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2008/153/1 Fragment, medallion carpet, knotted wool pile / felt, woven in Ushak, western Turkey, c.1600. Click to enlarge.

Fragment of an Ushak medallion carpet

Made
This rare fragment of a large knotted wool medallion carpet was woven in the town of Ushak in western Turkey in about 1600. From the beginning of the 1500s the town supported a vibrant carpet making industry in which organised workshops produced large works (around 6 x 3 m) for the local and export markets, both for sale and on commission for wealthy patrons. Two types of Ushak patterns emerged during this period, the 'star' and the 'medallion'.

The fragmented nature of this Ushak medallion carpet suggests it may have come from the deepest layer of carpets in a mosque. It has been common practice for centuries in Islam to cover the floor of mosques with carpets and, since new rugs were customarily placed on top of the older and more worn rugs, fragments of very fine early carpets still exist, as exemplified by this example, that would not otherwise have survived. Until their replacement in the early 1970s, these layers of carpets in the mosques of Istanbul could still be seen. It was considered respectful to use good quality rugs within the mosques, like this knotted wool example, with the result that the products of the town craftsmen or court workshops have a better survival rate than early domestic village or tribal rugs.

Sumptuously decorated, Turkish carpets such as the medallion and star Ushaks attained great popularity in European courts and the houses of the nobility in the 1500s. Henry VIII is illustrated standing astride a star Ushak in a well known portrait of him by the court painter Hans Holbein in 1537 (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, England). King Henry owned a large number of Turkish carpets, many of which were distributed around his palaces after his death in 1547. The Medici family also owned examples, as did Richard Sackville, the third Earl of Dorset, who is illustrated standing on one in a portrait by William Larkin in 1613. With a similar design, the 'Turkey carpet' became a feature of fashionable households during the Edwardian period, and Ushak carpets continued to be made well into the 1900s, although they lacked the quality and magnificence of earlier carpets.

Christina Sumner, Principal Curator Design & Society, 2008

Summary

Object No.

2008/153/1

Object Statement

Fragment, medallion carpet, knotted wool pile / felt, woven in Ushak, western Turkey, c.1600

Physical Description

This almost rectangular fragment of a large Ushak knotted wool medallion carpet is roughly stitched onto a black felt backing piece in order to keep the raw-edged components correctly aligned. The fragment is woven in the rich reds and blues characteristic of Ushak carpets and includes parts of two dark blue medallions, one central and one lateral, filled with mainly floral ornaments. Between the medallions, the red ground is decorated with a light-blue blossomed trellis.

Marks

No marks

Dimensions

Width

1050 mm

Production

Made

Notes

This is a fragment of a large medallion carpet made around 1600 in the town of Ushak in western Turkey. The carpet was woven on a warp of fine two ply white wool; the wool pile, which is very worn, is symmetrically knotted (Turkish knots) with two rows of plain tabby weave in red wool between each row of knots.

From the beginning of the 1500s, the town of Ushak supported a vibrant carpet making industry in which organised workshops produced large works (around 6 x 3 metres) for the local and export markets. These were made for sale and on commission for wealthier patrons. Two types of Ushak patterns emerged during this period, the 'star' and the 'medallion'. It is thought that the medallion style originated in Persia where it was transferred from book decoration to carpets (K. Erdmann, The History of the Early Turkish Carpet 1977: 36).

Ushak workshops maintained a division of labour in which several weavers worked on a single rug. Their development followed two earlier periods of weaving in western Turkey, the first by tribal nomads and the second by villagers working from home or within a cottage industry.

History

Notes

The Oriental Rug Society of New South Wales purchased the fragment from Nomadic Rug Traders in Pyrmont, Sydney in 2007 for donation to the Powerhouse Museum. The actual provenance of this piece is not known, although the vendor, Ross Langlands of Nomadic Rug Traders, advised that he bought it from a dealer in Bath in England who in turn probably bought it at auction.

Source

Credit Line

Gift of the Oriental Rug Society of New South Wales, 2008

Acquisition Date

28 July 2008

Cite this Object

Harvard

Fragment of an Ushak medallion carpet 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 4 March 2021, <https://ma.as/367281>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/367281 |title=Fragment of an Ushak medallion carpet |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=4 March 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}