The Emperor’s Carpet At The Met Museum
Now housed at the Metropolitan Museum 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 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.
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.
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.