Woven with precious threads of silk and pashmina wool, these two carpets were made in the royal manufactories of northern India in the seventeenth century. At the time, India was ruled by the Muslim Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, celebrated for having built the Taj Mahal, a mausoleum for his favorite wife. These rugs may have once decorated one of Shah Jahan’s palaces or may have been used as diplomatic gifts.
Each carpet is composed of fragments of much larger and longer rugs. Over the centuries, the carpets were damaged by wear and tear; and in the late nineteenth century, some of the best-preserved areas were reassembled in order to create objects to be sold on the market in the west. Fragments from the same carpets survive in other public and private collections.
Mughal carpets are known for their graceful depictions of trees and flowers set against bright red backgrounds. Some of the plants and flowers can be identified, while others are creations of the artists who designed the carpets.
Henry Clay Frick placed these carpets on the floor of two rooms in his mansion on East 70th Street. But this does not mean he was unaware of their importance. In fact, he actually paid more for them than he did for some of the Impressionist paintings in his collection. For conservation reasons, the carpets are now displayed in cases, shown upright, unfortunately distorting the original effect they would have had as imaginary gardens underfoot.