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Antique Chinese Ningxia rug

Circa 1900
173 × 91 cm 5’8” x 2’11”


A truly magnificent antique Ningxia Chinese rug with a geometric “Sayagata” or Key-Fret design in the main field, woven with a faded golden/yellow background.  The pale blues and deep indigo blues are remarkable and add to this exceptional rugs quality and design.  Most key-fret designs are slanting and go diagonal across the rug, through extensive research I have not found another rug from Ningxia with a straight “Sayagata” design.

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The condition is exceptional too, the fine wool pile is very high all over this rug and it has no restoration.  I would say it is very much near perfect in condition.  The design is quite contemporary in many ways and could work in a modern interior as well as around antiques. A rare and interesting rug which is extremely collectable.

Some history about Ningxia rugs: They are woven in virtually in any format, large square ‘throne’ carpets, long and narrow kang carpets, pillar rugs, saddle rugs, chair seats and backs and monastery meditation hall runners. The pattern range is similarly broad, but overall repeating textile patterns tend to be earlier (17th century) while medallions, often with lion dogs surrounded by cloud-wreaths, are somewhat later (18th and later centuries). Dragons often appear on chair covers, usually on yellow grounds. On large carpets, however, they are far less common. To place a chair on a dragon in an audience throne carpet would be in bad taste.

As with all true Chinese carpets, the knot is Persian open to the left (asymmetric). Antique carpets are quite coarse, 25-35 knots per square inch and double wefts often dominate the knots on the back. As a general rule, the older the rug, the more the wefts predominate. Thus, the knotting yarn on old pieces is relatively thin. Only with export demand in the west did thicker yarn come into use along with higher pile, to withstand shoe traffic.

Ningxia was the source for many of the pillar carpets for Tibetan and other Buddhist monasteries. Occasionally these rugs are inscribed in Tibetan character to give the patrons of the work and its intended location.

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