Carpet Fragment, Wool (warp, weft, and pile); asymmetrically knotted pile

Carpet Fragment

Object Name:
last quarter 16th century
Attributed to Egypt, Cairo
Wool (warp, weft, and pile); asymmetrically knotted pile
Rug: H. 77 1/2 in. (196.9 cm)
W. 55 1/2 in. (141 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Joseph V. McMullan, 1971
Accession Number:
Not on view
Associated with the Mamluks in Egypt and Syria, Mamluk-style carpets figured significantly in Mediterranean commerce and appear in Venetian paintings from the sixteenth century. The style of these carpets is characterized by medallions surrounded by a variety of smaller geometric motifs, forming a kaleidoscopic appearance. The palette is limited to red, blue, green, and yellow tones. Documents first refer to Cairo as a center of carpet weaving in the last quarter of the fifteenth century, and production continued until the mid-sixteenth century, shortly after the 1517 Ottoman conquest of Egypt.
There is little distinction between field and border and between major and minor pattern elements in Mamluk rug designs. All elements seem to interpenetrate each other forming a tightly packed geometric design of a great variety of individual forms. Medallions, rosettes, cartouches, stars and arrow-head shaped units, all greatly varying in size and individual outline, create a pattern of unparalleled complexity. In the 'field', floral scrubs of the papyrus type and rolled leaves are used to fill every inch of the given space. The extraordinairy elaboration of these patterns is unified by the use of only two main colours, a deep burgundy red and a light green.

[Arts Council 1972]
Joseph V. McMullan, New York (by 1963–71; gifted to MMA)
"Catalogue of an exhibition held at the] Hayward Gallery, London, 19 October–10 December 1972." In Islamic Carpets from the Joseph V. McMullan Collection. London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1972. no. 1, p. 33, ill. pl. XIX (color).

McMullan, Joseph V., and Ernst J. Grube. Islamic Carpets. New York: Near Eastern Art Research Center, 1965. no. 1, pp. 22-23, ill. pl. 1 (color).