by Ryan Reitmeyer on July 19, 2010
|This carpet from the 1930s – 40s is a great example of how designs can travel and be reinterpreted by other cultures. Although the neoclassical design suggests that it was made in Europe, its heavy cotton weft immediately rules out that possibility, as nearly all European pile rugs use a jute weft. Rather, the structure of this rug reveals that it was woven in India. Cotton was and continues to be used abundantly in Indian carpet production, and is the best clue to the source of this rug’s manufacture. |
During the 1930s and 40s, Europe saw a strong resurgence of neoclassical architecture, particularly among Italian designers, for whom classicism was a source of great nationalistic pride in the run-up to the Second World War. The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana (1938 - 1941) in Rome is a prime example of the movement toward a new classicism. With clean unadorned arches clad in travertine marble and massive statues of rearing horses, the structure is big, austere, and intimidating.
In light of the Palazzo one can’t help but notice the influence that Italian neoclassicism of the period had on the design of this carpet. An over scale, classical-style medallion with tong-and-dart molding and animals giving chase is bold and purely delightful. The large quarter medallions in the corners feature birds within botanical forms that vaguely resemble large acanthus leaves, further enhancing the classical theme.
Using animals as a decorative device is not new in carpet design. However, the posture of the deer in this carpet is very similar to a design created by Gio Ponti of the same period. The Ponti design is gracefully realized, the stag has pronounced antlers, beautifully galloping in full stride while looking over his shoulder. The deer in our carpet is clearly not as refined as the Ponti design, but the composition is remarkably similar and it speaks to the ambition of the weavers working on this carpet.
Looking at this carpet, one can imagine an Indian carpet weaver in the late 1930s with a handful of drawings and photographs of the most sophisticated Italian architecture and design of the time. Putting the pieces together as best he could, the Indian weaver created a purely charming and delightful carpet that became a document of two cultures.