Patching Up the Emperor’s Carpet

Carpet

Installation view of the Emperor’s Carpet, second half 16th century. Iran, Safavid period (1501–1722). Source: The Met.

If royal guests had walked all over your Persian carpet for the last 600 years, how many repairs would you need? Before coming to the Met, the 16th-century Emperor’s Carpet, covered in animals and poetry, was once owned by the Shah of Iran and the Hapsburgs.

Since this large, beautiful carpet arrived in New York 60 years ago, the Metropolitan Museum was only able to display it twice because it was in such fragile shape.  When they turned it over, they saw it had been patched over 700 times. How could they stabilize it and install it in their expansive New Galleries of the Art of the Arab Lands on the second floor?

You’ll find out all about the behind-the-scenes work analyzing, stabilizing, patching, and repairing it in the micro- show, Making the Invisible Visible: Conservation and Islamic Art.

Carpet Detail

Restored corner of the Emperor’s Carpet.

The show features all manner of science, technology, and process that the magical conservators put to work for other pieces, too – ceramics, tapestries made of gold and silver threads, wood, and works on paper over the last 2,000 years. One of our favorites is the child’s coat made from antique pashmina. They also have examples of the natural materials that were crushed and pounded into pigments for all these beautiful dyes and paints.

Although the gallery is tiny, the Met decided to send visitors on a treasure hunt by providing a brochure through which seekers of conservation wizardry can locate the Emperor’s Carpet and other works throughout the dozens of Islamic Art galleries. See the details on these and more our Flickr site.

Child Coat

Child’s coat from India on display in the show. Tailored in the late 19th c., but but fabric woven late 18th c. The textile is from Kashmir and is likely pashmina.

One of the shockers is seeing what the conservators reckon are the true colors of the 1707 Damascus room, long a favorite of Met period-room fans. The science showed that the darkened panels that we’re so familiar with were once bright, bright blue and gold.

If you can’t see the conservator’s showcase before August 4, read about all the science and technology on line at the special web site. You’ll find links to the stories of rehab for the carpet, the child’s coat, the gold-weave chadar, and more.

If you have eight minutes, take a look at three years of work on the royal carpet by the Met’s magicians:

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