Border design of carpets
Border design of carpets
A second basic border type, also quite common and having many variants, consists simply of a single repeated floral motif in alternating colours, or just two flowers alternating (perhaps with one larger than the other to provide variety and interest). A third type combines elongated medallions (usually called cartouches), placed at regular intervals in the border, with various subsidiary designs both within the cartouches and between them. A fourth layout contains a kind of meandering flower-stalk motif winding its way through the whole border, decorated with various kinds of appendages.
In the subsidiary guards and just occasionally in the main border, too – one comes across various geometric inventions: zigzags, repeating lozenges, pyramids, interlocking and reciprocating patterns of one kind and another.
The first border type is properly called the Herati border because of its frequent use in the sixteenth- or seventeenth-century east Persian carpets. Note that the words ‘Herati motif’ do not refer to this border pattern but to th& repeating diamond design which made up the ground of later Herat carpets.
As fig. clearly demonstrates, the use of linked alternating palmettes as a border pattern dates from antiquity. The specific border pattern used in the classical Herati carpets seems, however, to have developed from the fusion of two strains of decorative ideas employed in the Islamic world in the fifteenth century. The first is shown in fig; the tiles illustrated date from c. 1500, but the arabesque forms employed are much older (the pattern is used as the decorative border in illuminated manuscripts of the Koran as early as the thirteenth century; it is discernible too in fig)- The second and decisive element which influenced the shape of the Herati border was, however, the Chinese cloud-band pattern. As with most aspects of the history of oriental carpet design, the source material is too scanty for definitive conclusions, but the internal evidence of figs is very strong. The cloud-band motif, shown in fig, seems to have entered west Asian art with the Chinese artists established in Samarkand by the Mongol conquerors at the beginning of the fifteenth century and to have spread quite quickly throughout the Islamic world. By the sixteenth century Persian designers had adapted the Chinese form to their own uses; indeed, in the inner guard of the Ardebil carpet (1539) the classical Herati layout is already established.
The border of the Chelsea carpet illustrates in its basic layout the affinity between the cloud-band motif and the Persian-Islamic mihrab arch shape, while the cloud-band itself appears as a subsidiary motif in a form resembling a ribbon tied in a bow. This joining together of the ribbon at its narrowest point is an essential step in the transition from the open cloud-band to the closed ‘teapot’ shape, the fusion of the Chinese and arabesque ideas. Other examples of this development may be seen in figs; one of the best versions, again setting the cloud-band within a mihrab shape, occurs in the border of one of the sixteenthcentury animal carpets in Vienna.
Typical modern variants of the Herati border are illustrated in figs. Various names are attached to it in the trade, such as ‘samovar’ or ‘tortoise’ border, the descriptions being derived from the shape that the principal motif assumes in certain classical Persian contexts. Its use throughout the length and breadth of Persia illustrates both the pre-eminence and the lively interchange of the ideas of the sixteenth and seventeenth century manufactories. However, figs also illustrate how each region develops ideas along different lines and imprints its own individual stamp on a design, whatever its Origin.
Borders of the repeating rosette type are found more often with geometric designs than with floral: the latter, being produced from graph-paper drawings, usually feature something more elaborate than plain alternating flowers.
Repeating rosette borders may nevertheless contain a wealth of fascinating detail. In particular, the absence of a formal layout leaves the weaver considerable licence in the choice and distribution of colours, which many tribal rugs use to striking effect. The third principal border type is most often found in manufactured floral carpets, often in antique designs. The idea evolved in the fifteenth century from the art of miniature painting and decorative bookbinding. As a result of the superimposition of circles and polygons of different colours, compartment or cartouche patterns were produced. In carpet borders the cartouches may be used to contain a wide variety of subsidiary motifs. The fourth border type, again, is more common in areas producing geometric
designs. This catalogue of principal types is not exhaustive, the possibilities of geometric invention are endless and there are hundreds ofindividually designed borders which one may encounter from time to time. Some examples of geometric invention and a few of the more interesting rarer border types are shown in figs.