Anatolian Rugs in Transylvanian Churches, 1500-1750
exhibition at the Sakip Sabanci Museum, Emirgan, Istanbul
19 April to 19 August 2007


The Biertan Bird Carpet
Possibly Selendi region, west Anatolia, 16th century
214 x 149 cm, missing both ends, wool pile on a wool foundation
Evangelical Church, Biertan (Birthalm), inv. no. 63

The weavers of the so-called Bird rugs might well have believed that they were creating a pattern of stylised birds, but the original motif probably represented something quite different. Most of the large Bird carpets - of which at least 22 examples are known - have the cloudband border, as seen here, nine or more have a border composed of offset half-diamond medallions, one has the so-called 'Gothic' border and one a cartouche border. The largest, formerly in the Piyale Pasa Mosque, Kasimpasa, Istanbul, and now in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, is 523 cm long; while Bird carpets are rare in Turkey, the presence of the Piyale Pasa example demonstrates that they were not all made for export. The Biertan, only a section of which remains, is the sole surviving large Bird carpet in Transylvania. The first depiction of a Bird rug in a European painting is in Hans Mielich's Portrait of Count Ladislaus von Hag (?), circa 1548, in the Kress Collection. It is likely that Bird rugs were made from at least the first half of the 16th century, as several are mentioned in European inventories from this time.

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text and images © Sakip Sabanci Museum, Istanbul
and textile-art, London, 2007:
not to be reproduced without permission