Originating in the eastern regions of the world, Oriental carpets have served indigenous populations and attracted foreign admirers for centuries. The fifty-one carpets and two Persian pleasure tents on view in The Carpet and the Connoisseur: The James F. Ballard Collection of Oriental Rugs feature lush wool, silk, and cotton yarns, dyed in striking hues, which were handwoven to created masterpiece textiles.
The rugs, which date from the late 14th to late 19th centuries, incorporate patterns handed down from generation to generation, as well as innovations on the part of individual weavers. The high quality materials and skilled workmanship of these carpets brought beauty to those who used them daily as floor coverings and for prayer and generated great demand for these artworks across the globe.
Thanks to St. Louisan James Franklin Ballard’s generous gift of his collection in 1929, and his daughter’s subsequent gift in 1972, the Saint Louis Art Museum boasts an enviable holding of Oriental carpets. The significance of this collections stems from Ballard’s ability to identify and obtain exceptional carpets, originating from both the royal and commercial workshops of the Islamic world, and from outlying villages and nomadic encampments.
Visit The Carpet and the Connoisseur to discover how this art form evolved and spread beyond the East, all while you experience the extraordinary combination of color and texture, form and function, meaning and mystery that captivated Ballard years ago. The exhibition is on view through May 8, 2016 in the Museum’s Main Exhibition Galleries, East Building. Visit slam.org/ballard for more information.