• Northern India, Lahore (?), first half of the 17th century
  • Wool pile, cotton warp and weft
  • Inv. T62

‘Medallion’ carpet

This richly coloured carpet from Mughal India is completely covered by profuse floral decoration on the field, which has a red ground. Revealing a strong Persian influence, it also has an imposing lobed central medallion that is covered in various flower motifs. Mughal emperors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – specifically Akbar, Jahangir and Shahan – showed great interest in carpet production and the arts in general. They set up royal workshops and summoned the finest craftsmen from all over Persia to work there. At the same time, European chroniclers and travellers recorded that carpets were also manufactured in India.

The decorative richness and large size of this carpet clearly show it to be a royal commission. Although it is still very close to its Persian prototypes, the colours and floral decoration are typically Indian, especially the use of ton sur ton and some types of flowers such as the small pansies that decorate one of the guard-strips. The broad border consists of cartouches, garlands of flowers, arabesques and tchi-shaped clouds. Surviving Indian carpets from the classical period are mainly found in private collections, most notably that of the Maharajah of Jaipur, in India, while relatively few are found in the western public collections. This explains the importance of the superb examples assembled by Calouste Gulbenkian.

Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian from the Spanish Art Gallery, London, 21 February 1921.

H. 706 cm; W. 255 cm

New York 1997

Flowers Underfoot. Idian Carpets of the Mughal Era, exhibition catalogue. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997, p. 62–3, pls., p. 57, cat. 11.

Cohen 2001

Steven Cohen, 'Safavid and Mughal Carpets in the Gulbenkian Museum', Hali, London, 114, January–February 2001, p. 75–85, p. 80, colourpl. 6.

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