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The narrow red field contains horizontal rows of small octagons and diamonds. The wide, dark green main border presents the design of Talish rosettes alternating with four squares that is characteristic of the provenance. – Both ends somewhat reduced and damaged, cut and newly overcast sides. Signs of age and wear.
- South East Caucasus
- 240 x 116 cm
- Mid 19th century
- West Anatolia
- 175 x 125 cm
- Ca. 1500 - 1525
Three paintings by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497 – 1543), the Darmstadt Madonna of 1526, the Portrait of the Merchant Georg Gisze of 1532 and the double portrait The Ambassadors of 1533, depict Turkish rugs of a specific and distinctive design group with the precision and attention to detail that is characteristic of this Renaissance painter. This led art historians like Wilhelm von Bode to name the group “Holbein” carpets as early as the late 19th century, at the time when scholars began to study Oriental rugs seriously. The term has become firmly established although, historically speaking, it is imprecise. Carpets presenting designs of this kind are found much earlier in Italian paintings, first of all in a 1440 book illumination entitled Doge Francesco Foscari Receiving a Statute Book (Codex Mariegola 124/1, Biblioteca Museo Correr, Venice). Eleven years later, with some difficulty due to the damaged fresco but clearly enough for identification, a so-called “Holbein” carpet can be seen in Piero della Francesca’s 1451 fresco, St. Sigismund and Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta in the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini. From then on, “Holbein” carpets are often encountered in Italian paintings where they usually appear as status symbols in a religious context, for instance under the Madonna and Child’s throne. Examples are Andrea Mantegna’s triptych, the Pala di San Zeno dated 1457-1460 in the Basilica of San Zeno in Verona, or Domenico Ghirlandaio’s Madonna and Child Enthroned between Angels and Saints dated 1480-86 (now in the Uffizi Gallery, inventory no. 1890). The Madonna di Piazza altarpiece in the Cathedral of San Zeno in Pistoia was created at the same time, begun in 1474 by Andrea del Verrocchio and completed in 1486 by Lorenzo di Credi. Here, too, there is a “Holbein” carpet under the raised throne of the Madonna and Child, with the two saints John the Baptist and Donatus of Arezzo standing on either side. The design of this comparatively long carpet, which also covers the steps leading up to the throne and the pedestal before it, is easily distinguished. These are just a few examples of such Turkish rugs occurring in 15th century Italian Renaissance paintings. “Holbein” carpets were thus known in Italy as early as the mid 15th century, and their prominent positions in pictures by the most renowned painters of their time is testimony to the great value attributed to them.
It is deemed certain that the carpets were woven in West Anatolia, but due to a lack of information based on sources it has been impossible to establish a specific area or place. Kurt Erdmann distinguished two main groups: the so-called “large-pattern” and “small-pattern” carpets, and a number of variants also exist. Holbein himself portrayed two of the large-pattern examples (Darmstadt Madonna, The Ambassadors) and one small-pattern example. In the Portrait of the Merchant Gisze, there is a small-pattern carpet on the table where the Danzig merchant is standing. The Italian paintings cited above all show the small-pattern type with monochrome grounds in red, green or blue, whereas the ground of the Scheibe carpet has two colours (red and green). This difference is important in matters of dating. Evidently the earliest “Holbein” carpets always have monochrome fields. Examples with two-tone fields – like the Scheibe “Holbein” – appear to have arrived in Europe no earlier than the late 15th century. They belong to a later group woven from circa 1475 onwards.
Some eighty small-pattern “Holbein” carpets have survived and are now distributed across museums and private collections all over the world. “Holbein” carpets are featured more than fifty times in 15th and 16th century paintings. During the Baroque period, the North Italian painter Bartolomeo Bettera (1639 – 1688) from Bergamo depicted at least two different examples in his thirty or so still lifes with musical instruments painted between 1650 and 1677. They are draped as precious covers over the tables on which the musical instruments are arranged in piles. The carpets belong to the type with monochrome fields and may already have been antiques at that time.
Conceived as an endless repeat, the design of small-pattern “Holbein” carpets consists of two main ornaments which are closely spaced in the central field and interlocked in a complex fashion. The eye is first caught by the octagons with interlaced outlines in the shape of an endless knot, each enclosing a star motif. The second design layer consists of elongated quartered diamonds with arabesque outlines which, depending on the choice of colours, stands out more in some pieces and less in others. Both designs are clearly Turkmen in origin. Their survival is still well documented in the rugs of the Central Asian Turkmen tribes of the 18th and 19th centuries: the endless knot is a characteristic design of the large Salor tent bags (chuval), and a simplified version of the quartered diamond is often seen in Chodor rugs. Both these large motifs were probably part of the design repertoire of the Turkmen tribes who migrated west in the retinue of the Seljuks during their gradual conquest of Anatolia in the 11th century; the Turkmen cavalry played an important part in the Seljuk conscription of troops. The tribes later settled in western Turkey where many villages still have Turkmen names. During the course of their long westward journey, the Turkmen left behind many traces of their Central Asian culture. Persian 14th and 15th century book illustrations depicting rugs with similar Turkmen designs bear testimony to this.
The border designs provide a reference point in dating small-pattern “Holbein” carpets. This has already been discussed by Charles G. Ellis in his essay, “Ellis in Holbeinland“ which was a first attempt to record the total inventory of surviving examples (in: Oriental Carpet & Textile Studies I, HALI Publications, London 1985, pages 55-75). Still more important for dating is an article by Robert Pinner and Jackie Stanger, “Kufic Borders on Small Pattern Holbein Carpets”, published in HALI 1, 4 in 1978. The Scheibe “Holbein” carpet shows a geometric kufic border drawn in white on a red ground, with two parallel vertical lines overlaid and underlaid with brackets and cones. Simple only at first glance, but actually intricately interlocked and closed on both sides, the design band floats freely on the ground without touching the sides. Pinner/Stanger call this a type “C” border. It is encountered in European paintings from circa 1490.
In some of the small-pattern “Holbein” carpets with a two-tone ground, the design appears as a tile-like composition of square compartments, an impression achieved by choice of colour. This effect is not apparent in the Scheibe carpet which has a rather more fluid rhythm. A feature which may be significant in dating is the strictly symmetrical composition around the central axis, avoiding the lateral shift of the design often observed in other pieces. The narrow minor borders of this item show different designs, and again this is not always the case. A number of small-pattern “Holbein” carpets with two-tone fields which are closely related to the Scheibe carpet are listed below.
Ulrich Brandt purchased the rug from his university teacher in Heidelberg, Erhard Scheibe (1927 – 2010), a professor of philosophy. The carpet is not listed in Ellis’ inventory, and to our knowledge it was hitherto unknown and is being published here for the first time.
Notes on the condition:
Obvious signs of age and wear, low pile, several stitched sections to close tears, minor holes and corroded areas. Both ends slightly reduced, damaged sides. The carpet does not seem to have been cleaned for decades, and we have refrained from doing so. Conservation, restoration and cleaning measures should be left to the discretion of a later owner.
The von Bürkel Holbein, Hugo Helbing auction catalogue, auction 29, October 1910, lot 66 *** The Bernheimer Holbein, in: BERNHEIMER, OTTO, Alte Teppiche des 16. bis 18. Jahrhunderts der Firma L. Bernheimer. Munich 1959, pl. 17 (in black-and-white) and as
An immaculately drawn Milas prayer rug with a red field and a wide, golden yellow border. – Slight signs of age and wear, minor repairs, very good overall condition with original finishes.
- South West Anatolia
- 153 x 116 cm
- First half 19th century
TKF-WIEN (publ.), Antike anatolische Teppiche aus österreichischem Besitz. Vienna 1983, no. 22
This rectangular horizontal fragment with two peonies on a golden, originally deep red ground constitutes part of the lateral field section of a Chinese carpet from the late Ming period, known as “The Empress Dowager peonies carpet” in publications. The Empress Dowager Cixi (1835 – 1906) used this carpet in her private temple in the palace. When the Boxer Rebellion was overthrown in 1900 and parts of the “Forbidden City“ were looted by Alliance troops, many historic carpets left the country. Purchased by Louis C. Tiffany via his Beijing agent, the carpet arrived in New York in 1906, then measuring 9.68 x 9.99 metres, and was sold at auction by the American Art Association in New York in 1916. During its eventful history in the hands of various owners it was reduced in width several times to adapt it to the respective sizes of various rooms. Still 7.20 x 9.99 metres in size today, the carpet is now in an American collection. At least seventeen mostly small-format fragments are known to exist. – The 2005 publication on the Cologne exhibition illustrates the “Tiffany” carpet in its current condition (ill. 25, p. 27). Two fragments of the border and field were on display (cat. no. 9, p. 69). The catalogue entry surmises that contrary to previous belief, the carpet was not woven in one of the workshops of Ningxia, the West Chinese weaving centre, but in an Imperial workshop in Beijing.
- North East China, Beijing
- 44 x 101 cm
- First half 17th century
Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst Köln (publ.), Glanz der Himmelssöhne. Kaiserliche Teppiche aus China 1400 – 1750. Text by Michael Franses and Hans König. London 2005, ill. 25, p. 27 and cat. 9, p. 69 *** FRANSES, MICHAEL & WATERHOUSE, RUPERT, Lion-dogs, Hu
A completely preserved Qashqa’i double bag of excellent quality. The pile-woven blue-ground faces show the characteristic red hexagon, here enclosing a cruciform floral device and abstract animals, with hooked diamonds and flowers arranged all around. The closure bands have been woven with great care, the back is a green kilim. – Very good condition.
- South West Persia, Fars
- 113 x 61 cm
- Mid 19th century
BLACK, DAVID & LOVELESS, CLIVE, Woven Gardens. Nomad and Village Rugs of the Fars Province of Southern Persia. London 1979, no. 21
Woven by the Afshars of the Varamin area in the characteristic horizontal format, this double bag is completely preserved, including the closure loops. The blue-black faces each show a large diamond enclosing a cross composed of four palmettes and surrounded by floral stems arranged diagonally. The backs are plain red kilims. – Slight moth damage, good overall condition.
- North Persia, Varamin region
- 129 x 84 cm
- Late 19th century
The palette, knotting structure and wool suggest that this small bag face in the kap format is a Yomut weaving. Kaps almost identical in design are known to have been woven by the Tekke. Two continuous borders of small stylised shrubs divide the white field into two compartments, each containing a tree with a large ashik design, V-shaped branches and C-motifs. The white outer surround decorated with C-forms is a characteristic feature of this rare type. Our example used to be in the Fernandes Collection, Singapore. – Good condition, no back.
- Central Asia, West Turkestan
- 35 x 70 cm
- First half 19th century
GEWERBEMUSEUM BASEL (publ.), Alte Teppiche aus dem Orient. Basel 1980, ill. p. 123 *** HAMBURGISCHES MUSEUM FÜR VÖLKERKUNDE (publ.), Wie Blumen in der Wüste. Die Kultur der turkmenischen Nomadenstämme Zentralasiens. Hamburg 1993, no. 27 *** DODDS, DENNIS
This very well-drawn Yomut main carpet features a field design of dyrnak güls, a wavy vine border and knotted elems decorated with small star-shaped flowers. A velvety pile and a rich range of luminous colours. – Remnants of the kilims survive at the top and bottom, the original sides have been newly overcast in places, small restored areas.
- Central Asia, West Turkestan
- 273 x 173 cm
- Early 19th century
This colourful cicim woven in a horizontal stripe design was illustrated by Frauenknecht as early as 1984. – Very good condition, original finishes all around.
- West Anatolia
- 230 x 143 cm
- Second half 19th century
FRAUENKNECHT, BERTRAM, Frühe türkische Tapisserien. Nuremberg 1984, pl. 59
A large Yürük storage bag flatwoven in a variety of techniques. The design of wide horizontal stripes, alternately woven in the sumakh and kilim techniques with brocaded motifs, is identical on the face and back. – Very well preserved.
- South West Anatolia, Fethiye area
- 102 x 71 cm
- Late 19th century
BÖHMER, HARALD, Nomaden in Anatolien. Begegnungen mit einer ausklingenden Kultur. Ganderkesee 2004, ill. p. 266