A Large Indian Agra Carpet

Rug #5037
Size: 800 x 400 cm / 26.2 x 13.1 ft Category:  

A Fine Agra Carpet, North India, Wool on Cotton Foundation.

Late 19th Century

The ivory field with an all over design displaying off set columns of terracotta, ivory or blue bold palmettes linked by angular vines issuing small palmettes, flower heads and leaves supported by curvilinear flowering vine tendrils supported by cloud bands, within a blue border enclosing continuous palmettes linked by red and ivory angular arabesques issuing diminutive leaves

Indian carpet production during the 17th Century Moghul era was from small Imperial ateliers made chiefly for royal or aristocratic commissions. Such production effectively ceased by the early 19th Century. From the mid 19th Century Indian carpet production began to revive as a much more commercial activity and predominantly stemmed from the country’s jails. Lahore jail produced carpets that were displayed at the International Exhibition in London in 1862 and by the time of the 1888 Glasgow International exhibition, the list given of Indian places producing carpets as detailed by a certain T.N. Mukherji in literature written on the exhibits was very extensive. Significantly, the list included private manufactories as well as over twenty jails. The most important and significant of these jails were Agra, Lahore, Yeraoda, and Montgomery, identified for the production of particularly fine decorative carpets. Mukherji also stated that ‘the old Persian patterns are generally copied in the jails.’ The earliest jail products were copies of classical Persian of the 16th and 17th centuries selected from the collection of the Maharaja of Jaipur. The 1892 Vienna exhibition catalogue of carpets also provided a rich source of material of designs for this rapidly developing Indian carpet producing industry. Apart from the exceptionally high quality of the materials including the dye stuffs, the Jail designs rapidly evolved, and unique ‘takes’ on Classical models began to appear. These ‘takes’ were to become highly sought after in Western markets and there is no doubting their individual designs are stunningly potent and appealing, establishing the ‘jail’ group of Indian carpets as highly important in the history of carpet production. This Indian Agra carpet displays all the very best attributes of the ‘Jail’ genre.

The design is firmly based on Classical Persian styles of design with the formal arrangement of bold palmettes linked by tiers of vines with the inclusion of cloud bands. The open airy rendition is typical of the new Indian Agra interpretation of Classical iconography. The use of ivory as a background colour is a relatively rare back ground colour in Indian Agra carpets though when seen, serves to enhance the power and visual beauty of the composition with the colours carefully selected for the pattern details to present an exceptional decorative harmonic image. Shades of deep blue juxtaposed with pale ochre and red detailing as seen in the main palmettes create a focal point. The more pastel tones of terracotta red, browns, ochre and pale salmon sympathetically support the blue central elements and present a soft subtle decorative appearance. The border treatment displays a style of drawing characteristic with Indian Agra tradition, epitomised by the angular drawing of the arabesques complementing the more curvilinear drawing of the repeat palmettes. The deep saturated blue background of the border supported with saturated red arabesques and green detailing, combines effectively with the more pastel toned pattern elements serving to frame the main field action and give credence to the overall harmonic design. The varying scales of the pattern motifs fit perfectly with the grandiose scheme, particularly considering the large size of this magnificent Indian Agra carpet. This large Indian Agra carpet is a superb example of ‘jail’ carpet production and displays all the attributes associated with the genre.