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Thread: What are those?
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Old March 9th, 2011, 07:04 PM   #1
Filiberto Boncompagni
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Cyprus
Posts: 92
Default 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"
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