Morris & Co's magnificent Peacock and Bird carpet (1885 - 1990)

Fiona Rose

It was no coincidence that Morris & Co's magnificent Peacock and Bird carpet was in the 'Paradise' Room at the recent Pre-Raphaelites exhibition at the Tate Britain. Made at the firm's Merton Abbey works, when William Morris aspired to make Britain independent of the East in the supply of hand-made carpets, the rug incorporates his favourite combination of indigo blue and madder red.

It's not known who commissioned this vibrant composition but the peacock image was popular in the Aesthetic and Arts & Crafts movements with M.H. Baillie Scott's peacock frieze wallpaper at Blackwell on Lake Windermere, Ambrose Heal's Fine Feathers furniture and Frank Lloyd Wright's peacock carpet for the banquet hall of Tokyo's Imperial Hotel.

Perhaps the unusual square format and directional centre panel suggest is was intended for an open space where it would not be obscured by furniture or maybe it was for a (very large) wall space. The carpet was acquired, from the United States, in 2010 by the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow.

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