Rugs and Art: The Top 5 Paintings of Oriental Rugs

by John Ahdoot 7/14/16

When you think of Oriental rugs, you don’t often think of paintings by some of the greatest artists throughout history. Nevertheless, handmade rugs have a story that is filled with its influence on artists of all types and countless other handmade arts.

In fact, the line between both painting and carpet is much thinner than you might imagine, and their impacts covered both sides of this somewhat unusual pairing.

With this in mind, here are our picks for 5 of the most beautiful paintings featuring Oriental rugs that were produced by some of the top artists over the past few centuries.

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1. The Women of Algiers by Eugène Delacroix, 1834

Part of a set of two oil paintings on canvas, The Women of Algiers was created by the French Orientalist painter Eugène Delacroix in 1834, and is today showcased in the world-renowned French museum the Louvre. The artist’s work not only further introduced the subject of Eastern cultures to Europe during the 19th century, but the painting also influenced two other legendary artists, namely Van Gogh and Gauguin, who traveled across the country of France to view this artistic masterpiece.

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2. Madonna with the Saints John the Baptist and Donatus by Andrea del Verrocchio, circa 1475-1483

Displayed in the Cathedral of Pistoia, Italy, Madonna with the Saints John the Baptist and Donatus portrays an extraordinary religious scene which is highlighted by its Oriental rug foundation. Produced during the Italian Renaissance by the painter Andrea del Verrocchio during the late 15th century, the painting shows a unique union between both East and West.

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3. Madonna and Child Enthroned by Gentile Bellini, Late 15th Century

Around the same time the painting above was being created, Gentile Bellini produced the exquisite painting Madonna and Child Enthroned featuring an Islamic prayer rug at the religious icon’s feet. What’s interesting to note about this painting, however, is the fact that while Bellini was clearly influenced by Islamic subjects and art, his paintings began to inspire new designs in Persian and Turkish rugs for decades afterward—and are today referred to as Bellini carpets.

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4. The Deposed Favourite by Fernand Cormon, 1870

After training with a handful of renowned masters, Fernand Cormon created this stunning painting that portrayed the political and social struggles of being a Kadin, or those women who were considered the favorites in a harem. The piece was sold at auction by Christie’s in 1999 to a private collector who paid $45,893 for the painting, and who undoubtedly appreciated the profound Islamic influence it contained.

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5. A Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman (detail) by Johannes Vermeer, 1662-1665

While the Louvre is certainly a prestigious museum, A Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman can be found hanging on the walls of Buckingham Palace as part of the Royal Collection, which it entered in 1762. Crafted by the prominent Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer in the mid-17th century, the focal point of the painting—where the lady and gentleman reside—is beautifully framed in the foreground by an Oriental rug whose complexity draws the viewer’s eyes inward to its intended destination.