October 7, 2012
Late Mamluk Carpets: Some New Observations
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A small group of knotted-pile carpets is recognised on sound evidence to have been produced for the Mamluk elite in the late fifteenth century and for export. There is a current belief that they appeared mysteriously ‘out of nowhere’ because there seemed to be no precedent for the abrupt appearance of their well-developed technique and mature decorative style. This paper seeks to show that the sudden flowering of carpet-weaving at this time was part of the cultural renaissance that took place during Qaytbay’s reign (r. 1468-1496) and can be accounted for by the recruitment of weavers from Turkmen-ruled Iran and Asia Minor, where, it is argued, carpet-weaving was flourishing. Evidence for this is drawn from depictions of carpets of a distinctive type in European paintings, corresponding mentions in written sources, notably Venetian and Florentine inventories, and in the specific details of a few surviving carpets and carpet fragments.
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