Special Installation: Two Newly Conserved Mughal Carpets

Special Installation: Gardens of Eternal Spring — Two Newly Conserved Mughal Carpets

May 10, 2005 to August 14, 2005
cover of catalogue Gardens of Eternal Spring, depicting closeup of 17th century Mughal carpet

The two magnificent carpets on display in the Oval Room beginning May 10 were among the fewer than five hundred that survive from the court of the Mughal emperors. Woven in northern India in the mid-seventeenth century, these carpets were luxurious objects in terms of both the fabrics used to make them (silk and cashmere) and the artistically complex patterns that they display. The Frick carpets date from the reign of Shah Jahan (1628–58) and were probably made at the royal factory in Lahore, one of India's main cities for carpet production.

In constant use in palaces and mosques, carpets seldom survive in pristine condition over the centuries. The Frick rugs were each assembled from fragments of much larger carpets at some point during the nineteenth century, a common practice at the time owing to the demand by collectors.

The larger of the two, which is decorated with rows of trees, was most likely assembled from the carpet that was sent as a gift to the tomb mosque of Sheikh Safi in Ardabil in Persia by Shah Jahan himself. Its decoration, like that of the smaller carpet — which displays a variety of flowers — is meant to represent a garden in a mode directly connected with Mughal miniatures and relief decoration. Their rich crimson color is typically associated with Indian carpets from this period and provides a vibrant and sumptuous background against which the plants are set.

Henry Clay Frick purchased the two carpets in 1918 as furnishings for his New York home at 1 East Seventieth Street. After a nearly four-year restoration by preeminent textile conservator Nobuko Kajitani, they were displayed for the first time as works of art in their own right.

The conservation and presentation of Gardens of Eternal Spring: Two Newly Conserved Mughal Carpets was generously supported by The Hagop Kevorkian Fund, The Ahmanson Foundation, The Helen Clay Frick Foundation, and the Fellows of The Frick Collection.

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