Spiral Branching Carpet

This large carpet is called a spiral branching carpet. The name derives from the four large, red blossoming tendrils that structure the inner section. At each of the spots where the spirals touch, there is a monumental palmette. Richly detailed smaller flowers grow from the tendrils themselves. But the blossoms are not so much images of nature as ornamentation, as they separate into countless individual forms.

Groups of lions and leopards preying on antelope are distributed symmetrically within the tendrils. In addition, there are many single figures, such as large flightless birds and Chinese unicorns – fairy tale creatures that originally came from Asian mythology.

Such a masterful carpet, with such richness of detail and fantastical images in fabulous colours was most probably designed by a painter. The illuminators who worked in the royal libraries did more than just paint miniatures for manuscripts. They also provided designs for art and handicrafts. Such a splendid piece could only have been commissioned by a wealthy prince. The carpet was made around 1610 in Lahore, now a city in Pakistan that was then part of the Mogul Empire.