Caucasus, late 18th century / early 19th century
351 x 190 cm (11’ 6” x 6’ 3”)
Condition: good, pile low in places, corroded brown, both kilim ends partially restored, selvedges mostly original, scattered old repairs
Warp: wool, weft: wool, pile: wool
The development of the classical Caucasian Dragon carpet design was said by Charles Grant Ellis to have begun in Shirvan or Karabagh in the late 17th century (Early Caucasian Rugs, 1976). Connoisseurs tend to associate such Dragon carpets with 17th- and 18th-century Caucasian production. However, there is also evidence for 19th-century production of large carpets with this pattern.
The present rug belongs to a series of at least six published pile carpets with a version of the classical design for which both attribution and dating remain controversial, but which, to a greater or lesser degree, are close in their articulation of the design to the angularity of 19th-century Dragon sumakh covers.
All are oddities. The first, exhibited by Kailash Gallery at TEFAF Maastricht in the 80s, seemed to be a Kurdish version of a 17th-century Caucasian dragon carpet, with many of the structural features associated with more conventional Kurdish rugs (HALI 38, p. 26). The second, sold by Rippon Boswell in 1991 (HALI 58, p. 158) was anomalous in structure and colour, and the closest parallels seemed to be with West Anatolian weavings. A third, closer to the Dragon sumakh design, was with Bausback (HALI 61, p. 61), a fourth with Mirzakhanian (HALI 63, p. 25, assigned to Anatolia), and a fifth, very similar, was sold as East Anatolian by Christies (HALI 69, p. 146).
Then there is this rug, which was acquired at Rippon Boswell in Wiesbaden in 1993 (HALI 70, p. 140). Of the six, it is the closest pile version of a Dragon sumakh and there is no real reason why it should be considered nearly a century earlier. A 19th-century dating seems just as likely as an 18th, and does not in any way affect its quality or interest.
For an intriguing if speculative reinterpretation of the source of the still-enigmatic Dragon and related floral carpets see John T. Wertime and Richard E. Wright, The Tabriz Hypothesis, in Asian Art: The Second Hali Annual, 1995, p. 3053.
Estimate: € 30000 - 50000