Turkish Carpet and Its Place in England The art of carpet is one of the most important branches of art that the English learned from the Turks
Turkish Carpet and Its Place in England
The art of carpet is one of the most important branches of art that the English learned from the Turks. By the 15th century, the English had no concern to cover their floor. Even in their palaces, places were often naked and filthy. Only a precious piece of cloth was laid before the throne. However, in the 15th century, places began to be covered with straw, while a few Turkish carpets arrived in England. The first record concerning the Turkish carpets in England dates back to 1439. Also, the very first Turkish carpets, reached to England, were brought by Antony Querrinus for the pontiff of the St. John’s monastery in London.1 It is also known that Venetian and Genoese merchants brought Turkish carpets to London and exchanged them with the British wools. For example, in 1492, the Genoese merchant Antonio Gallio brought 40 of the 50 Turkish carpets that he bought from Chios to London and swapped them with the English wools, and he made a very good profit from this business, so in 1494 he came back to London with Turkish carpets again.2 Turkish carpets could even become a matter of negotiation on state treaties. We can see the importance of the Turkish carpet in another example. Cardinal Wolsey, the Archbishop of England, due to a disagreement on merchant negotiations with the Venetian government, he once asked Venetians to bring 12 Damask carpets, and in return 7 Turkish carpets were given as a sign of gift. However, Cardinal said he could pay 60-100 carpets that could be brought to him. He also had implied that it would be a gift, and four years later the Venetian government, via their ambassador, had sent 60 Turkish carpets to England as a gift. Later, Wolsey, examined these beautiful Turkish carpets, which were given to himself, in his palace one by one, and he had liked them very much. Wolsey expressed his satisfaction with the promise of helping Venetian merchants in many matters that they had difficulties with.3 Although there is no detailed description of these carpets that were presented to Cardinal Wolsey, it is thought that they were abducted by King Henry VIII after the overthrow of Cardinal in 1529.4
Furthermore, in the 16th century, Turkish carpets, along with being imported from the Ottoman Empire, were still regarded as valuable, rare luxury goods. Another sample related to the Turkish carpets dates back to the Elizabethean era. Thomas Platter, who visited Elizabeth’s palace in 1599, tells us that in the reception room, where the gobelin tapestries on the wall stood out and where the floor was covered with reedmace, only the places where he walked to the throne of the Queen were covered with Turkish knotted carpets.5 In 1598, a foreign traveler named Hentzer, while narrating the Hampton Court Palace, of which Elizabeth was an occasional resident, says that many rooms of this palace are equipped with gold, silver and silk embroidered wall carpets, some of which depicted the battle scenes, and the others were depicted with very natural Turkish “dresses”.6 The dresses that Hetzner referred to here must have been the Turkish carpets which were frequently used in the palace inventories of those years and used as table cloths. However, in the 16th century it is obvious that the Turkish carpets in England were imitated. A carpet dating back to 1570, with Queen Elizabeth in the middle and an emblem of Ipswich Province’s Dynasty on its edges, is now exhibited in the Victoria and Albert Museum. A group of carpets in the Queensbury collection, which are part of the Montagu family and date back to 1564-87, are also imitations of Turkish carpets.7 What’s more, Richard Hakluyt, who noticed the demands that began in the 15th century for the Turkish carpets in England, directed Morgan Hubblethorn, a Moscow company member, to learn about the art of Turkish carpets and bring back a few men and women who knew this art very well.8 Although there is not much information on this subject, it is doubtful that he was successful.
However, stated before, it is known that in the 16th century imitations of Turkish carpets were also very spread. Indeed, British sources define carpets, which were imported from Turkey, as “Turkish Carpet”, and they define carpets, which were imitated, as “Turkey work carpet”. As a matter of fact, in addition to the description of “carpet” in a commerce dictionary, published in 1756, it stated the best carpets were made in Iran and particularly in Turkey; further, the names of the carpets were given according to the names of the different regions of Anatolia or by other names. It was emphasized that the carpets, called ‘Mosquetes’, were the most beautiful ones and that the carpets, called ‘Cadene’, were the lowest quality.9 In the 18th century the Royal Society of Arts used to organize competitions to encourage people into the art of carpet. One of the award winners, Thomas Whitty’s carpet factory in Axminster, continued to work until the mid-19th century, but it could not compete against the Turkish market and eventually was closed. One of the latest carpets, made in Axminster, was ordered for the Ottoman Sultan and completed in the late 18th century, creating a great excitement in the town. It had been the biggest carpet ever weaved. To celebrate this, the English even held a ceremony in the church on Thanksgiving.10