinese origin is rather evident. One can quite safely assume that this motif migrated west following the Mongol onslaught and under the Ilkhanid rulers (mid-thirteenth to mid-fourteenth century). One can also suppose that a prestigious and powerful "animal" like the dragon would have been used as totem, tribal symbol by some of the mongol- and turk clans which took part to the attack (just as tigers, wolves, lions were used etc..)
Best regards

Jeff Sun April 25th, 2012 02:15 AM


Originally Posted by Pierre Galafassi (Post 9887)
The Chinese origin is rather evident. One can quite safely assume that this motif migrated west following the Mongol onslaught and under the Ilkhanid rulers (mid-thirteenth to mid-fourteenth century). One can also suppose that a prestigious and powerful "animal" like the dragon would have been used as totem, tribal symbol by some of the mongol- and turk clans which took part to the attack (just as tigers, wolves, lions were used etc..)
Best regards


Originally Posted by Pierre Galafassi (Post 9887)

The Chinese origin is rather evident. One can quite safely assume that this motif migrated west following the Mongol onslaught and under the Ilkhanid rulers
Best regards

Fascinating! I've never seen them before depicted in a Persian rug.

While much might be attributed to the Mongols, it's probably more likely that these symbols arrived in Persia by completely peaceful means along the Silk Road. Chinese brocades and porcelain often depict this pairing, and these would be very sought after trade goods in Persia. China had a complete monopoly on both silk and "China" for centuries.

Of course, the dragon and phoenix may even have have arrived in Persia...(gasp)...on carpets! Imitation of a particularly striking, rare and luxurious import would only be natural.

It's all speculation, of course.

Pierre Galafassi April 27th, 2012 10:48 AM

Hi Jeff,

You are right, the migration of the "dragon and phoenix" motif to central Asia, Iran and Azerbaijan might even have happened, by way of the Silk road, long before the Mongol onslaught. Besides, the frontiers of the Chinese Empire, times and again, included parts of Transoxiana. Another point in favor of your suggestion is the Chinese influence already visible in Great Seldjuk miniatures, several generations before Genghis Khan.

Could the vehicles of dragon and phoenix motifs have been China-made rugs? I doubt it, because of the lack of proper Han rug-weaving traditions. The inhabitants of the Tarim basin (of Khotan for example) could have made more credible go-betweens, including the old Turanians and the Uyghur Turks:
They have been ruggies for ages, their weavings had a high reputation (1) and they have been many times tributary of the Chinese empire. It is well documented that they supplied Chinese elite with rugs, although this never was an important import item for the Han.
It is therefore not unlikely that they have been weaving rugs with traditional Chinese motifs too, to satisfy their occasional eastern customer (As they were still doing during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries). "Chinese-looking" pattern might have also completed their traditional rug motifs, because Buddhism was the Tarim basin's religion until the tenth century.
Rugs like the one in FIG.1 (Fifteenth century? Origin unknown but the Tarim basin would be a logical source), which shows two typical Chinese «shishi» and a kufic border quite similar to the one in the (seldjuk?) «animal rug» in FIG 26 of the main essay.
FIG. 1 Khotan ? Fifteenth century? GLEN (Kyoto Mus.)

FIG 26 Turkish, thirteenth or fourteenth century. H. Kircheim. Orient Stars.


(1) Hans Bidder "Carpets from Eastern Turkestan". Mr Bidder even qualifies the Tarim basin as "the oldest home of pile carpet known to us today" . Page 11.

Filiberto Boncompagni April 27th, 2012 01:41 PM

Hi Pierre,

Could the vehicles of dragon and phoenix motifs have been China-made rugs? I doubt it
But it could have been another kind of textile…

This discussion started more than 13 months ago, so it’s natural to forget its beginning.
I have a good visual memory, though, and I remember having posted this image, Armenian miniature, the Armenian Archbishop Jean of Cilicia, 1287, detail:


I didn’t remember where I posted it (my “locational” memory is no match to the visual one :( ), but the most logical place was this thread, and there it is, post #3.
See the Chinese Dragon? Its style is exactly the same used today in Chinese or China-influenced culture (I have a Nepalese print that is almost identical).

If a Chinese dragon can find his way into an Armenian Archbishop’s garment, also the dragon and phoenix motifs could have found the same way to the M.E. and beyond, I suppose.


Jeff Sun April 28th, 2012 04:01 AM


Originally Posted by Pierre Galafassi (Post 10334)
Hi Jeff,

Could the vehicles of dragon and phoenix motifs have been China-made rugs? I doubt it, because of the lack of proper Han rug-weaving traditions. ...

I mentioned that in jest mostly, but it is an interesting point.

Generally, I would agree with you about the unlikelihood, but with conditions:

1. It would depend on what era of antiquity you are looking for the connection. if you are looking in the 16th or 17th century...like the Safavid rug you posted, then, yes, I would say that there is probably some chance of a Chinese rug making it's way to Persia with other trade goods. A silk rug, in particular would be very desirable.

It is known that carpet making in China proper was established in the Ming era concurrent with these time frames, albeit existing examples are from the end of that era.

2. If you are looking before that era, than I think, like you, that it becomes unlikely...but "unlikely" is a matter of degree.

- Were Chinese rugs available for trade. Yes. It's generally known that felt carpet making in China goes very far back. Possible examples exist (in Japan) that were made as gifts for royal exchange from the Song era. However, piled weaving probably goes back to the Yuan Dynasty. As a complete aside, one individual in Beijing while I lived there maintained that he had possession of rugs from the Yuan dynasty....which would probably make them the oldest rugs in the world other than the Pazryk. I don't lend much credence to his particular claim...(How would one even recognize a Yuan era rug? You would have to carbon date it at least)...but I am not so bold as to say it is impossible for an example to survive to modern day.

-Could rugs travel from China to Persia? Again, yes. As the post about the "Avar" fragment found in Tibet shows that carpets could indeed travel far from their homes....and Arab and Persian traders were well established in China quite far back in history. It would be no more difficult to transport a Chinese rug to Persia, than any other trade good, such as brocade or porcelain...maybe even easier.

Pierre Galafassi April 29th, 2012 01:41 PM

Hi Filiberto and Jeff,

I do fully agree with your posts.

As far as the most likely date for the introduction of pile-rug weaving in Chinese workshops is concerned, Hans Bidder brought very interesting and credible informations (1).

Dr Bidder was a German diplomat in post in Beijing after the first world war, he was also a sinologist and a rug connoisseur (probably considered the best expert for rugs of the Tarim basin).
The question of China-made rugs was among his interests too and he worked during two decades with Chinese historians, with philologists, as well as with the odd competent Chinese rug dealer of the time, to clarify it.

According to Bidder, felt rugs were known and used by the Chinese elite at least since the Mongol Yuan dynasty, or even earlier, perhaps popularized by one of the several earlier dynasties of nomad origin, like the Kin (Djurchet).

As far as pile rug-making in Chinese workshops is concerned, Bidder concludes to a much later date of introduction. When he arrived in Beijing, in 1925, he still noted «a total lack of innate appreciation in the Chinese for the carpet as a work of art as well as of practical understanding of it as an element in domestic habitation» (2). Bidder explains this indifference to rugs by the fact that, alone in all Asia, only the Han Chinese dropped, very early in their history, the habit of eating and sleeping on the ground and made wooden chairs, beds and tables instead. For a long time, pile rugs were therefore only imported into China either (seldom) ordered by the Palace, or by the occasional gentleman-collector, by foreign ethnic minorities, including conquerors, or came as gifts from other Kingdoms.

Bidder thinks that, although «..no documentary evidence for this surmise has ever been ascertained,..., not even in the archives of the Beijing Palace Museum» (3), the best candidate, as creator of truly Chinese pile-rug weaving workshops, was the Manchu Qing Emperor Gaozong (alias Qianlong, 1711-1799) who was «less focussed on the Middle Kingdom and less indifferent to the areas beyond its border» than other Ming and Qing Emperors.
This interest led to his conquests of the Turkik Tarim-basin and other parts of central Asia (with certainly an ample booty of rugs) and included a systematic massacre of the Dzungar in Mongolia.

Bidder thinks that the psychological profile of Gaozong, who wanted to rival the magnificence of the Persian- and Mughal courts is a valid clue to.
Besides, Beijing folk tales had it that Gaozong’s concubine Khoja Iparhan, (alias Xiang Fei), a Uyghur princess, jump started the Emperor’s rather un-Chinese passion for rugs. Understandingly, Bidder does not give much credit to this story.

P.S. I just came across a miniature featuring a Timurid warrior fighting a very «naturalistic» dragon. Unlike the typical Chinese dragon, which is usually airborne, the beast is walking on the ground, but otherwise it looks quite «Chinese». The miniature also resembles Renaissance renditions of «St Georges and the Dragon». I shall post it later.

(1) Hans Bidder. Carpets from Eastern Turkestan.
(2) ibid. page 9
(3) ibid. page 26

Jeff Sun May 1st, 2012 01:48 AM


While I enjoyed Hans Bidder's work, we must consider the following:

1. He really was a connoisseur of rugs from Xinjiang and not those woven in Eastern China.

2. He was a relatively early writer (1964) and so perhaps his resources were not the best, living in China at an even earlier time when travel was hard and literature scattered.The first 76 years of the 20th century were hell on China.

3. We run a-foul of the question "What is a Chinese Rug?" Is it only one woven by Han Chinese hands? What about Ningxia and Inner Mongolian rugs, which are rife with Chinese symbols and character, but woven by ethnic Hui or Mongols? And so on...

Consider that later researchers and authors disagree with Bidder.

1. Near Bidder contemporary H.A. Lorentz, discusses Ming rugs on pages 78-81 of his book A View of Chinese Rugs from 1972. Noting that they are Rare with a capital R. (One would expect otherwise?) He shows several examples of likely Ming rugs on pages 107 and 108.

2. Murray Eiland maintains in Chinese and Exotic Rugs from 1979, pg 13, that the Yuan dynasty established rug factories in the north of Beijing, but declines that the Ming maintained the business.

3. Rostov and Jia Guanyan in Chinese Carpets, pgs 62-63, from 1983 maintain again that rugs were made in government workshops during the Yuan in Beijing, and during the Ming, in Ningxia.

4. Lu Hong Qi- Sporting quite the patriotic name (Red Flag Lu) and poorly translated English text, maintains on page 16 of Antique Rugs of China, 2004, that rug working workshops were established in Beijing in 1298, quoting the Chinese text, Da Yuan Zhan Gong Wu Ji. On page 18, he maintains that the Yuan workshops were taken over by the Ming. If the workshops were established in 1298, that's a solid 70 years of carpet making before the fall of the Yuan in 1368. Potentially, that's a lot of rugs!

As an aside...I find it hard to believe that ALL of these texts are so OLD. Why are there no more recent books on my shelves? :confused:

Therefore, Bidder aside, three of four sources agree that there were rugs made during the Yuan Dynasty and three of four sources agree that rugs were made during the Ming.

So based on these, we could say there is sufficient scholarship to show continuous rug making in the broader sense of China ,(Ningxia, Beijing, Baotao) since the Yuan, and examples with Ming character if not outright attribution, survive until today.

As to Bidder's theory that Chinese Furniture led to the non-adoption of the rug, I can not believe it entirely, although surely it might not help their popularity. Why? Because rugs in China are often used outside the household.

1. Equestrian rugs are common. Saddle rugs from Ningxia, Baotao and Beijing are often seen
2. Rugs are often used for pillows and cushions. I have seen them as cushions for seats for example. I remember seeing one in a very wierd shape(no corners) and asking the dealer what it was for. His reply: It was for a rickshaw bench.
3. Sometimes rugs are meant for the wall (what better place?) and Baotao landscapes are often put to this use.
4. They are sometimes used in temples, of course.

I open it up for further debate. This is both fun and informative.

Pierre Galafassi May 1st, 2012 07:46 PM

Hi Jeff,

Fair points about Bidder. He himself complained about the lack of local rug informants.

Given the Turco-Mongol origin of the Yuan elite, and in particular the important presence of Uyghurs in the bureaucracy of the first Yuan rulers it is indeed quite likely that there has been at least an attempt at starting a local production of rugs, using for example weavers captured by the Mongol in Kharezm or Persia, of which there was surely no shortage.

However, you are right, the first question to answer is «what is a Chinese Rug?»
I suppose that Bidder limited «citizenship» to the Han Empire, even when a foreign dynasty ruled it. 
If we deliver the Chinese citizenship to rugs woven in peripheral areas, in the past mostly inhabited by non-Han, (Mongols, Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hui, Tangut, etc...), which all greatly enjoyed Chinese garrisons and governors in the early 1400s, then indeed the probability of Chinese Imperial workshops grows a lot.

If we accept Bidder’s quite reasonable hypothesis that emperors with a marked interest for foreign countries were the most likely to create imperial rug-workshops or to keep them in business, then, from the fourteenth century onward, in addition to the Qing Emperor Gaozong, only another one seems to have the right profile: The third Ming Emperor, Yongle, alias Zhu Di, (1360-1424) who among other things commissioned admiral Zheng He’s famous treasury fleets, strongly favored export activities, as well as navy-backed (1) «diplomacy» in British style.
The Ming successors of Yongle quickly returned to the traditional Chinese policy of splendid isolation and nomad-bashing, at least until European countries (Portugal first, then Netherlands and Spain) obtained, during the last third of the sixteenth century the right to do some business with China.
The candidacy of Yongle as possible creator of an imperial rug workshop in Beijing (or at least in Han China) is not discussed by Bidder, who thus, probably, dismissed it as unlikely, but the bloke still makes a reasonable candidate too as «First Ruggie».

There aren’t many extant rugs older than the seventeenth century which could be safely labelled «made in Han-China» and I am not aware whether for these few rugs, one has already been able to prove the claimed age, or to dismiss the option of Uighur-, Mongol- or Tibetan made-on-order production.

IMHO, the following pieces are among the oldest rugs with a possible made-in (Han-) China tag.

FIG 1. Beijing ?, fragment of palace carpet. XV ? «Glanz der Himmelssöhne». M.O.K. Köln.
The motif calls to mind Mongol appliqué felt, don't you agree?

Fig 2. Beijing?, palace carpet. XVI? 625X297. «Glanz der Himmelssöhne». M.O.K. Köln.
Certainly the motif is as Chinese as can be and there is hardly any doubt that it was made for the imperial Palace. But where was it woven?

Your points 1,3, 4 are well taken. I do agree. On point 2, I’ll have to take your word.:cheers: Besides, cushions were just about as important for nomads than felt- or pile rugs and even in the highly unlikely hypothesis that an arthritic Chinese would not have invented them long before, the nomad conquerors would have imported this great idea.

Your complains, Jeff, are quite justified: there is no oversupply of recent books about Chinese rugs. The only one I know is «Glanz der Himmelsöhne. Kaiserliche Teppiche aus China 1400-1750» edited by the Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Köln. Superbly illustrated, and interesting text, but it does not bring any conclusive information about our specific «where and when» question. According to the authors, Emperor Yongle had the famous stone ramps of the Beijing Palace copied from rugs. Possible.

(1) So called «Junk diplomacy» of which we have better, closer and shipless examples:mad:.

Best regards

Jeff Sun May 2nd, 2012 01:44 AM


Great pictures! Especially the one in Figure 2. Note the large repair of the dragon in the lower right. This is the ancient type of dragon style, with an organic, vegetal look.... And yes, I would say the first piece does look rather like a felt appliqué piece, but it too has a curvilinearity, a vegetal nature in the way the "T"s sprout out of the center "lotus". The influence of China is strong.

Which should not be too Surprising. The Chinese influence on Tibetan and Xinjiang rugs can also be seen. Some would say that this is the nature of things: that the centers of commerce, whether Beijing, Bokhara or Tehran, set the fashion and create innovations. The nomads and village weavers follow and imitate.

It would be more instructive to see the back of the pieces, of course. A Tibetan piece could be immediately ID'd...and a Mongolian piece would take only a little more effort.

Regarding "Palace" rugs. While Forbidden City, much like Versaille or Tokapi is an enormous place, one must wonder if making rugs for the Palace really absorbed all the "royal" weavers time...or if they made some other pieces on the sly.

Often in China, craftsman would produce pieces for the palace in place of taxes....which means the rest of the time they were doing...what?

Probably making something more practical for the commoner. This still goes on.

Well, when I was in Khotan a few years back, one workshop was making traditional "pomegranate" rugs on one loom...and floor mats for cars on another. Finally in a different room, on an enormous loom probably 30 meters in length they were weaving a rug...in one color....by hand...for a hotel lobby.

OK....we have drifted a long way from the original conversation, but nonetheless I find the discourse fascinating. Shall we continue until Steve kicks us off..or finds the conversation a new home?

George Potter August 3rd, 2012 09:12 AM


There seems to be another example from Gentile da Fabriano of the three legged alien posted earlier that shows what should have been in the damaged panel, image below:



George Potter August 3rd, 2012 03:55 PM


I must add that the image is from HALI. In the article, John Mills, wrote that the Vatican painting, earlier in this thread, is apparently a copy of the one just posted. Source: HALI, January 1997, Issue 90, page 62, title: In Saintly Company by John Mills.


Pierre Galafassi August 4th, 2012 07:08 AM

Hi George,
Very interesting indeed.
Did John Mills suggest a possible origin for the rug?

George Potter August 4th, 2012 09:16 AM


Mills wrote:


A quite different kind of rug, possibly Anatolian, is depicted here. In the Vatican version the rug is almost identical, though one of the compartments is damaged. The "animaloid" forms do not exactly resemble those on any known rug, but some interesting parallels are drawn by Michael Franses in a footnote in the Matthiessen catalogue.

Pierre Galafassi August 5th, 2012 10:53 AM

Hi Jeff,

I do apologize for my indecently late answer to your last post. I believed that I already answered it, discovering my error only a few days ago. Old age, I guess!!

Yes, indeed, we drifted far from the original topic, but neither Steve nor Filiberto have raised the red card, so far. They are rather tolerant people:angelic:. With hindsight we should perhaps have started a new thread.

I fully agree with your views. Imperial workshops must have worked for the elite and not only for the Emperor’s residences.

The following examples of Timurid- and Il-khanid dragons, show (again) the very strong Chinese influence on Persian art, at least from the Mongol conquest onwards.
In FIG 1 and 2 the dragon is not airborne, as in most later Chinese representations, but is very similar to examples from the Song dynasty.
However, I wonder whether the concept of a hero fighting and slaying the dragon is truly Chinese (1) or was not rather based on Turko-Mongol mythology. For Chinese tradition the dragon was supposed to be beneficial, not hostile. Do you agree?

(1) Contrary to the fight of the phoenix and dragon.

FIG 1. Il-khanid period. 1341. Shiraz school. Bahram gur slays the dragon. Freer Sackler

FIG 2. Timurid period 1420-1450 . Herat school. Warrior slaying a dragon.

FIG 3. Timurid period 1420-1450. Cover of Ulugh Bey’s wooden box.

Best regards

Jeff Sun January 18th, 2013 06:14 PM


Originally Posted by Pierre Galafassi (Post 11232)
Hi Jeff,

The following examples of Timurid- and Il-khanid dragons, show (again) the very strong Chinese influence on Persian art, at least from the Mongol conquest onwards.
In FIG 1 and 2 the dragon is not airborne, as in most later Chinese representations, but is very similar to examples from the Song dynasty.
However, I wonder whether the concept of a hero fighting and slaying the dragon is truly Chinese (1) or was not rather based on Turko-Mongol mythology. For Chinese tradition the dragon was supposed to be beneficial, not hostile. Do you agree?

(1) Contrary to the fight of the phoenix and dragon.

FIG 1. Il-khanid period. 1341. Shiraz school. Bahram gur slays the dragon. Freer Sackler

FIG 2. Timurid period 1420-1450 . Herat school. Warrior slaying a dragon.

FIG 3. Timurid period 1420-1450. Cover of Ulugh Bey’s wooden box.

Wow Peter! Great post. I also apologize for my late reply.

There is no denying the East Asian influence in these photos, but it may have filtered through an 3rd party: Tibet or India.

In Figure 1 and 2 the dragon has an upturned elephant-like trunk. This is especially evident in Figure 2. This is a form of Tibetan dragon which is called a Shalu. It's face is similar to another mythological creature found in Indian and Tibetan art called a Makara. Although no-one can say for sure, my feeling is that the Shalu is a Tibetan synthesis of the classical Chinese dragon and the Indian Makara.

It's presence in Persian art could point to Mongol influence, as there was long an influence of Tibet on Mongolia via shared religion and constant pilgrimage between the two. However, I do not know whether large scale Mongol conversion to yellow-hat Buddhism predates their conquest of Persia or not.

Just another thing to think about, I guess.

The dragon in figure 3 is VERY Chinese, indeed.

And yes, I agree with you 100%. A hero fighting a dragon is not-Chinese as the dragon is a beneficent creature. Perhaps it is a Mongol influence. Perhaps the dragon is a later stand-in for some other earlier, but less popular, Persian mythological creature. I've read the Shahnameh from cover to cover and don't ever recall a dragon in all it's pages.

Pierre Galafassi January 23rd, 2013 05:59 AM

Hi Jeff,

Your information about the possible influence of Tibetan- and Indian- dragons is interesting indeed!
I believe I have seen similar hostile dragons in Seljuk miniatures, painted more than a century before the Il-khans. (I’ll try to retrieve the miniatures). As you rightly mentioned in an earlier post, the silk road was active (on- and off), way before the Mongol onslaught on Persia. Though it was surely at its busiest during the Pax Mongolica and the Il-khanid rule.

If I remember well, both the pre-Gengis-Khan Turkik- and Mongolian people (which were anyway quite close and intermixed frequently) were animists, sharing Tengri, the Sky, as their main deity. Both shared as well a very tolerant attitude, even curiosity, towards other religions. Buddhism and Manichaeism, and to a lesser extend also Nestorianism, had some success in several tribes of these ethnic groups. Long before Islam made inroads in the region.
For example the Turkik population of the Tarim basin (Uyghur etc.. had long Buddhist- and Manichaeist periods, from which many traces have been found by archeology near the silk road. The Kalmiks Turko-Mongols were Buddhist of Tibetan obedience. So, there was no shortage of west-bound vehicles for Buddhist symbols even long before the Pax Mongolica.

By the way, going back to our focus (Rugs),of which we have a little bit drifted away in this thread, the Berlin Museum shows several fragments of Manichaean rolls from the Tarim Basin (roughly 10th century), featuring rugs. FIG A. This brings some more water to Hans Bidder’s mill, who always claimed that this area was one of the oldest «cradles» of rug weaving.
FIG A: Turfan, Manichean roll fragments, ca 900-1000. Berlin.

Jeff Sun January 24th, 2013 03:55 AM


Originally Posted by Pierre Galafassi (Post 13007)
This brings some more water to Hans Bidder’s mill, who always claimed that this area was one of the oldest «cradles» of rug weaving.


There is a lot of credence to that. Many tufted fragments have come out of the Taklamakan desert, like the one below from the 4th century. As the driest place on earth, it is the perfect environment for preservation.


And let us not forget that the Altai mountains (and the Pazryk rug), were not far off, in the grand scheme of things.

Perhaps, in a dusty ruin somewhere west of Lou-Lan there is the oldest rug yet, waiting to be found by some future Sven Hedin or Aurel Stein. If only that could be me! :laughing_2:

Pierre Galafassi January 24th, 2013 03:36 PM

I am very much looking forward to the Salon with which you will delight us as soon as you will find that rug!!:cheers:


Steve Price January 24th, 2013 04:16 PM

Hi Jeff

You can't catch fish unless you go fishing.

Best of luck!

Steve Price

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