Skip To Content



Your privacy is important. Our Cookies Statement explains how we use cookies on this site. You can change their use at any time. You accept them by continuing to use this site. Our Privacy Statement explains how we use and protect your data.

Carpet Bombing

Nic Saintey muses on a carpet which isn't magic, but is certainly unusual.

An Isfahan rug (FS40/898).

An Isfahan rug (FS40/898).

It is said that 'art' is human experience expressed through a creative medium (whether it be painting, sculpture, music or poetry), which for many probably sounds quite pompous. However, the household objects we chose to have around us will all have been subject to creative input and, by default, will reflect our personal and communal experiences.

Perhaps antique rugs are a good reflection of this, being both practical and subject to very deliberate design. This, when coupled with the type of wool (or silk) and the range of vegetable dyes to hand, often produces a geographically recognisable style that echoes the environment in which it was produced. When faced with an Isfahan rug, there is no mistaking the depiction of an idyllic garden landscape in which every centimetre is occupied by identifiable flora and fauna. Obviously, a high status rug that depicts 'pet' peacocks which were not indigenous to Iran.

A Fergahan rug (FS37/1081).

A Fergahan rug (FS37/1081).

When looking at a Feraghan rug, also from Iran, the decoration is not as sumptuous although the sentiment remains the same, albeit in a more stylised and formulaic manner. Equally as busy, it is also covered with flowers and foliage, though none you might be able to identify. However, I am sure you'll agree the results are still pleasing and probably infinitely more affordable.

However, from time-to-time, one does come across a rug that seems to contain the unexpected such as the Afghan rug illustrated below. At a cursory glance, it has a border of stylised blooms and two buildings including a large tower, but give it a second look and what do we see in the upper left corner? Although it would appear incongruous, there is a military helicopter beneath a row of bombers, a strange addition until one realises that it was produced during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Once this is accepted, the placing of a tank and an armoured car elsewhere in the scheme is not at all out of place and, if you happened to be a member of the Mujahedeen, this splendid rug might be just the ticket.

An Afghan Soviet Occupation Rug.

An Afghan Soviet Occupation Rug.

Now I grant you that this Afghan Soviet occupation rug may not be a stunning piece of work and the decoration may seem ill conceived and, as rare as they are, these rugs don't achieve high prices. However, one must remember it was not produced for our consumption, but for an Afghan market where it would have had more relevance. As a piece of social history, it certainly resonates with me and I would suggest it has a cultural significance that brings a whole new meaning to the term carpet bombing.

Detail of an armoured car and tank.

Detail of an armoured car and tank.

Detail of a Russian military helicopter.

Detail of a Russian military helicopter.

Tags

  • Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood

Social Bookmarks

Please click the following links to flag this article to other people on the Internet.

About the Author

Nic SainteyNic Saintey
Ceramics and Glass

Nic Saintey has been a director of Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood since 2003 and heads up the Ceramics and Glass Department. He is part of the team specialising in Chinese ceramics and works of art.

Nic's first career was in the Armed Forces where he served both as a military parachutist and paramedic. He joined a firm of Somerset auctioneers in early 1995 and Bearnes during a period of expansion in June 2000.

His effervescent nature, sense of humour, broad knowledge and experience has seen him appear as an expert for BBC television programmes. He undertakes regular talks to both academic and general interest groups talking on subjects as diverse as Staffordshire pottery and pop culture, Chinese porcelain and the troubled relationship between Britain and the Orient, the English drinking glass and the Donyatt potters.

He is an occasional contributor of articles for national and local publications and is equally fascinated by the stories attached to pots as he is about the objects themselves.

His personal interests include Oriental and domestic pottery, but especially that produced in the West Country.

Accompanied by his Lurcher Stickey, he is a keen Moorland walker (but only in the winter), an increasingly slow runner and a chaotic cook who always eats his own mistakes and, yes of course, he collects pottery!