Antique Mamluk Rugs

Mamluk Rugs History By Nazmiyal

Learning about beautiful Antique Mamluk Rugs

Mamluk Rugs – The Mamluk Dynasty, originally “slave-soldiers” of Turkic descent, came to power in Egypt in the mid thirteenth century. By the fifteenth century they had established a thriving carpet industry in their capital, Cairo.

Many examples of these Malmuk carpets have been preserved. Their designs are quite complex, consisting of large medallions made up of intersecting compartments of various forms adapted from the great tradition of Islamic geometric ornament.

The borders consisted of oblong medallions or cartouches. The smaller details of Mamluk carpets, however, relate closely to contemporary Ottoman Turkish carpets, no doubt reflecting the close commercial and cultural ties that existed between both realms.

Mamluk Carpet, Egypt, c. 1500, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Mamluk Carpet, Egypt, c. 1500, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Mamluk carpets are distinguished not only by their distinctive designs, but also by their lustrous wool, fine weave and soft, closely valued coloration dominated by pale greens, yellows and reds.

A variant of the Mamluk production, sometimes termed “Paramamluk,” utilized allover patterns of smaller concentric hexagons, octagons, and squares – the so-called “Chessboard” carpets.

Mamluk Rugs
Mamluk Rugs – Paramamluk or “Chessboard” Carpet, Syria, early 16th century, Textile Museum, Washington D.C., (from V. Gantzhorn, Oriental Carpets, ill. 324).

These have been attributed to Damascus,  a major center in the Syrian portion of the Mamluk realm. The Ottomans conquered and annexed the Mamluk territories in 1517.

The Mamluk carpet production seems to have continued after the Ottoman takeover. In addition, the Ottoman court began to commission the production of carpets from the workshops of Cairo in a florid arabesque style. Known as “Cairene” carpets, they competed with the suave designs of contemporary Safavid Persia.