c. 1525–1575

Dallas Museum of Art

Dallas Museum of Art

Spanish rugs represent one of the oldest extant groups of such textiles. It is believed that Muslim Arabs brought the art o rug weaving to the Iberian Peninsula when they pushed the Visigoths out of Spain in the 18th century. For several centuries thereafter, the finest Spanish rugs were produced by Muslim craftsmen and exported throughout the eastern Mediterranean. The textiles appear to have been especially appreciated in Egypt before Cairo developed a weaving industry of its own.

During the 15th century, Spanish weaving reached its zenith, with several towns in the southwestern region of Murcia producing rugs. Probably made in either Alcaraz or Cuenca, this example reflects the changes that occurred as Muslim craftsmen were supplanted by Christian workers following the defeat of the Moors in 1492. Although the three large octagonal motifs are derived from Turkish rugs imported into Spain, the characteristic octagonal "wheels" of the Islamic prototype have been transformed into "wreaths." By the time this rug was made in the 16th century, Spanish designs had drifted to the point that the original Islamic motifs were highly compromised and mingled with European Gothic and Renaissance patterns. Here, the tracery on the interior of the octagons has little relationship to the highly geometric patterns found on Turkish examples. Also, the non-Islamic border of intertwined griffins was probably inspired by contemporary Spanish or Italian silk designs.

"Decorative Arts Highlights from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection," page 28

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