Guide to Mughal Rugs & Carpets
In this section:
- Ames Mughal Carpet Technical Details
- Lancets – Blossom and Grape
- Realistic Animals in Mughal Art and Oriental Rugs
- Silk and Metal Mughal Rug of the Polonaise Type
- The Berlin Spiral Tendril Mughal Carpet
- The Incidence Of High Ply Counts In Early Cotton Warps
Rugs of Royalty
A subgroup of Oriental rugs, Mughal carpets have their roots in India in the 16th and 17th centuries. These colorful, opulent rugs began with designs reminiscent of Persian rugs. However, as they developed their own identity, botanical themes started to emerge. Scenes of battle and wildlife are also popular, used to conjure strength and prosperity. Handwoven and made for royalty, Mughal rugs are often the pinnacle of craftsmanship.
History of the Mughal Rug
The Emperor Shah Jahan founded the tradition of weaving Mughal rugs. He was a conqueror of many lands and the driving force behind construction of the Taj Mahal. The Mughal Empire that birthed these rugs is so synonymous with wealth and success, that the contemporary word “mogul,” meaning a powerful, successful person, is derived from it.
Other Aesthetic Influences
As years went on, influences from other cultures seeped into the Mughal rug design aesthetic. In particular, the painterly florals of Europe and architectural lattice work of Italy have become part of the design scheme. A Muslim religious influence shows up in the ornate prayer rugs of the period with the inclusion of geometric patterns, stars, and traditional Islamic symbolism.
Luxury & Craftsmanship
Mughal rugs are known for being extremely soft, with a brushed, fine-grain feel. It’s said that their tight, delicate knotting can have as many as 2,000 knots in a single inch of rug. For luxurious carpets that celebrate nature, spirituality, and human accomplishments, Mughal carpets are the defining example.
Mughal Medallion Carpet
Northern Mughal India, Lahore, ca. 1620-30
6 ft. 9 in.x 4 ft. 51/2 in. (206 x 136 cm)
Warp: white cotton, probably Z6 or Z7, alternates depressed (High Ply Count Cotton Warps)
Weft: pink cotton, 2Z , Z3, 3 shoots
Knots: wool, Z2, Z3, Z4, Asymmetrical open to the left, 11 horizontal x 10 vertical (110 per square inch)
The Ilchester Mughal Carpet
Center left is the black buck and center right the fairly standard deer. Also shown is the inclusion of a number of bovine design forms both magical and standard. The very small minor floral forms filling the area between major icons seem to be Mughal in style particularly.
Circa late sixteenth or early seventeenth century
Warp: Cotton white 6 ply on two levels 28 warps to the inch. High ply count cotton warps.
Weft: Cotton pale red, 3 shoots.
Knots: Wool, asymmetrical 16 to one inch 230 to the square inch
Conditions: No original edges. Left bottom corner repiled, c. 60 x 65 cm. Missing areas.
Colors: Dark blue (field), deep crimson (second border) blue green (pattern on ground of field), buff (first and third borders), yellow (pattern of 1st and third borders), white, light blue, crimson, brown, blue, black, light blue-green.
Mughal Crimson Field Floral Lattice Carpet
Approximately 360 by 200cm., 11ft. 10in. by 6ft. 7in.
Condition Note: reduced in length with a stepped join at edge of field adjacent to inner guard border at lower end, inserted area (rejoined fireplace cut) from same carpet approximately 60 by 60cm. To right hand side, scattered foldwear, some minor Kashmiri repiling, missing outermost guard stripe on all four sides, reselvaged with slight losses to ends, small reweaves, small splits, minor cobbled repairs and patches.
Colors: Ivory, golden yellow, light lemon yellow, light jade green, mid blue, indigo, aubergine, deep rose, crimson (9)
Pile: Wool, Z3Sw plied, asymmetric open to the left
Warps: Cotton, natural, Z5S
Wefts: Cotton, light rose pink, Z3Sw, 2 shoots
Sides: Not original
Ends: Not original
Density: Vertical 5/cm
Pashmina Millefleur prayer rug late 18th C.
Warp: cotton, Z4S, natural ivory, alternate warps depressed
Weft: cotton, Z2S, 3 shoots, blue
Pile: pashmina wool, Z3-5S, asymmetrical knot open to the left
Density: 18-22 horizontal, 15-18 vertical
Sides: 4 warps wrapped in red wool beneath later burgundy wool overcast
Ends: upper: ½ in. natural ivory and blue banded kilim; lower: 1/10 in. remnant of blue kilim
Colors: cherry red, rose, yellow, blue-green, light blue, dark blue, buff, brown, ivory, charcoal
Size: approximately 5ft. 9in. by 3ft. 11in. (1.75 by 1.19m.)
Period: Late 18th century
Mughal Millefleurs Carpet Fragment 18th century
Approximately 5ft. 1in. by 3ft. 7in. (1.55 by 1.09m.). This fragment belongs to a clearly defined group of Mughal lattice weavings, generally of Pashmina wool, often displaying a small central medallion and usually rendered on an indigo ground with ivory guard stripes.
Mughal Hanging late 17th/early 18th century
213 by 117cm., 7ft. by 3ft. 10in. Embroidered hangings such as this would have been used to decorate the interiors of the tents of Mughal emperors when on their travels or campaigns. The motif of a single flowering plant within an arched niche is a favourite of the Mughal art repertoire.
A Mughal Silk Velvet Fragment
India first half 17th century. Mounted, partial original selvage, fragmentary on ends, small stains. 2 ft. 7 in. by 4 ft. (079 by 122 cm).
Mughal Rug Lahore Early 17th Century
This is a most unusual piece. First of all it looks as if someone outlined the major design icons with a pen to make them stand out. The drawing itself lacks the general sophistication that one comes to expect in Mughal carpets. The borders are reminiscent of borders from a Namenlose Gattung rug in the picture “Two Girls Making Music” by Gerard Terborch.
Warps: Cotton Z6 – 8 S, alternate warp strongly depressed, natural white. High ply count cotton warps
Weft: Cotton, Z 4 – 6, natural white and ash, three shoots.
Pile: Wool, asymmetrical knot open to the left.
Density 9 – 11 Horizontal, 10 – 11 vertical
Sides: Not original.
Ends: Warp fringe.
Colors: pale to deep raspberry, chamois, cashew, taupe, pale to deep blue, lapis, teal, walnut, azure, mink, balsam green, khaki green.
Picture from “Two Girls Making Music.”
Sackville Mughal Animal Carpet
Warps: white cotton, 2 ply or 6 or more Plys 1.
Wefts: reddish brown cotton, 3 ply, 3 shoots.
Pile: sheep’s wool.
Knot count: 110 knots per square inch or roughly 1760 knots per square decimeter.
Size: 9 feet 6 inches wide by 27 feet 4 inches long.
Type B Mughal Red Ground Grotesque Carpet Fragment
Warp: 7 strand Z spun and S plied.
Pile: Wool 2 strands Z spun, S plied
Knot: Persian, open to the left, h. 13 – 15, v. 16 – 17, 208 – 255 square inch
Edges and Ends: not original
Mughal Indian Carpet
First half 17th Century
Warp: Cotton, off-white, natural, Z4S.
Weft: Cotton, off-white, natural, Z2S, 3 shoots alternating 1 and 3 straight, 2 wavy.
Pile: Wool, Z2, asymmetrical knots open left, average alternate warp depression 70 degrees.
Density: 11 H by 11 – 12 V
Sides: 2 bundles of 5 body warps wrapped in deep red rose pile wool.
Ends: Top up to ¾ inch red Z1 countered sumac brocade; sumac brocade. Both: sumac strip.
Size: 11 ft. 2 in. by 4 ft. 4 in. (3.41 by 1.63 m)
Colors: deep rose, darkest-green blue, golden ochre, ivory, yellow, black, pale green, light blue, dark blue, gray-brown, medium blue.
A Mughal Floral Lattice Carpet
India, 17th century. Burgundy field with an overall ivory strapwork lattice enclosing different two-directional polychrome floral sprays, in a burgundy border of polychrome flowerheads linked by scrolling leafy and flowering vine between ivory angular floral vine and shaded blue S-motif and plain stripes. Localized areas of wear, negligible areas of repair, slight loss at one end. 18ft. 1 1 in. x 8ft. 1 in. (576cm. x 246cm.)
The Widener Mughal Animal Carpet Borders
The Picture “A Prisoner”
The picture “A Prisoner” was copied by Farruhk Beg and called “Turkoman Prisoner” circa 1590 to 1600. There is a possible linkage of design leading to the Widener Mughal Borders.
The Widener Mughal Animal Carpet
Lahore circa 1590. This is one of the truly greatest carpets of all time. It is an unusual and distinctive piece of art in it’s own right. It seems proper therefore to think that one can date this carpet on the basis of it’s distinctive art work and the carpets structural characteristics. An attribution of late sixteenth century Lahore is reasonable.
Warp: Cotton Z6S with some Z8S, ivory. Alternate warps moderately depressed.
Weft: cotton, 2Z and 3Z, dyed light rusty red, x3. Several short diagonal lines of weft return.
Pile: variably 2Z, 3Z, and some 4Z. Asymmetrical knotting open to the left. Hor. 14,15. Vert. 19,17. Approximately 260 knots to the square inch. The ends and sides are cut and replaced with new finishes.
Colors and Condition: ivory, various shades of brown, ecru, wine-red, dark pink, abrashed orange, pale yellow, pale green, various shades of abrashed blue, dark violet. Red and ivory are blended within the knot in limited areas. The pale green and other shades have faded variably. The outer guard band is missing on all four sides. Most of the reds, pinks, and browns in the field have eroded to a lower level, with a good bit of wear showing in the field. Other than repaired slits, especially at the lower end and insect damage in the border, The rug is in extremely good condition.
The length to width ratio (length greater than twice width) is generally thought to be indicative of an older piece. There is extensive use of pink on red which is taken to be a sign of Indian provenance. The repertoire of animals is drawn from two source types. While there are traditional Persianate Fantastic Animals there are also realistically drawn animals most common on the Indian sub-continent, i. e. elephants, cheetahs, black bucks, a rhino, and a crocodile.
Based on these primary clues a tentative attribution of Classic Era Mughal carpet then becomes the working assumption. Or to follow a methodology established by an United States scholar in the field of classical carpets, it appears to conform to the guidelines to be considered an Eiland Type two Mughal Carpet.
The Kitab Khana of the Padishah Akbar
“Painters And Calligraphers Working,” an illustration from Ahklaq-i-Nasiri, Lahore Circa 1590.
Mughal Shrub Carpet
Lahore Carpet, 17th century Mughal 14’8″ by 8’8″
Warp: 6 and 7 strand Z spun and S plied high ply count warps
Weft: Cotton 3 shoots in most areas the thin weft is red silk. (Wefts 1 and 3 rigid cotton and the second weft sinuous red silk)
Pile: wool 2 strand Z spun and S plied
Knot: asymmetrical open left alternate warps depressed h 12 v 12, 144/square inch
Colors: crimson field, light green, light blue-green, deep blue-green, golden tan, deep pink, white, light blue, violet-purple, dark blue, apricot, brown-black, yellow.
Detail from “Young Man With Narcissus”
Circa 1610 – 1615 Mughal India, signed Farruhk Beg. Farruhk Beg was a Mongol artist who was in the atelier of Ebrahim Mirza in Khorasan until 1585. He was in the Deccan until 1608, and this shows the style he used when he returned to the court of Jahangir in Mughal India. While the realistic detail in Mughal Shrub Carpets may derive from European botanicals, the rows of clumps of flowers appears to have entered the Mughal design repertoire from the work of Farruhk Beg upon his return from the Deccan.
A Silk and Metallic Thread “Polonaise” Rug
First half 17th Century. Oxidized metallic areas, oxidized browns, applied fringe one end, missing minor guards both ends, minor areas of restoration.
Approximately 6ft. 8 in. by 4 ft. 8 in. (2.03 m. by 1.42 m.)
Warp: Cotton Z4-6S, alternate warp strongly depressed, natural white
Weft: Cotton, 2Z, (sometimes 3Z), then 2 strands of unplied silk (light to dark shades of beige and red). The silk alternating between 2 rows of 2Z cotton, 3 shoots
Pile: Silk, with metallic-wrapped silk threads, asymmetrical knot open to the left
Density: 15-17 horizontal, 13-15 vertical
Sides: Silk, 2 bundles of threads overcast in pale salmon
Ends: Upper-selvage turned over and sewn, over which a pale green silk braided trim has been attached
Lower-same as upper, but with added macramé fringe
Colors: Mushroom, celadon, salmon, pale to medium aquamarine, olive, pale to deep cornflower, celery, mandarin, lapis, jade, mink, maize, butterscotch, citrine, pale oak, mint, peach, pewter, black, metallic silver
Detail – Vojtech Blau Mughal Animal Carpet
This floral form appears in 15th century Timurid art. We then see it appear in art from Ottoman Turkey where we see it emerge in a similar form in the Ardibil carpets. At the same time we see a variant of this floral form in the Uzbek Court art of Mir Ali and students from Bokhara circa 1540. It appears again in what may be Turanian carpets of the Uzbek Renaissance from Herat in the 1590s. Late in the sixteenth century we also this floral form appear in the early Mughal carpets and art. The important part of this floral form is that it is representative of a particularly distinctive group that is common on rugs yet far less common in Miniature paintings.
Detail – Salting Carpet
The Turanian renaissance in Herat in the 1590s sparked a production of carpets that were Persianate while conforming to a different esthetic than was the norm in Safavid Persia.
Detail – Widener Animal Carpet
Please note the similarities in the three color leaves between this and the Salting Carpet particularly in the center stripe of orange.
Margin Detail from a folio of the Shahnama of Firdausi. Herat, second quarter fifteenth century.
Margin Detail from a folio of the Shahnama of Firdausi. Herat, second quarter fifteenth century.
Detail – Calligraphy signed by Ali al-Kateb (Mir Ali) Bokhara circa 1540.
This Turanian calligraphy was know to be in Mughal India prior to 1650 because of margin painting when the piece was remounted.
Detail – Teymur’s Army In Procession from the Golshan Album Mughal India circa 1570.
Detail from a possibly Turanian Court Carpet fragment in the Museo Bargello, Florence
Estimates of dates range anywhere from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, but they are now thought to date to the later part of the sixteenth century. As a group they are usually referred to as Salting type, but part of the group appears most likely to be from Herat during the Turanian renaissance of 1589 to 1598.
Detail from a Painting “A Philosopher in his Studio” by Abraham van der Hecken
Amsterdam Holland, circa 1650. A red ground Lahore type Mughal palmette and leaf carpet.
Detail from Later Mughal Type Carpet Border
The ton-sur-ton red in the outer petal shows three reds (including the field red) which is rather unusual.
Indian Hunting Carpet
Closely related to the print “King Khusrau Hunting,” an illustration from the Khamsa of Nizami, signed Abd as-Samad and dated 1596. Note the similarities in the cart, the cheetah, the turban, the clothes, and especially in what appears to be a jajim the cheetah is standing upon. Note the head position and the way in both the lead deer has it’s head turned to the rear.
Compare the two.
The Peacock Mughal Rug
Warp: 8 ply white cotton
Wefts: pale red cotton, 3 ply, 3 shoots. First and third wefts are rigid and the second is sinuous.
Pile: sheep’s wool asymmetrical knot open left.
Knot count: 460 knots per square Inch or roughly 7360 knots per square decimeter.
Size: 7 feet 10 inches by 5 feet 2 1/2 inches.