An Arts and Crafts Donegal Rug from Morton & Co

Exploring a Donegal Arts and Crafts Rug

Today, we dive deeply into the history, motifs, and magnificence of this Donegal carpet of Morton & Co design. We view the carpet through the eye of guest author Ann Mullen, a lover of Donegal Arts & Crafts.

This guest blog was written by Ann Mullen. 

This large antique carpet depicts an Irish garden replete with excellent artistry, craftsmanship, and quality of wool (spun and dyed in natural colors) which has retained its sheen and developed a soft patina.

Irish Donegal Guest Blog Nazmiyal

Irish Donegal Arts & Crafts Design Rug

To gaze on to this romantic beauty is to step directly into a garden of La Belle Epoque. Set in late spring/early summer, in this garden scene there are highly stylized flora including wisteria, clematis, and poppies; the formal borders depict a mass of blooming shamrock, clover, agrimony, and forget-me-nots.

The central medallion and corner brackets each depict a single forget-me-not flower, indicating that this carpet was commissioned with a private message secreted through the language of flowers – a long-standing habit of Europeans.

Donegal Arts and Crafts Rug Medallion Detail Nazmiyal

Detail of the carpet’s medallion.

Here, the diagram has been created by Morton who has, at once, encompassed the classic manufacture and design requirements of Islamic Persian carpets while availing of the high-quality natural dyeing and spinning techniques employed by Irish artisans of the west of Ireland.

While the Irish artisans were trained to tie the Turkish or Ghiordes knot, their carpets are revered for the natural dyes which are a departure from those of the Near, Middle and Far East.

Donegal Arts and Crafts Rug Back Nazmiyal

The back of the carpet.

As such, the Irish color palate is desirable to lovers of handwoven carpets because it reflects natural dyes indigenous to the land. Donegal carpets are outstanding due not only to Morton’s wonderful contemporary designs but also to the color combinations reflecting the ability of Irish artisans to dye in abundance pale yellows, greens and blues which are highly prized south of the Mediterranean. (Take note of the sparing use of red, created using insect dye, or lac, which was and still is imported into Ireland.)

Arts and Crafts Donegal Rug Dye Colors Nazmiyal

A closer look at the dye colors of the carpet.

So desirable are Morton & Co. carpet designs as woven by Irish artisans that when Donegal Carpets closed the last of its doors in 1987, Middle Eastern artisans were already creating copies in abundance. Nevertheless, despite their facsimiles – of innate quality and often with greater thread counts – the sheen materialized by the Irish dyes could not and cannot be successfully replicated abroad. This carpet is a rare example of high quality and aesthetic discipline from every realm.

This guest rug blog by Ann Mullen was published by Nazmiyal Antique Rugs.

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