Antique 16th Century Persian Safavid Salting Rug 48639

Size: 2 ft 3 in x 4 ft 4 in (0.69 m x 1.32 m)
Origin: Persian Rugs

Rare and Highly Collectible Antique 16th Century Persian Safavid Salting Rug, Country of Origin: Persia – Possibly Kashan or Isfahan, Circa Date: Second half 16th century

PROVENANCE Of The Salting Rug:

  • French & Co., New York
  • Jean Mikaeloff
  • Yves Mikaeloff
  • The Textile Gallery, London


  • Loan Exhibition of Early Oriental Carpets, Arts Club of Chicago, Chicago, January, 1926


  • Arthur Upham Pope, Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of Early Oriental Carpets, Arts Club of Chicago, Chicago, ex. cat., 1926, no. 11

The Salting Rug Inscription reads:

  • “Once again the flower has raised her head and flared the petals of her robe for her admirers”
  • “Cypress mine, come quickly at the kiss of dawn”
  • “The bud has bloomed and the nightingale has sung in the garden”
  • “The clouds at the gates of Eden, in this garden, half…”

A 16th Century Safavid part-cotton and part-metal-thread fragmentary rug, Kashan or Isphahan. This early carpet is part of the so-called ‘Salting rug’ group of Safavid rugs. Named for a carpet bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum by George Salting upon his death in 1909, the attribution and dating of this group of rugs fell into question during the mid-twentieth century.

During the mid century, some scholars suggested that these carpets were copies of Safavid works manufactured during late 19th century in Turkey. Revered by early scholars such as Pope, Martin, Sarre, Kühnel, von Bode and Migeon, the antique Salting rugs were considered superb examples of Safavid carpet weaving.

When these antique rugs appeared on the market they were purchased by renowned collectors such as Charles Yerkes, Dikran Kelekian, Albert Goupil and Stefano Bardini. A number of these carpets made their way to institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Carpet Museum in Tehran and the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore.

Salting rugs can be divided into two sub-groups:

  1. Ones with central medallions:
    1. These are generally enhanced by floral and animal motifs and verses of calligraphy.
  2. Ones with a niche format:
    1. These tends to be dominated by a mihrab and woven with floral designs and verses from the Koran.

Two excellent examples of prayer rugs from the second group are ‘The New York Niche Rug,’ (sold Sotheby’s New York, January 31, 2014, lot 93), and the Safavid silk and metal-thread niche rug (sold Sotheby’s London, November 3, 2009, lot 276).

Because of its design including Shah Abbas palmettes and structure of with asymmetrical knots tied on a silk foundation, the 16th century Salting rug offered here belongs to a group of twenty-seven ‘Salting’ medallion rugs (see: Dr. John Mills, “The Salting Group: a History and Clarification,” Oriental Carpet and Textile Studies, volume V-2, 1999, pp. 1-17). This group of Salting rugs are characterized by a particularly fine weave and the use of metal-thread embellishment.

Comparable weaving examples are the von Pannwitz rug (in the Thyssen Bornemisza Collection), the Baker carpet (in the Metropolitan Museum), the Goupil carpet (in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris) and another example in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The design of this rug is similar to these related examples is many ways:

  • The presence of smaller medallions inside larger polylobed ones.
  • The elongated shapes of birds and the treatment of their feathers which are worked in wool on a metal- thread ground.
  • The depiction of the tigers’ hide, and the undulating drawing of branches, among others.

* What differentiates this specific carpet from the other famed examples is the inclusion of white cotton in the pile.

Another known carpet of this type with cotton highlights is the so-called Darius of the Universe carpet (in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum in Milan). However, the cotton in the present piece is used much more abundantly than in the Milan carpet.

Although incomplete, the calligraphy of this carpet clearly tells the onlooker about love and the passions of the flesh. The inclusion of the calligraphy in the inner guard borders is rather unusual but comparable examples are known, such as the aforementioned Poldi Pezzoli carpet, the Czartoryski rug in Krakow and the Rothschild-Khalili carpet.

Despite being fragmentary, this carpet is undoubtedly an outstanding example of a medallion group ‘Salting rug’.

Understandably, Arthur Upham Pope praised this rug in his 1926 Catalogue of the Loan Exhibition of Early Oriental Carpets the following way: “Such firmness of texture, such exquisite delineation, such variety, such freedom of spacing … these are so rare as to furnish a test by which other designs and weavings are to be judged.”


Warp: silk, Z2S, Yellow
Weft: silk, Z spun, 3 shoots, yellow
Pile: wool & cotton, asymmetrical knot open to the left
Density: 20-22 horizontal, 24 vertical
Sides: not extant
Ends: not extant

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