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Met Museum Antique Rugs

A Visit to Nazmiyal Antique Rugs and the Met Museum Make the Perfect Trip

When you are visiting New York City as a lover of antique rugs, there are two places that you should put on your list. The first is our beautiful collection at the Nazmiyal Collection gallery, and the second is the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met Museum houses one of the most extensive collections of 17th century rugs and early carpets in the world, and these magnificent pieces will make a lasting impression.

Persian Rug Met Museum Nazmiyal

A cotton rug at the Met Museum. It is known to be Persian, and thought to be Isfahan.

How Does the Met Museum Collection Compare to Other Collections?

The collection at the Met is one of two of the world’s most impressive antique Oriental rug collections. The other world-class collection is housed at the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. If one were to compare these two collections, the collection at Topkapi Palace has some of the rarest and oldest carpets and the world. Its collection focuses on the Ottoman Empire because of its location in the palace occupied by the Ottoman Sultans in the 15th century. This collection focuses on a specific time and place. Topkapi has over 800 pieces, but typically only 40 or 50 are on display at a time.

Met Museum Savonnerie Carpet Nazmiyal

“Carpet with Fame and Fortitude”, a Savonnerie carpet from 1668-85 at the Met Museum.

If one were to compare the collection at the Met, it is more extensive and covers a broader range of carpet types, time periods and geographic locations. The collection at the Met gives you a broader perspective on the development of carpets throughout the world. It also allows you to explore the cultural connections throughout history that influence carpet design. The selection at the Met includes over 1,100 carpets in its collection, and the display rotates continually. Sometimes, they have special exhibitions that concentrate on a specific group or type of carpet.

Another difference between the collection at the Topkapi Palace and the Met is that the one at Topkapi focuses on the Ottoman Empire. The collection at the Met has an extensive assortment of carpets from the Safavid Court and carpets of the Persian Empire. It is one of the most comprehensive collections of carpets of the Persian Court in the world. The Met also has a selection of other carpets from different areas of the world, making it possible to compare carpets of different cultures.

Met Museum Animal Rug Nazmiyal

“Confronted Animal Rug”, a 14th century Turkish carpet from the Met Museum’s collection.

Highlights of the Met Museum Collection

Every collection has crowning pieces that make it stand out. One of the top pieces in the collection of the Met that deserves special attention is the Emperor’s Carpet. This piece dates from the second half of the sixteenth century and was once used in the summer residence of the Habsburg emperors. This carpet features dragons, Chinese antelope, lions, buffalo, tigers, ducks and pheasants. The style of the carpet demonstrates the connection between the Persian Empire and China. It shows that the cultural exchange between the Persian Empire and China traveled in both directions. It is one of the most important museum quality rugs in the collection.

The Emperor's Carpet Met Museum Nazmiyal

The Emperor’s Carpet, owned by the Met Museum.

One of the highlights of visiting the collection is seeing their extensive collection of historical carpets from the 16th through the 18th centuries. Within their collection, they have carpets from some of the most important carpet producing centers of the world including Tabriz, Savonnerie and Spanish carpet centers. They also have an exquisite collection of Polonaise carpets from the first half of the seventeenth century. It also has several Ottoman Court carpets from the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The Met has a large selection of prayer niche or mihrab design carpets. It also has a few carpets of the types featured in paintings of the Italian Renaissance called the Lotto carpets. They have one of the most extensive collections of these types of carpets on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a treat to be able to see one up close and personal.

Lotto Carpet Met Museum Nazmiyal

Late 16th century “Lotto Carpet” at the Met Museum.

Some of the most impressive pieces in the collection are made from silk wrapped with metal threads. These extraordinary carpets are difficult to describe with words, and you have to experience them. These carpets were once used for special state events of the Safavid Empire and reflect some of the most skilled carpet artisans in history.

Another exceptional group that is often displayed is the Ghirlandaio carpets. These carpets were featured in paintings by the late 19th-century artist, Domenico Ghirlandaio. The Met has a large selection of these carpets, and this is another one that you do not want to miss while you are in the area.

The Met Museum Persian Carpet Nazmiyal

A 16th-17th century Persian carpet owned by the Met Museum with silk, metal-wrapped threads.

More About The Emperor’s Carpet At The Met Museum

Now housed at the Metropolitan Museum’s rug collection in New York City, the Emperor’s Carpet has had a journey spanning centuries to get to its current place of honor. As the name suggests, this carpet was first designed for use in a royal palace court in the 16th century, in an area that was then known as the Persian Empire and today is part of Iran. It represents a glorious time in the production of textile arts, with its materials and designs serving as a physical reminder of a rich and glorious history.

The Design of the Emperor’s Carpet

Flowers, cloud bands, arabesques and various fauna decorate the exterior border of this fine carpet. These animals are in some cases real and in others fantastical. They include dragons, lions, qilins, stags and birds. There is also a repeating theme of intricately stylized calligraphy with verses praising the emperor and poetically espousing the wonders of nature. One phrase translates: “Come, for the breeze of spring has renewed the promise of the meadow.”

The rug pile of this special early rug is comprised of wool, while the warp and weft are impressively wrought in pure silk. Dark shades of green, deep red hues, lustrous gold and silver and even hints of purple speckle this majestically beautiful rug, adding to its transfixing character. The Emperor’s Carpet also demonstrates one of the most impressive features of Persian rugs: consistent bilateral symmetry.

The Emperor's Carpet Nazmiyal

The Metropolitan Museum’s Emperor’s Carpet

The History and What the Design Can Teach Us

Pinpointing the exact place and time that an antique was crafted can be a daunting task, especially when the piece has suffered a significant degree of wear over the many years of its existence. However, a knowledge of art history allows for extrapolating the origin by observing the themes present in the carpet’s design.

Interweaving vine patterns like those on the Emperor’s Carpet occur regularly in the artwork of the Safavid period. The style and grammar of the calligraphy also help to date this piece. We can assert with a fair degree of confidence that, due to the occurrence of Chinese themes such as the qilins and dragons, this carpet demonstrates cultural exchange between Chinese and Persian societies, which indicates that it was made in the courtly style of Tabriz.

In order to pinpoint the location, we must look at other design elements. The presence of animals, as well as the arabesques, scrolls and floral elaboration, is commonly found in Oriental carpets crafted in the province of Khorassan, in the city of Herat. Confirming this is the use of color: blue and green with touches of yellow along the border, and a ground of red and purple.

The Emperor's Carpet Met Museum NYC Nazmiyal

The Emperor’s carpet at the Met Museum in NYC.

As far as where the carpet was used, the first clue that it was made for a royal court is the luxurious quality of its materials — predominantly silk. Furthermore, praises to the shah in the verses recur throughout the piece. Looking at the animal heads poking out from the shrubbery and vines, we can relate this element to the sport of hunting, which was not only popular during the Safavid dynasty but was particularly reserved for royalty. All of these distinctive style elements point to the carpet’s being a possession of the court of Shah Tahmasp, who ruled from 1524 until 1576.

By nailing down the origin of this masterpiece, it becomes easier to trace the path that it took through time, thanks to historic records. While we do not know how the transfer was made, by the year 1700, the Emperor’s Carpet was owned by Peter the Great, Russia‘s monarch at the time. It was then given to the Hapsburg family and stayed in the royal court of Austria until it became a museum piece in 1921. After passing between various museums, it finally landed at the Metropolitan Museum in 1941, where it remains to this day.

The Emperor’s Carpet Symbolism

Artistic analysis allows us to make inferences when interpreting the meaning behind the design symbols present in the Emperor’s Carpet . The images of springtime nature seem to allude to the mythological Persian Garden of Paradise. Throughout the verses, we can see different comparisons being made between the dominion of the Safavid and this natural beauty. The empire is compared to gems, flowers, meadows and even the sky. One interpretation of the meaning of this carpet is that it portrays the shah’s domain as being much like the Divine Garden of myth, and in so doing, it characterizes the shah as a godlike figure.

The Emperor's Carpet Closeup Nazmiyal

A close up view of the Emperor’s carpet.

Add a Masterpiece to Your Story

While the astounding Emperor’s Carpet can only be seen in the Metropolitan Museum, you can find many other antique carpets with histories of their own in our collection at Nazmiyal. Whether you are a collector of historic pieces or simply want to add a unique multicultural flair to your home, there is a whole world to discover when you peruse our gallery.

Visiting the Met Museum Collection

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Fifth Avenue is open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It is also open Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. If there is a specific piece that you would like to see, be sure to call or visit the museum website to make sure that it is on display. Also, sometimes the museum will allow exclusive access to the collection for students if you call ahead and make arrangements.

Simonetti Carpet Met Museum Nazmiyal

“Simonetti Carpet”, one of the most famous Mamluk carpets, owned by the Met Museum.

If one were to put together a list of the most important carpet collections in the world, it would include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Topkapi Palace, Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum in Istanbul, and of course the collection in our Gallery at Nazmiyal.

We have a wide selection of carpets in our collection, and sometimes, we are fortunate enough to be able to offer museum-quality pieces going as far back as the 16th century. Our collection features pieces from the Ottoman Empire, Safavid Empire, great master weavers of the late twentieth century, and a wonderful selection of Anatolian tribal carpets. We also have carpets from important eras in carpet history such as the weavers of Donegal, Ireland, Spanish carpets and some from the French aristocracy of the 18th century.

You may also want to read our post about the: Metropolitan Museum’s Emperor’s Carpet

You can search our rugs online, and have one of these world treasures for your own collection. Our staff is willing to assist you in any way possible to help you in your selection and acquisition of these rare rugs.

Check out some of our museum quality pieces from the Nazmiyal Collection:

Rare Antique 17th Century Gallery Size Khorassan Persian Rug Nazmiyal

Rare Antique 17th Century Gallery Size Khorassan Persian Rug

Antique 17th Century Caucasian Kuba Star Embroidery Nazmiyal

Antique 17th Century Caucasian Kuba Star Embroidery

Antique 17th Century Transylvanian Rug Nazmiyal

Antique 17th Century Transylvanian Rug

Antique 16th Century Persian Safavid Salting Rug Nazmiyal

Antique 16th Century Persian Safavid Salting Rug

Antique 17th Century Persian Esfahan Rug Nazmiyal

Antique 17th Century Persian Esfahan Rug

Oversized 17th Century Hunting Scene Persian Isfahan Rug Nazmiyal

Oversized 17th Century Hunting Scene Persian Isfahan Rug

17th Century Antique Persian Isfahan Rug Nazmiyal

17th Century Antique Persian Isfahan Rug

Antique Gallery Size 17th Century Isfahan Persian Rug Nazmiyal

Antique Gallery Size 17th Century Isfahan Persian Rug

Rare Antique 17th Century Gallery Size Khorassan Persian Rug Nazmiyal

Rare Antique 17th Century Gallery Size Khorassan Persian Rug

Antique 17th Century Persian Vase Kerman Carpet Nazmiyal

Antique 17th Century Persian Vase Kerman Carpet

Antique 17th Century Persian Khorassan Carpet from William A. Clark Nazmiyal

Antique 17th Century Persian Khorassan Carpet from William A. Clark

Oversized Antique 17th Century Persian Esfahan Oriental Rug Nazmiyal

Oversized Antique 17th Century Persian Esfahan Oriental Rug

Large Antique 17th Century Mughal Gallery Carpet Nazmiyal

Large Antique 17th Century Mughal Gallery Carpet

This rug blog about the Met Museum antique rug collection was published by Nazmiyal Antique Rug Gallery in NYC.

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