Western Turkey, late 19th century - wool pile on wool foundation
The carpets produced in Oushak, western Turkey, during the later nineteenth century present the viewer with an unusual combination of qualities. Prized for their silky wool and supple handle, they possess the robust scale and drawing of smaller tribal weaving while also drawing on the more sophisticated design tradition of large-scale urban carpets. During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the Classical tradition of Turkish weaving established at Oushak gave way to a bolder weaving style more typical of smaller Turkish village rugs, but one that could compete with the Persian weaving industry in the production of larger decorative carpets for the western market. In contrast to most Oushaks of this period, which have central medallion or allover vinescroll and mina khani trellis patterns, this one has an unusual design composed of hexagonal and pointed oval medallions linked together as a larger, repeating star pattern. The source here is ultimately the famous ‘Star Ushak’ carpets of the earlier Ottoman period in Turkey, but now adapted as a more extensive repeating design. Smaller bouquets and vine sprays fill the intervening space between the star forms. A grand red-ground border of intersecting cartouches also recalls earlier Classical Persian and Turkish carpets, but treated with an angular geometry that nicely contrasts with the more fluid, scalloped drawing of the field. The lustrous wool with its soft tonality in tans, pale greens, and browns is accented or animated beautifully by the details in red. A masterful balance of boldness and delicacy.