Museum of National Antiquities
Hegira 700–823 / AD 1300–1420
SHM 17 786
Height 160 cm, width 112 cm
One of the few examples surviving in Sweden from a tradition of carpet–making in the early Ottoman period in Anatolia. In 1925, the so-called 'Marby rug', Sweden's oldest preserved oriental carpet, was found, cut in two pieces, at the abandoned church of Marby, a village in the province of Jämtland. Belonging to the group of animal carpets, it shows red, stylised birds standing symmetrically on either side of a tree set within octagons on an ivory ground. The birds and tree motif has been long known and very common in Central Asia.
To judge from their presentations in Italian paintings of the 14th century, animal carpets with a tree flanked by two birds already seem to have been popular at this time. However, they reached the peak of their production and circulation during the first half of the AH 9th / AD 15th century. The provenance of this rug from a village in Jämtland in Sweden is important as it shows that the export was not restricted to Italy, but also reached the Baltic region. Animal carpets disappeared towards the end of the AH 9th / AD 15th century.
Apart from the Marby rug, some fragments with the motif of birds flanking a tree from Fustat in Egypt are known and there are two completely preserved examples. The first was found in a church in Italy and is now in the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin, Germany, and a second was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1990.
Rug, called ‘Marby rug’ after the village where it was found. Its pattern shows stylised red birds standing symmetrically on either side of a tree. This motif was long known and very common in Central Asia.
Church of Marby, Jämtland
The rug was dated by radiocarbon (Carbon-14).
Bought by the Museum of National Antiquities in 1925.
The patterns of the border and the guard strips are characteristically Anatolian; the guard strips also appear in another group of early Ottoman carpets discovered in the 'Ala al-Din Mosque at Konya, Turkey.
Ådahl, K., Den Orientaliska Mattan i Sverige, Stockholm, 1998, cat. no. 1.
Erdmann, K., The History of the Early Turkish Carpet, London, 1977.
King, D. and Sylvester, D., The Eastern Carpet in the Western World: From the 15th to the 17th Century, London, 1983, cat. no. 2.
Lamm, C. J., Carpet Fragments: The Marby Rug and Some Fragments of Carpets Found in Egypt, reprint, Uddevalla, 1985.
Sterner, M. and Kind, J., Antika Orientaliska Mattor i Sverige, Stockholm, 1937.
Friederike Voigt "Marby Rug" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;se;Mus01_A;35;en
Prepared by: Friederike VoigtFriederike Voigt
Friederike Voigt has an MA in Iranian studies, history of art and social science and is currently working on her doctoral thesis on wall tiles in architectural decoration of Qajar Iran. Since 2004 she has been a project-related curator at the Museum for Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm for Museum With No Frontiers. She studied at Humboldt University in Berlin, at the University of Tehran and archaeology at the University of Halle-Wittenberg. She taught Persian language at several universities in Germany. She was an assistant curator at the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Cultures at the Museum of Ethnology, State Museums of Berlin. Her main fields of interest are the material culture of Iran, especially of the Qajar period, and contemporary Iranian art.
Copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: SE 37