Rug of the Week Carpet #21055


Persian Rug #21055, size 18’0″ x 10’10”

Antique Northeast Persian Carpet

Khorassan Province

Later 18th Century

Khorassan was a truly enormous Persian province, once extending all the way to the Oxus River, bordering on  true Central Asia. Even After the eastern parts were lost in the Afghan invasion after 1722, the province still encompassed vast areas of desert and steppe with important cities like Meshed and productive farmland. Carpet weaving in the area goes back centuries with Herat, the old capital and now in Afghanistan, famous in the 16th century for its fine rugs. Our antique Persian carpet is not from Herat, but was probably woven in the area around Qain (the Qainat) or more likely in the town itself as it has, as we shall see, all the marks of an urban production of the period.

After the fall of the Persian Safavid ruling dynasty in 1722, there was a decided fall off in patronage as the nation descended into invasions and disorder.  As a result, the remaining carpet workshops cut costs to survive and this meant, among other things, the elaborate medallion designs and the designers who conceived them were replaced by repeating patterns derived from textiles which could be easily and elegantly executed in pieces of any size or format. Thus appeared the now iconically Persian Herati, Gol Hennai, Mina Khani and Boteh patterns. Our design is a particularly felicitous variant on the Gol Hennai pattern.  A primary diamond lattice is formed by a repeat of four cypresses or leaves framing a large rosette and smaller rosette bosses uniting the cypresses. A thinner, secondary lozenge lattice connects the cypresses and large rosettes. This pattern is found in both northeast and northwest Persian rugs, runner and large carpets.  As to where it originated, that is unsure, but by the early 19th century it was in use both in Khorassan and in Azerbaijan in early antique Heriz carpets. In both areas light grounds, ivory as here, were the preferred overall tonalities.

The red-orange main border with in and out main palmettes, sickle leaves and smaller rosettes, all linked by double angular vines seems to appear about the same time as the field pattern, and the navy blue connected “S” guards are frequent accompaniments in both weaving areas. In sum, our 21055 is a perfect embodiment of a period style. Khorassan would thus seem to be the place of origin for the field /border design combination around 1750 or so.

The size and perfection of execution as indicated by the pattern balance in all directions implies an experienced and highly professional workshop working for discerning patrons who expected an artistically and technically superior product. Although many Persian carpets of the period are long and narrow, there are certainly exceptions and 21055 clearly predates the period of Western export demand.

The foundation is all cotton and the woolen pile is tied with the Khorassan version of the jufti knot (on four warps rather than two), giving a lighter handle than usual. In a culture where only unshod feet touch a carpet, this still gives plenty of wearability. Our piece is in good condition for its age and proper care will give it many more years of attractive appearance. All the colours are from natural sources; indigo for the blue and either madder or cochineal for the reds. Yes, you can make oranges from cochineal.

There are very few carpets of this post-Classic period surviving, especially in this large size and ultra-desirable colour scheme. Our carpet 21055 is a particularly attractive solution of a perennial question: how to cover a large floor area without excess busyness, keeping formality without rigidity and authenticity without making an overt issue of it.


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Antique English Square Needlepoint Carpet

French and English Victorian period needlework carpets are quite similar in both technique and in the repeating circle and square patterns, but English rugs are more often in light tones, as here, with seven rows and seven columns on an ivory ground. A square foliate/floriate lattice encloses several varieties of verdant bouquets, each of which is encircled by a laurel wreath. Roses are prominent among the seasonal English garden flowers in the bouquets. Smaller bouquets, in two alternating styles, are positioned at the crossing points of the lattice. There is no border beyond the lattice line. Each row of bouquets mixes several styles, giving a sense of variety. No two similar bouquets directly repeat either vertically or horizontally. Some bouquets are rotated 180 degrees. The colors of each bouquet type remain invariant throughout the carpet. Modular, repeating designs were popular in antique Victorian needlework carpets, and this allowed variations in size and format to be easily accommodated. Similarly, borders could mix and match with different field patterns.  Carpets were often the work of several embroiderers, each working on a separate square. The squares were subsequently joined and the joints covered by further stitchery.

By the late 19th century, the saturated, dense tonalities of European needlework carpets were beginning to give way to lighter palettes, and this is especially evident in antique English needlework carpets.

Carpet 40-3796 has been lined and is in good condition.

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21431 British Needlepoint: circa 1920

Made by Puntro Molley (?).  His needlepoint rugs were more appealing than others made at the time due to his varied use of different kinds of wool (thickness, sheen, etc) and varied stitching methods.  In one piece, perhaps 5-6 types of wool may have been used, creating a texture and look that is more interesting than others in the market.

His designs were usually based on 16-18th century english textiles.

One piece recently sold at auction for 120,000 just to give an idea of value.

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Rug of the Week

Tekke Turkmen Ensi

Middle 19th Century

How can an antique Tekke Ensi be special? There must be a zillion of them (or more). But this not your grandfather’s Tekke Ensi. In fact, this rug is at a whole ‘another level. Take a good look and follow our list of special points. And these are not the only differentiating features. The more you look, the more you see. Our list includes:

  1. The rare extra vertical panels repeating the main border design in the field quarters.
  2. The apparently unique addition of horizontal bands in the same pattern above and below the central crossbar.
  3. The unusual “bulls eye” spandrel panels which are more in the Yomud style than the (very usual) Tekke manner.
  4. The extremely fine weave of around 220 knots per square inch.
  5. The extremely wide jewel tone color palette including pale yellow, burnt apricot, two reds (blood red and warm madder), two cochineals, three blues (including an exceptional midnight), dark brown, dark green, ivory, brown; generally way wider than the usual six color Ensis.
  6. The points on the central three vertical columns in section of the central axis.
  7. Dots edging the stylized flower heads in the border.
  8. The quincunx details in the top border.
  9. The unusual triple lozenge fillers in the “mihrab” between the spandrels.

Probably a whole lot more of subtle details. This rug was not a commercial production, churned out ad seriatim by unrelenting Tekke women weavers. The woman who wove it was a true artist and the patron was someone of taste.  Their identities are obviously lost, but their contribution remains. This rug is a true labour of love.

The Ensi was supposedly used as a door rug on the Turk men round felt tent or yurt. Some examples still retain hanging ropes in the top corners, but our does not, and it is slightly taller than the usual antique examples, Bigger rug, bigger door, bigger tent, more important person. Some local big shot from around Merv just across from the Persian border who wanted the best. The work is exacting, the result truly collectible. There are other antique Tekke ensis, some older, some more archaic in design, but we have yet to find a similar gesamtkunstwerke

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Rugs of the Week

Two vintage mid-20th century Ecuadorian Carpets Designed by Olga Fisch.

Of Hungarian origin, Olga Fisch(1901-1991) emigrated in 1933, first to Morocco and in 1939 to Ecuador, head of the political instability  wracking Europe. Already an artist and collector of folk art, Fisch quickly took to the local arts and crafts available in the Quito markets. She was inspired by primitive, folk and paleolithic cave art and established a workshop creating knotted pile carpets to her individualistic and unique designs. The firm continues today, as does the museum of (primarily) Ecuadorian folk art. Only domestic sheep wool is employed and the rugs are firmly symmetrically (Turkish) knotted on a cotton foundation at a density of 60,000 knots per square metre or about 40 knots per square inch.  It takes four weavers about six weeks to complete a 9’ by 12’ carpet.

Our two carpets, both from the 1950’s, are in her most popular and iconic -patterns. Number 21953 (12’ by 16)’ in the “Caverna” pattern, displays, on an ivory ground, and without borders, an agitated congeries of stick figures of hunters and prey, primarily deer, adapted from the Paleolithic cave paintings of Lascaux, discovered in 1940 and incredibly influential in mid-century art. Whereas most examples are in the 9’ by 12’ or 10’ by 13’ formats, this is certainly one of the largest renderings of the pattern. The increased size allows the larger hunters and animals free movement, and increases the impact of the individual figures. Small variants were also woven, with only a few animals, also on a beige ground.

Our other carpet, number 21802 (11.0 x 13.4) is a rare oval creation with the “Cabalito”  pattern inspired by  the folk embroidery on the “danzantes’ participants in the Corpus Christi processions from Cotopaxi, Ecuador. A number of these costumes are in the Olga Fisch Folk Art Museum in Quito. The pattern densely fills the ivory field with mobile figures, horses and vegetal motives. It is reminiscent of certain Greek Island women’s costume embroideries. Often the “Cabalito” pattern occupies an oval or lobed section  on an otherwise plain rectangular carpet, but here is the pattern takes up almost all of the oval,  with its energetic filigree of figures, fauna and flora.

Other popular Olga Fisch patterns include the “Churos” design with angular discrete spirals on a subtly tones beige ground, a study in mid-century minimalism with only dark brown as an accent colour.

Olga Fisch carpets are as 1950’s modern as they get and our examples cry out for the right Danish or Swedish modern furniture as their perfect accompaniments. Some Italian Murano glass table objects won’t hurt either. A Neutra or Schindler house in the Los Angeles hills is definitely the perfect context, but any mid-century ranch house is certainly welcoming.


Ecuadorian Rug #21802, size 13’4″ x 11’0″





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Rugs of the Week

Donegal  vs. Oushak


Donegal rug #18754 size 11’6″x10’4″


Oushaks rug#19239 size 15’0″x12’10”

Clash of the Carpets

Battle of the bands? How about a combat of the carpets? Who is original and who is derivative? Who copied whom and who inspired whom? Which came first? We date the Turkish Oushak 19239  as c. 1880 or somewhat later, while the Irish Donegal 18754  was woven right around 1900. Oushaks employing selected Persian design motives were essentially introduced by the predecessors of Oriental Carpet Manufacturers (OCM) when they took over the production of export oriented workshops, certainly in the late 19th century. Irish production seems to have begun around 1898, Oushaks were certainly available as prototypes. Oushak carpets, actually woven mostly in Smyrna on the west coast of Turkey, were simplified in design, stripped of extraneous ornament, to facilitate quicker, cheaper production. Wool in both Ireland and Ottoman Turkey was abundant and labor was cheap.  Coarse carpets were easy to design, easy to weave and could be priced reasonably.

The design vocabulary certainly overlaps: bold palmettes, flowering racemes in field and border, angular arabesque segments. If anything, the Donegal carpet is graphically stronger than its Turkish compere. Both the designers of each have eliminated extraneous ornament and enlarged what they retained. Less was certainly more. The Donegal  carpet employs chunky Persian booths on the arabesques while the Oushak borrows equally Iranian weeping willows.  The palette of the Donegal is wider, with ochre, grass green, dark blue and ivory, while the Oushak hits hard with a striking gold border. Interestingly, the outer flame-like narrow border has been cleverly adopted and adapted from the peripheries of the medallions on 17th century Oushak carpets made for export to Europe.

Could the places of origin be reversed? Red dominates in both carpets, a warm and expansive red.

So, which rug is better? Put them in adjacent rooms. Their folly, directly appealing styles easily mesh. Both types borrow and the only question is whether you prefer one borrowing to another. Both work with modern furniture, especially those pieces where the wood itself is given prominence , a George  Nakashima table, perhaps.

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Rugs of the Week

Chinese Art Deco Minimalism

Today, minimalism reigns in much of the decorative carpet world. No borders, no traditional patterns, no classic design protocols. It is all so new, or is it? You might be surprised to discover that border less carpets, with minimal or even no patterns, in monochrome colors, were a considerable design thing in America in the 1930’s. The Great Depression affected domestic carpet demand. A flood of Persian goods shouldered aside the dominant Chinese carpets in the 1930’s and exports plummeted. Prices fell and manufacturers’ cost had to be reined in. This meant less design and faster weaving times, reducing labor costs. The trend from jazzy 1920’s Art Deco to more hard edged, more graphic 1930’s Art Deco can be seen in carpets from both European and Chinese sources.

Nichols was the leading, most stylish of the American firms in Tientsin, and most attuned to decorative trends. This group of progressively more minimalist Nichols antique Chinese Art Deco carpets is the result. One of the first things is to eliminate the borders, producing a uniform single allover tonality. On this is laid an asymmetric, two corner pattern.  In our number 20288 (11’9″x 8’10”, 1920), the saturated navy ground is open except for two mountain “coins” in one corner and one diagonally across. These are most subtly embedded in tone-on-tone striated segments. The rich midnight ground does the talking here, a minimalism with a real presence.


Chinese Art-Deco Rug #20288, Size 11’9″ x 8’10”

Minimalism does not have to mean self effacing. Orange-pink, never found in nature,  gives a real punch to our 22091 (12’0″x9’0″, c. 1920) with bamboo fret and writhing dragon  diagonally opposed in the corners. The same tonality appears in number 22131 (15’10″x12’0″, early 1900) which is totally without any pattern, no secondary colors. This is as minimalist as you can get, except the tonality is not. Today, minimalist means taupe, tan, beige, ivory, straw or some other non-color, totally inoffensive, total ignorable. You just can’t ignore Deco Chinese minimalist carpets.


Chinese Art Deco Rug #22091, size 12’0″ x 9’0″

Almost as restrained in pattern is our royal blue carpet number 22616 (13’2″x10’0″, early 1930) with a design wholly delineated by carving alone. The color is magnificent and the subtle pattern makes the viewer’s eye work a bit, which should happen when appreciating a work of art. A close-up picture gives an idea of the subtle style of this piece.


Chinese Art Deco Rug #22616, size 13’2″x10’0″

Finally, two carpets with the same open fields, and geometric bud and rectangle opposite corners are number 20997 (11’4″x8’8″ c. 1930, royal blue) and 21781 (11’3″x8’6″, c. 1930, cardinal red) are wholly in the 30’s style, sharply drawn with a pars-pro-toot rendering of floral ornament. The corners cannot be ignored, but the almost minimalist fields easily dominate.


Chinese Art Deco Rug #20997, size 11’4″ x 8’8″


Chinese Art Deco Rug #21781, size 11’3″x8’6″

What these and other “minimalist” antique Art Deco Chinese carpets have in common are strong, saturated tonalities, superb physical texture and real personalities. Nothing wishy washy or non-committal about them. They have a commanding  presence. Thus minimal need not be synonymous with invisible or ignorable. They worked with Art Deco furniture, the first Western unornamented furnishing style and they will work with whatever you throw at them!.

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The Chinese Carpet Dragon

The dragon is a mythical animal, but you’d never know it from looking at antique Peking Chinese carpets. The Chinese consider the dragon to be a composite of several actual animals: horse, snake, fish, etc.  The phoenix, adapted from gold and silver pheasants, and the kylin, with ungulate hooves and flaming leg joints, are among the other popular mythical creatures appearing on Peking Chinese carpets. But the dragon is by far the most popular. Originally emblematic of the emperor and empire, the dragon came to symbolize anything Chinese. Put a proper style dragon on it, the Chinese reference is automatic. Hence a carpet with a dragon appears Chinese. The dragon(s) set the general tone of origin. The notion of the five-claws dragon being imperial and those with fewer having a lower status was, by the nineteenth century, ignored. Every dragon had five claws on each foot. Dragons appear on large carpets, small scatter rugs and chair furnishings. No listing can be complete, but our extensive collection of antique Peking Chinese rugs and carpets provides a uniquely broad conspectus of these dynamic animals.

The Chinese dragon is a benign beast, no matter how fierce it looks. Dwelling primarily in the clouds, it brings rain, so essential to what for millennia was a primarily agrarian economy.

The dragon appears on antique Peking imperial carpets made for the Forbidden City Palaces from at least the late  16th century. Although we do not have one of these, our no. 19737 is a close copy of an early 17th century carpet. The iconography has already been fixed: a full face central dragon, four corner dragons  in profile, flaming pearls and clouds scattered about, waves and mountains for a border. The dragon is not intended to be goofy, but the weavers can’t help it.


#19737 Chinese – Peking 8’7″ x 9’4″

The five dragon layout can be condensed to antique Chinese chair seat size as displayed on our nos. 22000 and 22074, the latter on a rare dark blue ground. These are Ningxia rather than Peking in origin, but they 8illustrated the basic design protocols. Blue and white is always a popular Chinese color scheme and  dragons make it even more exotic, as on 22893.


The central dragon may be embedded in a circular medallion while the four corner dragons writhe freely as in our nos.  22297 and 22576.

[illustrations of 22297 and 22576]

The full face central dragon may be replaced by a profile beast, as on our antique Peking carpet #23012 Chinese – Peking 8’0″ x 5’2″

Dragons may  share the carpet with phoenixes  or actual animals. A phoenix medallion and corner dragons is a popular  field layout as on 40-2269. The entire gamut of twelve zodiacal animals may be dominated by a dragon, the only mythical beast, as on a blue and white antique Peking rug no. 22314

[illustrations of 40-2269, 22314]

The usual celestial dragon may be opposed by a rare terrestrial  creature wrapped around a needle-like peak as on   22809 and 23144, both blue and white from the same shop and designer.

[illustrations of 22809 and 23144]

A veritable herd of dragons appears in the field and border of the antique Peking rug 22458 with composite foliage dragons in the medallion, corners and border, 14 in all


#22458 chinese -peking 9’0″ x 7’3″


There are a few amusing dragon variants in  Peking Chinese antique rugs that cannot escape notice. Three dimensional dragons wrap the border and extend into the field which is centred by a dragon and phoenix medallion in carpet no. 22921. A blue and white carpet (no. 22808) displays eight winged dragons, a Western rather than Chinese conceit.

[illustrations of 22921. 22808]


#22808 chinese-peking 6’0″ x 8’9″

Finally, consider the small, almost secretive dragons as heads emerging from fretwork or vinery. This design convention goes back to at least Han dynasty times on bronzes and on rugs to the seventeenth century. A few examples on Peking antique carpets will suffice: 22837,  22942.

[illustrations of 22837, 22942.]

The dragon is a universal beast, but it first appears in Chinese art and any rug that prominently displays it is likely to be Chinese, most likely a Peking Chinese carpet of the 1880-1940 period. Our collection of these attractive and decorative carpets, so imaginatively rich, is the most comprehensive anywhere.  Here there be dragons.

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Rug of the Week

Antique American Hooked Rug.


American hooked rug #17201 7’6″ x 7’0″

Everything, at least as far a decorative new carpets are concerned, is looking pretty abstract. A brief glance at interior design and floor covering magazines gives one a strong sense of what is out there: asymmetrical, border less, shaded or bold, but no outlines, nothing representational or traditional, totally abstract, just like the wall candy paintings. This must be something innovative. Carpets never looked that way before.

Or did they?

Carpets that resemble abstract, non-figural paintings have been around since the 1920’s, just not “Oriental” ones. A select group of American hooked rugs are squarely in the abstract style. When one thinks of antique American hooked rugs, whether fabric or yarn, kitschy, folky, rustic depictions come strongly to mind: dogs, farmhouses, vases of flowers, and so on. We have plenty of these; just peruse our inventory and you can get your domestic Americana itch scratched.

But Klimt? Carpet number 17201 (7.0 by 7.6, c. 1920) is totally abstract, but has a style redolent of the early 20th century Viennese master, not to mention other artists of the period. The swirling, vibrating circle-in-square corner pieces may remind one of Van Gogh’s vibrating suns or Munch’s sky pattern in “The Scream”. But the real excitement is in the random array of colorful squares and rectangles densely filling the field. Make them round and you get Klimt’s coruscating backgrounds in his pre-1914 portraits. Exactly. Where Klimt used gold, the anonymous hooked rug artist employed yellow, but the effect is similar: a mobile effect, shimmering, with colors coming forwards and receding, the eye kept moving, but never tiring. Klimt’s pictures have figuration, representations cores or essential elements, whereas this carpet is wholly formalized.

But you can’t (or won’t) hang this antique American hooked carpet on the wall. Or can you?  The small, square size is perfect for the wall. And what a focus of the room it would be! Don’t forget, a hooked rug is lighter, area for area, than an oriental, and hanging small ones is one way to display a collection. Larger abstract fabric hooked carpets, e.g., our number 17461 (10’2 X 9’2″ c. 1920) and number 19942 (12’4″ X 9’0″9.0 c.1920) are best displayed on the floor with furniture, no matter how contemporary, properly deferential. The absence of borders in all three pieces makes then ultra-up-to-date. One on the wall, another on the floor. Wow! A collection just got started.


American hooked rug #17461 10’2″ x 9’2″


American hooked rug 12’4″ x 9’0″

New England Collections makes contemporary hooked rugs in repeating, allover or modular patterns, but custom orders are entertained and copies (that slippery word), or creative interpretations, can be made of any piece in our vast collection of antique American hooked rugs or from a photo or drawing.

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Rug of the Week

Antique Peking Chinese Landscape Pictorial Carpet.

23194 for blog

Rug #23194 7’8 x 5’2″ Chinese Peking

Chinese painting goes back at least to the early centuries AD, on wall and portable on silk scrolls. It has been, at least from the 10th century under the Sung Dynasty, most esteemed when landscape is the primary subject matter. Figure painting, especially in the Chinning Dynasty ancestor portraits, has been a decidedly secondary consideration and the latter really are not considered art at all by rigorous Chinese connoisseurs.  Landscape (shan/shui, mountain and water) is the true goal of the artist.  But painting are not intended to be true representations, but landscapes of the mind, abstracted, formalized, idealized. Landscape painting has affected other Chinese art media: porcelain, jade and hard stone carving, lacquer work, snuff bottles, textiles, literally everything. That it has been a carpet design source is obviously predictable.

Our antique Peking Chinese carpet number 23194 (7’8″ x 5’2″) is a prime example of this influence.  The anonymous Chinese designer, clearly familiar with hanging scrolls, has put a painting on a pile rug. Among the traditional motives are: an arched stone bridge, a similarly arched brick storage building with round top double doors (probably a granary), a wine shop flying a banner announcing that it is open for business, a rustic gazebo on a promontory, a two level pavilion further back on the hill, various iconic vegetation like grape vines and pine branches, and multi color swirling, knotted clouds. Conspicuous by their absence are munchkinoid humanoid figures: the ambling scholar with his staff, the fisherman in his cockleshell boat, the leisured gentleman taking in the scene from one of the airy buildings. The season looks like summer and this is no surprise since the home of painting for centuries was the old capital of Nanjing, a warm, subtropical city.

The color scheme of number 23194 is warm, with a gold ground in harmony with the secondary blue tones. Were it a classic blue and white antique Peking carpet, the effect would be significantly cooler. This rug comes right at the viewer and is laded with exotic, anecdotal charm. Peking Chinese pictorial rugs are often room size and depict fantasy palaces ensconced amid lakes and mountains, in both blue and white, and poly chrome, as here, palettes. The Chinese designer drew on a bottomless reservoir of interchangeable design elements to produce an unmistakably oriental creation. The rug was woven in the first quarter of the 20th century for the American market. So where do you put the furniture? A chair on the bridge? A coffee table on the wine shop? A floor lamp on the gazebo?  Or give it some breathing room and use it as a window (on the floor!) into a lost, imaginary time and place.


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