Northwest Persia, late nineteenth century
The elusive ‘Northwest’ label has often been applied to carpets that display close ties to those of the Caucasus region, but combined with other, distinct features that link them with the rug weaving of the Northwest Persian region just to the south. This lovely example truly exemplifies the complexities of the ‘Northwest’ genre. The field consists of the classic Caucasian “Afshan’ or ‘Afshan Repeat’ pattern, a design built around radial groupings of four thinly proportioned, curling, lily-like flowers arranged diagonally. These floral arrays repeat across the field in alternation with scalloped round medallions filled by smaller floral detail. Yet unlike most Caucasian Afshan rugs, which have an angular drawing and an arrangement in stiff vertical rows, this example displays a much more fluid and elegant draftsmanship, along with a more complicated and fine-scaled staggered arrangement. In this regard it has more in common with the Classical palatial Blossom’ carpets of the eighteenth century, attributed alternatively to the Caucasus or Northwest Persia, and which are regarded as the inspiration behind the ‘Afshan’ design. This piece comes especially close to such forerunners, both in the long and narrow proportions of the carpet, and in its coloration, which features a soft variegated blue ground with floral details in shades of cream, gold, cinnamon, and aubergine. Then again, the stylized vinescoll or ‘serrated leaf ‘main border, along with the outer border of angular S-forms, seem so very Caucasian, along with the geometric space fillers of the field. But however complex its sources, this carpet has synthesized them all into a decorative masterpiece worthy of the long tradition behind it.