Silk Kirman double-niche garden rug sold for 1,076,500 GBP!

Silk Kirman double-niche garden rug, signed by Ibrahim ibn Aqa Baqir Kirmani, south east Persia, late 19th century, Acquired from Eberhart Herrmann, Germany, circa 1978 Thence by descent, This rare signed and dated Kirman silk rug derives its design from the tradition of Kirman ‘Garden’ carpets, considered to be among the most beautiful Persian carpets, the earliest of which is in the Albert Hall Museum, Jaipur, circa 1622-32.

The present example is published in Eberhart Herrmann, Von Lotto bis Tekke, Seltene Orientteppiche Aus Vier Jahrhunderten, Munich, 1978, no.51, where its date was read as 1208 AH/1793-94 AD. The date of the carpet is somewhat obscured by the presence of the two dots under the ya’ of Ibrahim and the date could alternatively be read as 1308 or 1318 AH.

The configuration of the garden design, with four compartments arranged around a central pond, closely follows its Safavid predecessors. The streams, here rendered with curved lines evoking the rippling water, meet at the centre of the rug in a star-shaped pond. The resulting quadrants are each filled with mirrored designs of birds, flowers and cypress trees enclosed by the double-niche.

This double-niche composition is unusual but can be related to The Antonia Garden-Niche Inscribed Rug woven in wool, dated Sha’ban 1128 AH/July-August 1716 AD in a private collection, Milan, and recently exhibited in Glorious Flowers in Wool: The Art of Kerman Carpets from 1535–1750 in Italian Collections, Palazzo Posestà o di Nicolosio Lomellino, Genoa, 4-12 February 2023. Another, referred to in the accompanying exhibition text, is recorded in the Imam Reza Shrine (Astan Quds) Carpet Museum Mashhad, and illustrated in HALI, no.190, p.59, fig.5. Two examples with double niches in silk pile are referred to with Eberhart Herrmann, one of which is most likely the present rug.

The design of this example is almost identical to the Mashhad example, and is closely related to the Antonia rug. Each carpet displays a star-shaped pond, and the surrounding cartouches are also filled with cypress trees, flowers and birds. It would appear that the weaver has created a repeat pattern derived from the upper right quadrant of the Genoa example that he has reflected on the horizontal and vertical axes to produce a double niche design. In many ways, the weaver has captured the beauty of his Safavid inspiration. The soft abrash that undulates between sea-blue and green evokes a feeling of rolling hills or rippling water in the garden setting. The flowerheads are lush and in full bloom with minor flowers in cheerful shades of yellow and rose-pink.

In the late nineteenth century, artists across different mediums demonstrated an interest in earlier Safavid styles, responding to the European demand that gave impetus to a revival and renewal of traditional techniques. This was true of the carpet industry, and it was around this time that Safavid carpets such as the renowned Ardabil carpet left Persia to enter foreign collections (Ekhtiar and Sardar 2004). The production of this carpet most likely relates to this push among Qajar weavers to restore the industry and that our weaver encountered the rug in the Imam Reza Shrine and took it as his inspiration.

The Mashhad example would go on to be exhibited in the Burlington House exhibition in 1931 along with a select group of carpets and returned to the shrine at the close of the exhibition (Maktabi 2016, p.65). Maktabi notes that “Historically, the shrine has been off limits to non-Muslims and its treasures the stuff of legend described by those who had seen them first hand” (Maktabi 2016, p.59). The presence of this rare weave thus allows us a glimpse at its magnificent Safavid predecessor. Sotheby’s, Estimate
15,000 - 20,000 GBP,

Sold for 1,076,500 GBP