Carpet Ushak East West

Carpet with star medallion from Ushak, western Anatolia, about 1450 – 1550
Mixed media, 4300 x 1960mm
Lent by the Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art

Carpet with star medallion from Ushak

Lent by the Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art

References to ‘Turkish carpets’ abound in wealthy sixteenth-century households, as the continuation of trade links that developed out of the early Crusades, if not before. Carpets were emblems of taste and status that appeared regularly in Renaissance art (see Rooms 2 and 3). The ‘star-variant’ Ushak carpets such as this one were depicted by artists such as Hans Holbein in his portraits of Henry VIII.

While British painters poetically idealised the countryside in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, weavers in Exeter and Axminster attempted to commercially reproduce these Anatolian designs, as the Industrial Revolution was radically transforming the British landscape.

Why might carpets like this appear with such frequency in Renaissance paintings?

The boundaries between what we will refer to here as East and West were thoroughly permeable in the Renaissance … cultural histories apparently utterly distinct, and traditionally kept entirely separate, are ripe to be rewritten as shared East/West undertakings.

Jerry Brotton and Lisa Jardine Global Interests: Renaissance Art Between East and West. 2003