The Paradise Carpet
The Persian word for enclosed park or walled garden is paridaeza, whence our “paradise.” Such gardens, which were also orchards, flowerbeds, water sources, and sometimes menageries, existed throughout the ancient Near East (and still are built today). They were, and are, important places of refreshment, of fruitfulness, of fragrance and sweetness, of rest and shade and delight. Not surprisingly, such gardens became sources of enduring imagery for literature and poetry across the region, including the Israel of the Old Testament.
Here we examine an example of just such an enclosed garden made flesh—or at least wool, cotton, and silk: the so-called Wagner Carpet (named after a previous owner) from seventeenthcentury Isphahan (a province in present-day Iran), now part of the Burrell Collection in Glasgow, Scotland (see the inside back cover for a color image of this carpet). Paradise carpets were made for both indoor and outdoor use. The climate in Isphahan ranges from freezing in the winter to the nineties in the height of summer and fall; the carpet is a quest for an eternal spring. It would have been spread in a winter palace (it measures 14 by 17 feet) or in a shaded outdoor pavilion in summer, projecting hopeful images of a fantastical spring.
The imagery it encompasses comes from a common Middle Eastern culture which can cast light on our understanding of the Bible and, save for the constraints set on visual images, might have been a Hebrew illustration of much of Scripture.
THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:
Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.
more on art from the online archives
calling all readers
"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand
"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor
• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!
Purchase Print &
Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!
Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives including pdf downloads for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!
GIVE Print &
Give six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for the reduced rate of $29.95. That's only $2.50 per month!
Transactions will be processed on a secure server.
Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.
OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)
Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.
more from the online archives