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The Metropolitan Museum of Art presents six masterpieces of Iranian weaving
Second half 16th century Made in present-day Afghanistan, Herat Silk (warp), cotton (weft), wool (pile); asymmetrically knotted pile Rug: H. 99–3/4 in. (253.4 cm) W. 70 in. (177.8 cm) W. of top edge: 68–5/8 in. (174.3 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. Isaac D. Fletcher Collection, Bequest of Isaac D. Fletcher, 1917 (17.120.127) Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

NEW YORK.- Six small Iranian carpets of the 16th and 17th centuries—along with recent conservation treatment that has made it possible to display these precious textiles for the first time in decades—are the focus of the exhibition Carpets for Kings: Six Masterpieces of Iranian Weaving, opening today at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The carpets—most from royal contexts—are splendid examples of major classical types of Islamic carpets. They were acquired by The Met between 1910 and 1951 and were formerly part of important collections at the Royal House of Saxony and of such notable individuals as Robert Woods Bliss, H. O. Havemeyer, Mr. and Mrs. Isaac D. Tyson, and Charles Tyson Yerkes.

One of two lively 16th-century animal combat carpets features a central medallion with a group of merrymakers seated around a duck pond. The style of the men’s turbans has made it possible to date this carpet to the second half of the 16th century. In the second carpet, a complex multi-animal motif appears 10 times in left-to-right and top-to-bottom repeats.

An exceptional prayer rug, also from the 16th century, incorporates Qur’anic inscriptions in different styles of Arabic script, along with delicate cloud bands, scrolling vines, and stylized flowers, all typical elements of Safavid court design.

The three 17th-century “Polonaise” carpets, from the period of Shah ‘Abbas the Great (1587–1629), are made of silk and precious metal threads. Although their once-brilliant colors have faded over the centuries, the palette, materials, and design of these luxury textiles dazzle viewers today, just as they did when they adorned the palaces of Isfahan.

Damage caused by a variety of factors over the past 400 to 500 years had made these six carpets too fragile for public viewing, despite their importance and great beauty. Proceeds from the Museum’s annual gala celebrating the Persian New Year, Noruz at The Met (2013), and the support of the Iranian-American Community have made possible a conservation effort to address losses, remove old repairs, and stabilize the structures.

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