The aim [of designing for textiles] should be to combine clearness of form and firmness of structure with the mystery which comes of abundance and richness of detail. William Morris, 1893\nMorris, Marshall, Faulkner & Company was founded by the poet, artist and social reformer William Morris (1834 – 1896) and a coterie of friends including Ford Madox Brown, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones in 1861 at a time when London was the richest city in the world and Britain was often referred to as ‘the workshop of the world’. The wallpapers, textiles, carpets, tapestries, and furniture designed by Morris & Co. (known as ‘the Firm’) were intended to create an integrated artistic interior and, thereby, to transform domestic life into a rewarding aesthetic experience. Morris wished "to revive a sense of beauty in home life, to restore the dignity of art to the ordinary household decoration." The intricate layering and intertwined organic forms in Morris's patterns such as 'Jasmine' and 'Iris' are still instantly recognizable today. These revolutionary pattern designs were based on his study of native plants and of historic textiles, demonstrating his abiding interest in making use of the past as inspiration for the present. Morris idealized the medieval style and advocated simple, uncluttered interiors in contrast to the elaborate decoration typical of most Victorian homes.\nIn 1877, after studying 16th and 17th classical Central Persian carpets at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, an institution specifically charged to promote an interest and awareness of international design, Morris began to experiment with the manufacture of hand-knotted carpets. He began by creating small wall carpets with worsted wool warps. For an example of an early Morris weaving from 1878 see: Parry, Linda, William Morris Textiles, London, 1983, p. 86. Each of the rugs and carpets woven in London bear the ‘Hammersmith’ mark: the letter ‘M’ with a depiction of a hammer and waves to represent the Thames. He began with small looms in the attic space of his premises at 26 Queen Square before installing 12 feet wide looms in the coach houses in the grounds of his own home, Kelmscott House in Hammersmith. In this new branch of the business Morris attempted "to make England independent of the East for carpets which may claim to be considered works of art."\nThe handmade carpets produced by Morris and Co. were prohibitively expensive. According to Pat Kirkham, ‘The Firm: Morris & Company’, Waggoner, Diane (ed.), The Beauty of Life, William Morris & the Art of Design, (ex. cat.), New York, 2003, p. 54., it took one day to weave 2 inches on a loom and a 16 by 13 foot carpet cost over £100. The carpets were woven using a Turkish knot, with an average of 25 knots per inch, by up to six female weavers at a time. The substantial investment required to produce each large carpet meant that they were only woven upon specific commission and never for stock. In 1880 the worsted wool warps used on the smaller prototypes were replaced with cotton warps and the Hammersmith insignia ceased to be used.\nIn 1881 the production of Morris and Co. carpets was moved to a workshop at Merton Abbey village on the River Wandle in Wimbledon, Surrey where textile printing had gone on since the middle of the 18th century. The term ‘Hammersmith’ continued to be used to refer to this style of large format carpet and to determine hand-woven carpets from the machine-made carpeting also designed by the Firm and woven by companies such as Wilton under license. Hand-woven designs such as ‘Holland Park’, ‘Hurstbourne’, ‘Bullerswood’, ‘Clouds’ and ‘Redcar’ were named after clients, homes or their proposed location, and the same design was often woven several times for different clients.\nJohn Henry Dearle (1860-1932) was Morris’s chosen successor as chief designer for Morris & Co. and from the mid-1880s onwards was the driving artistic force behind the company with total responsibility for all carpet designs.\nWhen examining the objects produced by the Firm before Morris’s death in 1896 it is difficult to determine which of the two designers was directly responsible for which pattern. Those carpets designed prior to 1886 that can definitely be attributed to William Morris alone are exemplified by the ‘Holland Park’ carpet first produced in 1883 (see: Haslam, Malcolm, Arts & Crafts Carpets, London, 1991, p. 76, fig. 49). Although Morris attempted to create an independent art form his designs tend to directly reference traditional Safavid Persian carpet configurations with a curvilinear floral vine format radiating from a central medallion. The bold silhouette, intentional absence of shading and introduction of paired birds, acanthus and lilies in these weavings would appear to also echo the repertoire of the Chinese carpet. All of Morris’s carpets display total symmetry with designs that are resolved within the confines of the border.\nDearle’s designs appear to evolve out of the Morris style, borrowing many individual elements and motifs and are altered subtly but intrinsically. The field designs are no longer symmetrical along the horizontal axis but are now ascending overall, without central medallions. Dearle was influenced by the magnificent Ottoman Turkish velvets at the Victoria and Albert Museum with their endless repeats and directional trelliswork. This is signified by the bold ogival strap-work and less naturalistic approach featured in his designs such as that of the ‘Bullerswood’ carpet of 1889, once thought to be a William Morris design but now correctly attributed (see: Todd, Pamela, William Morris and The Arts and Crafts Home, San Francisco, 2005, p. 50). Other Merton Abbey Hammersmith commissions of similar vintage and design to the current lot include the ‘Rounton Grange’ carpet from 1881-2(?), see: Parry, Linda, William Morris, London, 1996, pp. 281-2, no. M.107, the drawing room carpet at Standen (1891), in East Grinstead, see: William Morris Textiles (ibid.), p. 143 and a third of unknown provenance now on exhibition at Kelmscott Manor, Morris’s country house in Oxfordshire, see; Fairclough, Oliver and Leary, Emmeline, Textiles by William Morris and Morris & Co. 1861-1940, London, 1981, co. C16.\nThis group of magnificent carpets can be attributed directly to Dearle’s inspired leadership at the height of his success at the Firm between 1885 and 1895. His monumental designs seem to look more towards the future and less towards the past than in Morris’s earlier creations. Dearle has often been overlooked by design historians. He was regarded as the mere apprentice simply interpreting the teacher’s vision. Today we are able to appreciate Dearle’s designs in their own right and perhaps to conclude that with the design of carpets the protégé may have overtaken the Master.