Caucasian Shirvan | 3ft 11in by 5ft 6in, late 19th century




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Each time I see this rug, I spontaneously smiled, because its colors are so splendiferous and seem to dance in infinite combinations. Currently it is displayed on the wall in our gallery, and seeing it at eye-level reveals its seemingly endless variation on the flaming palmette theme and its true plethora of jewel-tone colors.

Like all of the rugs in the Toronto Treasury, there is much more to this piece than can be taken in at one glance. Note for instance the miniscule ornamentation around the edges of the field. Also where the last row of flaming palmette motifs are just peeking through at the very top of the field—indicating the design continues into infinite space.

The borders are entirely unique among Shirvan rugs. The deeply abstracted dragon main border reveals constant nuance of both color and form. The pair of marine blue secondary borders contains a virtually deconstructed flower flanked by geometric forms, once again showing Caucasian rugs were precursors to 20th century postmodern art. This is an enthralling rug whose color is so ripe and potent due to its master dye work and superb quality of wool. Oh, and I should mention that it’s in virtually full pile condition!