The appraisal of the design and the weaving structure of Islamic knotted-pile carpets can tell plenty about the context in which they were produced, and the identification of signs of deterioration can help to establish their condition. These are often somewhat imprecise and laborious examinations, especially when considering carpets of large dimensions. Analytical methods that support these disciplines urge further exploration so that improved interpretations can be obtained. An interdisciplinary combination of art history, analytical science and textile conservation aimed, on the one hand, to improve the weaving examination of these complex textile objects – by considering the spin of threads and the ply of yarns; the knot count and density; and the weaving structure of warps, wefts and piles – and on the other, to help their condition assessment – by mapping of damaged areas, old repairs and contaminations. For this purpose, the possibilities and limitations of several non-invasive imaging techniques, namely transmitted, raking or incident visible, ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) illumination through Visual Spectral Comparator (VSC), as well as conventional X-radiography, mammography and (micro) CT scanning, were assessed to support the conventional visual examination of the weaving details and present condition of two 17th-century Safavid knotted-pile carpet fragments. Observation with NUV and NIR imaging with VSC, as well as CT techniques, offered enriching overviews about weaving characteristics, damaged areas or contaminations that were not easily discernible with the naked eye, thus supporting the conventional visual examination. As a result, detailed digital mappings about the technological structure and the condition of the fragments could be obtained in a relatively efficient and accessible way. Moreover, combining art historical identification of the design with the analysis of the weaving structure confirmed that both carpet fragments are border corners that originally belonged to much larger carpets made in the so-called “Indo-Persian” style. The outcome of this interdisciplinary research brings very useful contributions for future art historical and conservation assessments of historical carpets, and it encourages further exploration of imaging techniques in the examination of other textile objects in museums and private collections.

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Journal of Cultural Heritage
Real-Time 3D Tomography
Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica, Amsterdam (CWI), The Netherlands

Serrano, A., Meijer, S., van Rijn, R., Coban, S., Reissland, B., Hermens, E., … van Bommel, M. (2020). A non-invasive imaging approach for improved assessments on the construction and the condition of historical knotted-pile carpets. Journal of Cultural Heritage, 47, 79–88. doi:10.1016/j.culher.2020.09.012