Home > Hot Button Issues >The Marby Rug: Where and When?
Mon, Oct 16th, 2017 01:13:52 PM
Topic: The Marby Rug: Where and When?

Last March 2011 RK published the following concerning our long held suspicions Stockholm's famous Marby rug is not what everyone claims and believes.

In it we floated two brazen statements.

The first that the Marby is a "fake", and the second "fact is we believe it is not even 100 years old."

We also said "RK can definitively state we do not in any way believe that rug is 15th, 16th, 17th or even 18th century."

So before we go any father we believe it is time to fess up why we made these claims and admit we only did so to try and prod some discussion out of the silent void that is online oriental rug collecting.

However, all that said we genuinely do not believe the Marby is:

1. an Anatolian rug

2. a 14th century weaving

The Stockholm NationalMuseum, which owns the Marby, has recently done some C14 testing of various weavings, including the Marby, and published the results.

See Nockert, Margareta & Possnert,Gran "Att datera textilier " (Dating textiles), 2002

This testing program was very professionally done and people have urged RK to "accept" the results and desist from further voicing our suspicions.

As many of you know RK is not a believer in the infallibility of c14 testing for most types of non-classical carpets and related weaving. In fact, we do not believe any dates so gotten are to be trusted.

Our silence since March on the Marby Question, which is perhaps a good name for it, should not seen as a change in our position, far from it.

Actually we have not continued publicly because we are trying to gather enough evidence to make our suspicions far more concrete and believable to those who are so sure the Marby is what it is cracked up to be -- ie Anatolian and 14th century.

So before we go further and present some new evidence we would like our readers to note what we have already said on the subject.

We are editing out some extraneous comments that are not directly related to the Marby Question, but for those readers who wish the original it is at this URL:



The Marby rug; Museum of National Antiquities; Stockholm, Sweden

In the early 1990s we ventured to Stockholm and Gteborg, Sweden to examine the collection of early textiles illustrated in Carl Johan Lamms Carpet Fragments publication, as well as others conserved in the two museum collections.

It was not the first time we had visited Sweden, nor the last.

While in Stockholm we had the opportunity to see at very close range the Marby rug.

Regrettably it was encased in plastic and we were unable to get a hand on it, but we did get real close. Real close.

Close enough to be 99.9999% sure it aint as old as it claimed by all.

Here is the Museum's official description of the Marby:

Marby Rug
Holding Museum: Museum of National Antiquities,Stockholm, Sweden
Original Owner:Church of Marby, Jmtland
Museum Inventory Number:SHM 17 786
Height 160 cm, width 112 cm
Material(s) / Technique(s):Wool; knotted.
Date of the object:Hegira 700823 / AD 13001420
Period / Dynasty:Ottoman
Provenance:Anatolia, Turkey.
Description:One of the few examples surviving in Sweden from a tradition of carpetmaking 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 Jmtland.

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 Jmtland 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.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.

How object was obtained:
Bought by the Museum of National Antiquities in 1925.

How date and origin were established:
The rug was dated by radiocarbon (Carbon-14).

How provenance was established:
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

Before we discuss some of the myth and misrepresentation dispensed above let RK present the possible modello the artiste who created the Marby copied.

Anatolian animal rug RK dates circa 1600

Here are the two side by side, any questions?

left: detail of an animal rug illustrated in Early Turkish Carpets, Yetkin; right: detail of the Marby rug, erroneously in our opinion dated 14th/early 15th century

RK published our research and commentary on the Lamm textiles in 2004 online in the Weaving Art Museums exhibition Ancient Carpet Fragments.

Here is what we wrote about the Marby rug:
As is mentioned in the introduction, Lamm originally published these fragments as part of his effort to place the Marby Rug in its proper perspective.

I have my doubts about how old this carpet is and, though Lamm and other experts believe it to be 15th century, suffice it to say I dont.

The more simplistic rendering of the animals shares some parallels with this fragment (pictured below) particularly the long horns and shape of the animals head.

Plate 13, Carpet Fragments, Carl Johan Lamm; republished as Plate 11 in the Weaving Art Museum Ancient Carpet Fragments exhibition

But the rest of the iconography and some of its physical details dont appear to place the Marby rug within any of the early groups of these animal rugs and surely do not imply and deeper connection to these fragments.

Comparing the Marby to a genuinely ancient animal carpet like this one in the Islamic Museum in Berlin should return a no way verdict from any expert.

Lamm, Pope and other carpet scholars and researchers are long dead and they cannot revisit their opinions on the Marby.

However, many of todays crop of wanna-be and pseudo-experts continue to forward the bogus opinion the Marby is a 14th/15th century weaving.

The official story above makes reference to the animal rug in the Metropolitan Museum in N.Y. as a significant analog for comparison.

Animal rug purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and dated by them to the 14th century, dating RK also opines is seriously flawed.

RK knows this rug well, as we personally examined it long before the Mets ex-curator dan aka do nothing dan walker championed its purchase in 1990.

We had the opportunity to examine this rug when it was with several other now famous early Anatolian rugs -- the cut into six parts animal-in-animal rug illustrated in Kirchheims Orient Stars and the Faces rug -- in the London home/gallery of Lisbet Holmes.

Just to reiterate what we are already on the record as stating, we do not believe the Mets rug is, as they contend, a 14th century example made in Anatolia(Turkey).

Our position is as follows: The Mets animal rug, which they paid 750,000 dollars for, was made in Persia, is an Afshar, and we date as late 17th century.

The 14th century c14 dates, the Marby and the Mets animal rug returned, are in our opinion specious to say the least, and again demonstrate the danger of believing the reliability of c14 dating for many oriental carpets.

There was a genuine 15th century animal rug in the group Lisbet Homes had for sale but we never saw it; it was sold just before RK got wind of her having these rugs in her gallery.

It was sold to a very astute Italian collector, who presumably still has it in his collection.

RK has seen a good large transparency and we definitely believe it is the real thing, a 14th/15th century Anatolian animal rug.

Before we leave this tack we must also reiterate another of our previously stated for the record positions: The Kirchheim cut in four parts animal rug, which by the way he sold for a reported 10 million dollars, is Kurdish, made in eastern Anatolia, and dates according to us early 17th century.

Animal rug, ex-collection Kirchheim, illustrated in Orient Stars

Again it too is copy, but a provincial one, of the earlier animal rugs seen in the Italian paintings of the 14th century and later. The goat hair warp, somewhat looser and funky articulation of the pattern unmistakable signs to support our contention.

By the way, the animal-in-animal icon this rug and the Mets show can be traced back to an Anatolian slit-tapestry fragment RK discovered on our research expedition to Egypt, which we illustrate and mention below.

Anyone who views the Marby next to a rug like the one in Berlin must come to the conclusion the Marby is a two dimensional poster, and late copy, compared to a great work of art like Berlins.

In the official publicity for the Marby rug reference is made to a small group of rare textiles from Fostat in Egypt that show two animals on either side of a tree.

RK is also very familiar with these as well, as we studied them in the flesh on our 1989 research expedition to Egypt.

We illustrated several, some previously unknown, in the Cult Kelim catalog we wrote and published in 1990, as well as republishing them in the Weaving Art Museum websites exhibition Cult Kelim in 2002.


One in particular, which had not previously been known, provides what we believe is the earliest known version of this iconic pattern.

slit-tapestry medallion depicting animal in animal, in this case anthropomorphic birds; cover photo, Cult Kelim; Cassin; Islamic Museum collection, Cairo, Egypt

Here is another from the Cult Kelim catalog and the Weaving Art Museum exhibition.

Fragmentary slit-tapestry showing animals flanking a tree; Islamic Museum collection, Cairo, Egypt

We would like to get some samples of the Marby rug, the Berlin animal rug and several of the ancient fragments we illustrated here, plus others from our previously published related works, and do some comparative testing.

However, this seems highly unlikely as the museums in question are not prone to allow even small snippets of their textiles to be taken for analysis.

Regardless, we can comment further on the quite nonsensical references made about the Marby above and, while were at it, those made in the Mets official blurb about their animal rug.

Calling the Marbys border and guard strips(sic) characteristically Anatolian is true but what a flimsy place to hang ones hat this rug is 600 years old.

And even more laughably it is the only one cited.

Same goes for the curators comment about the Metropolitan Museum of Arts animal rug published on their website.

Curator Comment
When this rug was discovered a few years ago, its unusual field designrows of animals within animalswas otherwise known only in a rug depicted in a Sienese painting of about 1410, The Marriage of the Virgin by Gregorio di Cecco di Luca (National Gallery, London).

The pattern of the painted version, partially obscured by standing figures, was not comprehensible without the Metropolitan's rug.

The field design probably derives from medieval textiles patterned with single or paired animals in compartments.

This purchase, hailed in rug-collecting circles, brought to the Museum one of the best preserved, earliest Turkish carpets in the world.

Only two other carpets of a similar date are known.

This amateurish say nothing commentary is unworthy of a museum with the stature and reputation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and past that comment we have nothing further to say.

Author: jc
Mon, Oct 16th, 2017 01:13:52 PM

Today's NY Times newspaper ran a story concerning the discovery of the word "Allah" woven in Kufic script onto a Viking garment made and found in Sweden.

The garment is a woman's dress made of silk.

Here is the URL for the story:

While this does not prove RK assertions the Marby rug is not an Anatolian weaving it does support contact between the Islamic lands and the Vikings of northern Europe.

So perhaps our suspicions the Marby was woven in Sweden as a copy of the early Anatolian animal rugs are not so far out as many have claimed.

Time will hopefully tell.

Also what would be very enlightening, and something that is possible to accomplish today, is a detailed scientific analysis campaign to examine the fibers and dyes of the Marby to learn exactly what types of sheep, dyes and mordants were used to produce it.

Author: jc
Sun, Dec 18th, 2011 06:55:47 AM

October 3, 2014

Our post above and below concerning our suspicions concerning both the age and the provenance of the Marby rug were written in 2011.

Since then in another post we have published a photo of the back of the Marby which displays a structure totally unlike any Anatolian rug or carpet, village or workshop, we have ever seen.

Detail of the back of the Marby rug

This demonstrates the conventional idea the Marby is an Anatolian weaving needs some major rethinking.

However, RK knows rugDUMB well enough to understand this will never happen and anyone, like RK, who questions this provenance will be labeled a quack.

It is truly a shame even when proof is presented old ideas and conventions about oriental rugs remain inviolate.

Time has come to revise attitudes, and perhaps when and if this becomes the norm oriental carpet studies will attract attention and far more capable researchers than the present crop of atrophied, intellectually challenged posers.


RK has not forgotten about the Marby rug and our suspicions, though we have found some additional evidence to support them.

However, we have been stymied by our being unable to go ourself to Stockholm and examine it in person to verify some of the questions our new evidence raises.

We have also been unable to find someone capable to do what needs to be done for us and presently are waiting until we can arrange this and get some photos to substantiate what might be discovered.

Therefore until that day comes we will all have to be patient.

So stay tuned and hopefully early in the New Year we will be able to continue our efforts to prove or disprove just exactly where and when the Marby was made.

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