журнал ARTCARPET ArtCarpet #6 2021 ENG - Page 15


A group of early fabulous Animal carpets

Armen Tokatlian ,
Historian of Oriental art
In the 1990s five complete and fragmented fabulous animal carpets appeared on the market . Let us look at the images of this valuable discovery and solve its mysteries …
It was known that carpet emergence on the market was due to dissolution of Tibet monasteries under Chinese invasion . Later these carpets were sold on Kathmandu market . Nowadays they are being kept in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York , the Bruschettini Collection of Genoa , the MIA in Doha and two private collections .
Predominantly these carpets and fragments have stylised abstract pattern of tetrapods with a raised foreleg . There is a smaller similar animal inside their bodies . The borders filled with pseudoornamental Arabic script or geometrical motifs . These striking and mysterious animals differ in design from other known examples of fantastic animal carpets stored in Berlin and Stockholm museums , since 1886 and 1925 respectively .
As radiocarbon test , an illustration in the famous manuscript of Great Mongol Shahnama ( around 1330 ) and Italian artist Gregorio di Cecco di Luca ' s painting The Marriage of the Virgin ( 1423 ) witness , the aforementioned five carpets were presumably woven during the XIV-XV centuries . This is terminus ante quem * date for existing carpets of related design . The source of inspiration and the place of production of these five animal carpets are still unknown .
There are some opinions that animal pattern design could be connected with Iranian textiles stored in museums and collections . Fantastic composite winged creatures woven in the textiles are associated with the mythical Semruv of the Pehlevi tradition
( Simorgh in Farsi ). According to carbon-14ing dates tests such samples date back to VIII-X centuries . Semruv image appeared during the Sasanian epoch in the V century in the archaeological site of Taq-e Bustan in western Iran . Sogdian image of this winged creature is shown in the wall painting dated back to 660 in the pre-Mongol Samrakand town Afrasyab .
It is also worth taking into consideration animal pattern and several stylistic iconic elements shown in a group of textiles of the IX-X centuries , usually refered as zandaniji in Islamic sources .
The images of deer , ducks and horned rams with geometrical ornamentation in their bodies are depicted on these textiles . They are not just elements of decor , but symbolic and mystical significance of animals .
It is difficult to establish the interaction and borrowings between Indo-Persian and Central Asian cultures at the early stages . But reappropriation of ancient genuine motifs and their iconic transformation into those fabulous animal carpets is not a coincidence . Chinese textiles embellished with Sogdian and Persian symbols made for export or diplomatic gifts were found in large numbers outside China .
What was the origin of this group of carpets and which chronology could be proposed ?
Based on technical aspects of those five carpets and fragments such as symmetrical wool knot
* Terminus ante quem and terminus post quem ( Latin ), archaeological dating is rarely precise , It often only indicates that one event cannot be later ( or earlier ) than another ( ed .).
DECEMBER ’ 21 C A R P E T 15