WEALTH OF KINGS
Masterpiece Persian Carpets
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Plate One

Plate Three & Four

Plate Eight

Plate Ten

Plate Twelve

Plate Fourteen

Plate Sixteen & Seventeen

Plate Nineteen

Plate Twenty-One

Plate Twenty-Three

Plate Twenty-Six

Plate Twenty-Eight

Plate Thirty
Plate Two

Plate Five, Six & Seven

Plate Nine

Plate Eleven

Plate Thirteen

Plate Fifteen

Plate Eighteen

Plate Twenty

Plate Twenty-Two

Plate Twenty-Four

Plate Twenty-Seven

Plate Twenty-Nine

Plate Thirty-One & Thirty-Two


Tamerlane was obsessed by Jenghiz Khan and his military vision of universal order, however, he seems to have moved around in a fairly haphazard way and annihilated anyone and anything in his path. He needed several years for the conquest of Western Persia that began in 1386 and more or less wrapped it up with the sacking of Bagdhad on July 10, 1401. He left the customary trail of "mountains of heads" and towers made out of living survivors cemented together with mud but little else. In general men of letters, scientists and artists were spared his wrath, as were the mosques, mausoleums(as was Oljaitu's) and religious centers such as the city of Ardabil.

Like Hitler in our own times he dreamt of a glittering capital at the heart of his world empire. This was to be Samarkand to which all necessary human capital was subsequently deported. Tamerlane's further adventures need not concern us here but they included the sacking of Delhi in northern India, the destruction of Syria and the conquest of Anatolia (modern day Turkey). Shortly before his planned invasion of China he fell ill and died in 1405, which could be considered a great day for humankind.

After his death the empire he built fell apart fairly rapidly but, in the hands of his benign and far-sighted son Shah Rukh, Samarkand and Herat blossomed in a hitherto unknown way. In Persia the hordes of the White and Black sheep Turcoman fought each other (and the Timurids) for political control but the final victors were the white Sheep under Uzun Hasan, who retained power until the coming of the Safavids in 1502.

Figure 5

A Timurid sponsored Renaissance in the arts occupied the whole of the 15th century, having one last efflorescence during the reign of Husain-i Baiquara(1469-1506), who initiated a period of unparalleled artistic brilliance. Among many other accomplishments this cultivated Persian prince was the patron of Bihzad, the great miniaturist and artistic multi-talent who lived in Heart and ended up in Tabriz directing Shah Ismail`s Kabinet.

The Timurids have left us a rich inheritance of rugs illustrated in their miniature paintings, figure 6 a good example. Apart from portraying two Timurid period carpets, it reveals the fully developed arabesque and scrolling vine styles later to appear so prominently in Safavid weavings. Usually featuring all-over geometric designs with the ubiquitous Gol form, the style later found on almost all Turkmen pile woven rugs, and the forerunner style of borders with Kufic inscriptions, these Timurid period carpets start appearing in miniatures at the end of the 14th century. These paintings are very realistic although a certain amount of fine-tuning of those forms is apparent.

None of these carpets pictured in these miniatures have survived but related design schemes show up in Anatolia, particularly the small pattern Holbein group that were in turn depicted in Italian paintings from the mid-15th century onwards. It is not clear whether these carpets were actually made by the Turcoman or were original creations of Timurid court artists. However, it would be unusual for a major power to take over the trappings of a rival and lesser player even though they shared a common Steppe ancestry.

The rugs themselves quite probably traveled to Anatolia along the Silk Road but that path was closed after this ancient trading route was taken over by the Safavid circa 1500. There is a large corpus of Timurid paintings in Istanbul from which the carpets may also have been copied but wherever Turkish people lived they wove these kinds of rugs. Accordingly, its no surprise to find these Turkmen style Gols on Mameluk carpets believed by most experts to have been produced in Turkish ruled Egypt.

But for us the Timurid carpet exists only on paper and remains one of the most interesting mysteries of Oriental Carpet history.

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