Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Safavid Animal Carpets

                                                                               Map of Safavid Iran 1501-1722

The Emperor’s Animal Carpet in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

Czar Peter the Great of Russia presented a pair of animal design Safavid carpets as gifts to the emperor of Austria, Leopold I in 1698. It is unknown if this pair was commissioned by the Czar to the Safavid court or was acquired after they were made in the court workshops. In much later date, these carpets became the property of the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna. One of these carpets which are now called the Emperor’s Carpet is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

On the technical notes, the size of this magnificent Emperor’s carpet is 330 cm by 751 cm,  or 10’ 10” x 24’ 8”. It is made of asymmetrical knots with silk warp and weft. The pile is wool. It is finely and densely woven with around 400 knots per square inch. It is obvious that the dye is all natural. It is believed that this rug was made in mid16th century in the reign of Shah Tahmasp who ruled Iran from 1524 to 1576. Since Isfahan became the capital of the Safavid dynasty by Shah Abbas I (Ruled 1578-16250) in 1598, this asymmetrically knotted carpet could not be made in Isfahan. Tabriz was the capital from the inception of the Safavids from 1501 to 1555. However, since the weaving of this carpet is in asymmetrical knots, this cannot be woven in the royal workshops of Tabriz. Another possible place with long history of carpet weaving tradition is Herat. Therefore, it might be safe to claim that this Emperor’s carpet was made in Herat in northeast Iran, in the province of Khorasan. Herat became a part of Afghanistan in mid19th century.  

The size, color palette, design, construction, and other variables and details of this beautiful masterpiece are in accordance with other Safavid carpets kept in museums around the world and in private collections. Some of the animals in this carpet look real, while others are fantastic and imaginary mythical creatures. Some of them are alone and some are in combat. 

Dr. Khosrow Sobhe (Dr. Kay)
Certified Rug Specialist (CRS)
Tel. 310-770-9085
The pictures are the courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the map is the courtesy of Wikipedia.


  1. I'm fascinated with the history and designs of rugs and carpets. For a carpet newbie lie me, this post is so informative.

  2. Amazing, I like how they put pictures of real and mythical creatures on the rugs. I think I see leopards and lions?


  3. Great Blog!! That was amazing. Your thought processing is wonderful. The way you tell the thing is awesome. You are really a master.

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