The so-called Turkish Rug “Phoenix and Dragon”, is an Armenian

This 15th C rug called the “Phoenix and Dragon” is one of the most famous rugs in the world. It is displayed in the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin. It’s always been called Anatolian or Turkish. I will explain in a few paragraphs and images why this rug is clearly Armenian.

1) The Cilician Armenians and Mongols were major allies in the 13th C. Trade and cultural exchanges went on between them. Many artworks and silk robes came to Armenia and it is acknowledged by historians that Chinese/Mongol art had an influence on the art of Armenia during this period.

2) The concept of “animals in battle” was a common theme in Armenian Medieval Art years before the Mongols arrived.

3) Historians of Chinese art maintain that the “dragon and phoenix” in combat or opposition does not occur in Chinese art until the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). There is even the suggestion that they do not appear together on the same object until then. Thus, the late thirteenth-century Armenian examples, in which the animals are clearly confronted, are enigmatic.

4) The “Phoenix and Dragon” motif was not Islamic and did not arrive in Anatolia via the Seljuks. The Mongols’ dominant religions at that time were Tengrism and Buddhism, although Ögedei’s wife was a Christian. Only in the later years of the empire 14th C, three of the four principal khanates embraced Islam, as Islam was favored over other religions.

5) There are at least two examples of the Armenian interpretation of the Mongol’s “Phoenix and Dragon” theme in 13th C Armenian manuscripts shown below. They are all in confrontation or battle.

If anyone wants to challenge me about the provenance of this rug, don’t bother unless you can show me a “Phoenix and Dragon’ motif from the Seljuks or anyone else in the region before the 15th C.

by Arto Tavukciyan

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