The second group of animal carpets,
those without medallions, forms a more homogenous cluster than
those with medallions and is interesting for the study of the
later, so-called, ‘Red-ground Floral’ carpets.
The most prestigious examples of
this group are the two Emperor's Carpets, one of which is illustrated
as Plate Eighteen.
Here the depiction of animals facing
off in deadly combat shows a very different tenor than the “Paradise
Park” theme carpets. Ferocious and lusty these scenes
have something almost copulative about them.
The border design here,
figure 17 is probably the most brilliant ever attempted
on any carpet. Animal heads are placed at regular
intervals along the scrolling cloudbands, recalling
a Zoroastrian mace with a Bull’s head. The Emperor's
Carpet, as Plate Eighteen has become known, was designed
using a quartered field mirrored vertically and horizontally
on its axis. The composition turns on a central pivot
from which the viewer can behold an entire 360 degree
panorama. Thus the figures in the lower half had to
be woven upside-down or in profile.
Strangely on both carpets, this
one and its twin, the two-plane scrolling vine system that underpins
the design also differs in the lower and upper halves. The lower
field section appears cramped when compared to the more amply
drawn figures in the upper field.
Perhaps this was a deliberate attempt
to even out the overall optical effect it would have when viewing
along the length from the carpet's base and this may be the
reason for the change in the scrolling vine layout. Four ibex
in the field also contribute to this effect, for when they are
viewed from either end they are seen standing upright.
These carpets are also a good starting
point to understand the spiral-vine design layout. Figure
18 is a diagrammatic rendering of the Emperor's Carpet.
Drawn by Siegfried Troll and published in Sarre-Trenkwald's
major work on early carpets (see bibliography) this
diagram clearly delineates their spiral-vine ground
layout and demonstrates the disparity between upper
and lower field portions. Along a central axis vines
circle out towards the borders and wind back, often
three times in the most complicated versions where a
second vine-trellis is often laid on top. The main design
elements can be neatly placed at regularly recurring
The arabesque spiral vine was already
highly developed in other media during Timurid period,
as a carved stone panel, figure 19, from the Gur-i-Amir
in Samarkand shows. This architectural panel is dated
to around 1400-1450, which was during the Timurid occupation
of this region.
The earlier origins of these
spiraling vegetative forms can be traced to ancient Greece,
at least as far back as 500 B.C., when the acanthus scroll form
appears as a decorative element.