The Simonetti Mamluk Carpet
The source of carpet comes from the book How to Read – Islamic Carpets, Walter B. Denny, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 2014 fig.61,62. The five-star-medallion carpet was designed in the early 16th century by Mamluk Sultane of Cairo, Egypt. It is exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York as The ‘Simonetti’ Carpet. The conventional practice of naming Islamic carpets either after the place they were found (“Niğde Carpet”) or after a previous owner (“Anhalt Carpet”) in this case memorializes the former Italian owner of this magnificent example of fifteenth-century Cairene weaving under the Burji Mamluk dynasty (1382–1517). The Simonetti Carpet is commonly called a “five-color Mamluk carpet” because of its color palette. The materials (most notably S-spun, or clockwise-spun, wool), dyestuffs (a limited range of colors including a purple-red made from the lac insect), and distinctive repertoire of geometric designs are all characteristic of Mamluk carpets from the period. The width, about ninety-four inches (239 cm), is typical for contemporaneous carpets woven in Cairo. A roller-bar loom was used to make the carpet: the unwoven warps were unwound from a rotating cylindrical wood roller at the top of the loom, and the finished carpet was then wound up around a similar roller at the bottom. This method allowed the same loom to be employed to weave both very long and relatively short carpets of the same width. The Simonetti displays three of the geometric medallion designs usually seen in short Mamluk carpets (two of them repeated, combined in A-B-C-B-A sequence) in one very long, impressive work of art.
Mamluk carpets originated in a physical environment that lacked the combination of abundant marginal grazing land and a temperate climate with cool winters that were common to most carpet-weaving areas in the Islamic world. While related to a broader tradition of Turkish weaving centered in Anatolia, far to the north, the designs of these carpets include atypical elements, such as stylized papyrus plants, that are deeply rooted in Egyptian tradition. Their unusual composition and layout probably represent an attempt to develop a distinctive product that could in effect establish a “Mamluk brand” in the lucrative European export market. The uncharacteristic color scheme—devoid of the undyed white pile and employing a limited range of three or five hues in much the same value—also suggests a conscious attempt to create a particular stylistic identity. Also virtually unique in the world of Islamic carpets is the S-spun wool. It has been argued that the tradition of clockwise wool spinning originated in Egypt because of the earlier Egyptian tradition of spinning flax into linen thread. Details of the plant’s botanical structure make it impossible to spin flax fiber in the more common counterclockwise direction utilized throughout the Middle East for wool and cotton.
Mamluk carpets with the color combinations seen in the Simonetti are now generally accepted as part of an earlier tradition that has many links to the weaving of Anatolia, Iran, and Syria. The “three-color” Mamluk carpets, well represented in the Metropolitan’s collection, represent a later development that continued well after the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517. Many such carpets may have been produced well into the seventeenth century, and possibly even later. (Walter B. Denny in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]). The design of the rug is interpreted by our designers with one central star, and soft colors are used for this rug.
Color summary: 3 colors of total
- Rare Grey 105 (only specially washed)
- Natural Wool Color 37 (Specially Washed)
- Dark Brawn 316 (No Dye – Sheep’s own Color)
- Bamboo Beige 99 (only specially washed)
Material of Pile: Natural Dyed Hand-spun Wool
Material Warp / Weft: Wool on Wool
Structure: Symmetrical knot on depressed warp inclining to the right
Knots Density: 39x39
Pile (mm): 3
Production Place: Southeastern Anatolia – Adiyaman Province
Stock Location: Tokyo
Size (EU): 237 X 246cm
Size (US): 7'9" X 8'0"
Area (EU): 5.8m²
Area (US): 62.8ft²