Antique Peking Chinese Landscape Pictorial Carpet.
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.