Palace Carpets

Alongside the development of the tradition Turkish carpets, a completely different type of carpet both in technique and design appears at the end of the 16th century, the Ottoman palace carpets. The conquest by the Ottomans of Tabriz in 1514 and later of Cairo in 1517 paved the way for some news concepts, both technical and ornamental, in the art of Turkish carpet making. The carpet first woven in Cairo between the years 1540 and 1550 reflect a combination of colors and designs reminiscent of the Mameluke carpets. But in a considerably short time the naturalistic style of the Ottoman palace carpets began to gain predominance. These carpets were not the product of a long development but had rather a sudden birth. Because of the intricate and mixed designs of these carpets and the fact that they were seldom depicted in European paintings, it is difficult to date them. Designs using lancet leaves called "saz", palmettoes and medallions intermingling with very naturalistic motifs of tulips, hyacinths, carnations and pomegranates began to appear creating a completely different fresh effect. Naturalistic leaves which appear in various. Other branches of Ottoman art also are displayed in these carpets. Also Persian (Sine) knots instead of the Turkish were preferred in making these luxury carpets with their extremely rich and elegant designs. The resulting effect of the knotting is projecting tufts of colored yarn which make the close-woven pile of the carpet. The knots of wool and cotton being very tight (200 to 700 thousand per m²), produce an effect like that of soft velvet. Silk was never employed in the knots but it was used occasionally in the warp and weft; the woolen pile was often supplemented with cotton.

The arrangement of the medallion in Persian carpets plays only a secondary role, the basic pattern appearing like a section cut out of an endless field. Even if the patch-like medallions were to be removed, the general effect would stay the same. And, in fact some carpets without any medallions are much more pleasing in composition. A theory first put forward by Erdmann and then readily accepted by others was that the designs were supplied by the Ottoman palace artists in Istanbul for use on the Cairene looms. (59) Kühnel, on the other hand suggested that, due to their technical characteristic, some of these carpets could have been woven in Istanbul or Bursa, a silk center famous for its rugs since 1474. An Imperial Edict dated 1585 by Sultan Murat III supports this view for it commands that eleven carpet weavers should be sent to Istanbul bringing with them dyed threads of wool. (60) These Ottoman carpets were of very soft, silk-like wool which could only have been easily dyed and supplied from Egypt. The warp and weft of carpets produced in Cairo were undyed, or, sometimes were of red or yellowish wool, whereas Bursa carpets were made of dyed single- or double-ply silk. Cotton yarn was used when the colors of white or pale blue were desired.

There is much speculation about the dating of these carpets anywhere from the founding of the Ulu Mosque, Divriği 626 (1228-29) a time when they could have been given as gifts of the Mengücük, to the middle of the 16th century as samples of the Para Mameluke group since they carry some of their characteristics. Some claim they are of the Anatolian Beylik period between the Selçuk and Ottoman periods (14th-15th century) while others fluctuate between the 16th and 17th centuries. Because of the use of the Turkish knot, the special wool yarn, the weaving of warp and weft and the characteristic Kufic border, the end of the 14th century seems plausible. Its provenance could be in centers like Sivas or Konya which had already been praised by Marco Polo when he visited the area around 1271. They were an urban product, an experiment in color and composition which did not continue. There is much valuable information in the archives of the Topkapı Palace Museum, Istanbul, in the Prime Ministry and in the Municipal Library, Istanbul concerning the Ottoman palace carpets. It is recorded in these documents that carpet weaving looms were in use from the time that the Ottoman palace was organized and established and that a group of craftsmen, some of whom were entrusted with weaving textiles, were responsible for making small-sized carpets in the palace. Besides, we also have the official registries of the palace dated until the end of the 16th century in which the names, the amounts of daily wage paid and the homelands of these palace craftsmen are recorded.  Hamza and Mustafa, the names of two carpet weavers from the time of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror are mentioned in the data recorded in the inquiry notebooks numbered TKSA 9613-1 and dated H 932 (1526). The first one was admitted to the organization of the textile weavers and became the warden of the carpet weaver’s guild during the reign of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (1526). Mustafa, the other person mentioned was also taken into the palace as a carpet weaver during the reign of the Conqueror and had a son Mehmet who became an apprentice in the carpet weaver’s guild in the time of Süleyman the Magnificent.

We also have the names of five carpet makers, including both masters and apprentices, of a total of nineteen who had practiced that art in the time of Sultan Beyazıt II. The names of these five men who had received 3245 small silver coins (akçe) as a gift in return for presenting to the sultan carpets for the Mosque of Beyazıt in H 917 (1511), in the third month of the Arabic calendar (Rebiül-evvel), are: İlyas, Nasuh, İskender, İsmail and Hızır. From the above named craftsmen İlyas had received 900 silver coins from the Superintendent of the Treasury in H 909 (1501) in the fifth month of the Arabic calendar (Cemaziyelevvel) in return for a prayer rug; Nasuh had received 2000 silver coins for a carpet he had presented in the same year;İskender had received 1500 silver coins for a carpet presented in the ninth month (Ramazan) of H 911 (1513); İsmail had received 800 silver coins for a carpet the same year; and Hızır had received 800 silver coins for a carpet presented in the third month (Rebiül-evvel) of H 915 (1509). Nasuh was a native of Walachia and died just before H 932 (1526) during the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent. İlyas of Niğbolu and Hızır of Kossova were also among the twenty-five palace carpet makers listed in the service of Süleyman the Magnificent. It is also recorded in these official registry books dated H 1001 (1595) that sixteen carpet guilds were in operation in the time of Sultan Murat III. We do not find in these documents the names of any carpet makers who had come from Egypt. Moreover, carpet making had started to deteriorate during the reign of his son, Sultan Mehmet III, and as recorded by H 1008 (1599) only one new weaver was admitted to the ranks of the sixteen weavers.

The white and light blue cotton yarn, and the cotton having a texture of silk which is used in the palace prayer rugs and carpets was only produced in Egypt. It is interesting to find that in the order of Sultan Murat III for eleven master carpets weavers to come from Egypt was included an order for yarn which they were to bring with them (25 October 1585). (63) From the names cited in the order it is obvious that Mehmet the son of Arslan was a Turk. It is also known that after this date the palace carpets woven in the palace workshops were made with both a silk warp and weft, the first such of this kind. The stylistic use of flower motifs in this period was universal in

all art forms, as seen from palace - drawn embroidery patterns, and as seen on examples of cloth, kilims, tiles, and illuminations. This was to continue through the 18th century. Later it reappeared in a distorted form in the carpets of Uşak and Konya. Two large carpets, one of which is severely damaged, and a small prayer rug, all in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Istanbul, plus one other prayer rug of medium size in the Topkapı Palace Museum, Istanbul are the only examples of these carpets that we have left in Turkey. Most of these carpets were sent to European palaces as gifts and remained there. The large, best-preserved carpet in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Istanbul has a red field. The main pattern is cruciform motifs formed by double rumis in white lined up in an endless repetition in diagonal rows on a dark blue and green ground. The palmettoes on the four sides are joined together forming a diamond pattern. In recent years a carpet that matches this one (9.95x3.30 m) has been found in storage in the Pitti Palace, Florence. It also has the repeated two rows of blue and green. The main field on both of these carpets is red. This particular carpet was a gift to Duke Ferdinando II by Admiral Verrazano in 1623. It was first displayed in the Hayward Gallery Exhibition of 20 May-10 July 1983 and described in the catalogue by Donald King. (64) This piece indeed reflects the grandeur of the palace carpets.

These palatial carpets had an effect on the European art of carpet making and were imitated later in Spanish and Polish rugs. Poor quality carpets also inspired by these originals are still being produced in Istanbul and in areas around Izmir and Uşak. Another group of carpets in existence, designated as the late period Izmir Carpets, also shows the influence of the Ottoman palace carpets and they are even more inferior. These are produced in western Anatolia mainly in Uşak and Gördes and have come by their name merely because they are exported from Izmir. One carpet though it does not strictly fall in this group should be noted because of its importance as an example of exquisite Turkish carpets. It is one of twenty-two carpets which were stolen from the Ulu Mosque, Divriği in 1978. Having been discovered hidden in the ground in Kayseri in 1982 it was brought to the newly created Vakıflar Carpet Museum, Istanbul where it is now displayed. It is tied with Turkish knots. On a red field in blue are rows of octagonal star medallions tied together by small stylized cypress branches reminiscent of a candelabra. In the middle of the squares formed by the medallions are diagonally set rosettes. The motifs of stars with extensions similar to those on the borders of the Selçuk carpets enrich the composition. A fragment from the main field of a similar carpet with an Uşak carpet type border is in the Islamic Arts Museum, Cairo. Also a similar carpet is in the Mevlana Museum, Konya There is only one carpet sitll in existence today which was produced earlier using the Ottoman palace carpet technique But certainly besides the production of carpets in the palace, carpet making was practiced in private workshops and on family looms in Istanbul for a long time both before and after that date. A place in Istanbul called Halıcılar in the neighborhood of Yenibahçe has long been known for its carpets. Since there was no marketplace in the vicinity, the carpets were sold in the Covered Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı) and in surrounding shops. Istanbul carpets until the 20th century have radically changed so that now the old time Istanbul type carpets have been replaced by ones manufactured in Bandırma and Kayseri.

The carpets produced when the factory of Hereke was established in the 19th century had nothing in common with the genuine Istanbul carpet. These were produced in various sections of the city. In fact the art of carpet making in these centers continued in the 19th and 20th centuries. Feshane in Eyüp was famous in the 19th century; Kumkapı, Topkapı, Etyemez, Üsküdar and Istinye were famous into the 20th century. The carpets of Kumkapı for example were prized for their high quality, so much so that a daily paper of 1959 related a rumor that a silk carpet manufactured there had been sold at the exaggerated price of 60,000 dollars in the United States.' Carpet making was also practiced until recently in Topkapı, Kartal and Pendik. In the 19th century Turkish carpet weaving continued to develop. Sultan Abdülhamit II in 1881 added 100 carpet looms to the factory founded by Sultan Abdülmecit in 1844 at Hereke for the weaving of cloth, and thus the production of the famous Hereke carpets was begun, these masterpieces are still being made there under the direction of the Sümerbank. The art of old Turkish carpet weaving is creatively continuing in the Konya, Kayseri, Sivas and Kırşehir regions, in western Anatolia in Isparta, Fethiye, Döşemealtı, Balıkesir, Yağcıbedir, Uşak, Bergama, Kula, Gördes Milas, Çanakkale and Ezine, and in the east in the Kars and Erzurum regions.

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