“Salting” Rug: Benguiat Prayer Rug
Dating: 16th-17th century (Safavid Dynasty)
Material: Wool, Silk & Silver Metallic Thread
Dimensions (cm): 106 x 176
Inv. no.: PD0077
Displayed between May & August
The ‘Salting’ Rugs
In September 2007, two Specialists in Islamic rugs (Michael Franses and John Mills) identified three ‘Salting’ carpets in the Ducal Palace. Their presence in Portugal happened after a Parisian Antiques Collector, Armand Deroyan, had told them he recognised the carpets when he visited Guimarães some years previously. The ‘Saltings’ are currently among the most expensive and desired carpets by Collectors from all over the world. These pieces are the largest set to be documented outside of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.
These rugs were acquired, among a number of other objects, in the context of a Restructuring Programme of the Palace by the Department of Monuments – The Commission for the Acquisition of Furniture – in the late 1950’s. All three of the carpets were bought from the prominent Mrs. Perez, a Textile Dealer in London, who had previously been involved in the sale of important rugs from Portuguese Collections to the International Market.
The designation ‘Salting’ derives from the name of the famous Australian Art Collector, George Salting (1835-1909), the same Collector who, in 1909, donated a particularly emblematic piece to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
The volume of the intertwining structure, created through the warp, weft and knots, determines the level of detail that the Weaver can achieve. Fibres with a smaller diameter facilitate the execution of the more complex patterns; this is the reason why in carpets of high quality, the silk thread is frequently used in the warp, weft and knots. The horizontal and vertical lines are easily executed in the octagonal net created by the warp and weft in the loom, unlike what happens when curvilinear motifs are required. In that case, a greater density of knots is necessary (more than 3500 knots per dm2) to avoid ‘squared’ effects, which justifies the frequent use of silk fibres in the warp (and at times in the weft) in rugs made of wool.
The rugs found in the Ducal Palace of the Bragança represent the most important discovery in Portugal since 1911, when José de Figueiredo found the magnificent carpet of ‘animals and trees’ in the Madre de Deus Convent, in Xabregas and is now considered the ‘crown jewel’ of the Textile Collection in the National Museum of Ancient Art (Lisboa). The intense investigation being pursued in the study and conservation of the three ‘Salting’ carpets has guaranteed its preservation for future generations. After finally having their previous status of important objects of the Islamic Art, restored, the carpets are worthy of respect and admiration as National Treasures.
Raquel Santos e Jessica Hallett
This carpet is part of a set of 74 similar pieces. They have a wide colour palette (8 in total), of religious inscriptions and are profusely decorated with metallic thread.
The carpet is characterised by a red field decorated with tendril windings; the upper corners are filled with irregular, colourful areas with small inscriptions. The central niche is delimited by a continuous sash filled with calligraphy. The main border displays a beige background decorated with green and red cartouches with inscriptions, alternating with multi-lobed cartouches.
The inscriptions include several verses from the Koran; in the cartouche of the niche it may be read ‘Glory be to my Almighty Lord, He is praiseworthy,’ which is a frequently characteristic in ‘Salting’ carpets. This piece, also known as ‘Benguiat Prayer rug’ because it had been part of the Collection of the famous Antiques Collector Vital Benquiat, is stylistically associated with six carpets currently preserved in the Museum Topkapy Saray (Istanbul) and with five other carpets in private Collections or whose current location is unknown. The carpet displays an intense set of colours (especially blue, green and red) in the upper corners.