The History Of Antique Persian Rugs And Carpets
In this section we will cover pretty much every questions we have ever gotten about Persian rugs. We will be covering different aspects such as their history, how they were constructed, the different materials that were used, what makes them Persian and so forth. If, after reading the information provided below, you happen to have a question that we did not cover here then please email us. We research and publish as part of our never ending commitment to educating the public about these breathtaking (yet at times - misunderstood) art works.
Antique Persian Rugs - A Woven History Of Love
Perhaps the most important cultural contribution to the world of art given by the people of Persia, is the Persian carpet. Not to mention the countless iterations of it that followed.
Indeed, antique Persian rugs -- that is, rugs from Persia (modern day Iran) that are at least 80 years old -- represent some of the very finest examples of art from the time and place from which they originate. The complex methods and high-quality ingredients employed by the master rug makers ensured that each piece was a beautiful and unique work of art and a matchless piece of craftsmanship. Natural dyes, silk and wool yarn and hand weaving all ensured that each piece was like no other, and would last for decades—and in many cases, centuries. Antique rugs from Persia are works of art. They imbue their surroundings with warmth and beauty in a unique and powerful way. Today, the finest antique rugs from Persia are appreciated around the world for their fine weaving, beautiful colors and supreme tradition. Simply standing in the same room as a genuine antique Persian rug can be a powerful experience -- these gorgeous works of art have the unique ability to instantly transport us through time and space, to take us on an exhilarating journey to the exotic, faraway lands of bygone eras that are the stuff of some of the most colorful stories ever told. Historically, nomads, clerics and kings alike utilized antique Persian Rugs as furniture and decoration.
Today, the older rugs and carpets from Persia are appreciated as artworks as well as investment pieces. This trend is fueled by an ever-expanding number of collectors and scholars. The inherent beauty of an antique Persian rug, it's unique compositions and rarity make it extremely desirable. The sheer variety of masterful these weaving made over the centuries, is a strong testament to the rich cultural tradition from which they have emerged.
Here is A Brief History of Antique Persian Rugs:
Persia, now modern day Iran, was an ancient and powerful empire which stretched from Africa to India. The time period between 1500 and 1736 A.D. was considered by many to be its artistic pinnacle similar to the European renaissance. The ruling class at the time, referred to as the Safavid Dynasty, encouraged arts of many kinds, including painting, calligraphy and intricate waving. During this period, the modern day cities of Tabriz, Kerman, Herat and Isfahan became major producers of fine carpets.
Hand-made rugs with intricate designs inspired by Persian culture were so well crafted that many have survived for hundreds of years. Passed down from generation to generation, they have become a living history. Evidence of a rich heritage and culture, each antique Persian rug has its own story.
During the 16th century these carpets were exported all over the world, and in the 1850's, especially to European countries like England and Germany. These Europeans encouraged the development of additional rug producing factories in the major cities of Tabriz, Kerman, Mashed and Sultanabad. The ruler at the time, Reza Shah Pahlavi, built royal carpet and rug factories to produce the highest quality rugs in the region. Persian rugs are an important part of the modern Iranian culture. Passed down from ancestors, and representing a dying art form, they are priceless heirlooms cherished more than any other possession.
Today the rug industry in Persia (modern day Iran) is currently experiencing a rebirth, with production rivaling that of any time it its history. Although, the craft has moved from large industrial factories to small work-shops and homes, some believe this method of production is much more detail-oriented and adds to the uniqueness of each hand-made rug.
This uniqueness is what separates the antique rugs and carpets that were produced in Persia, from all others. The intricate designs and colors a are exotic to say the least, representing the rich history and origins this art form has evolved from over the past two thousand years. Not only is each rug unique, but each region has its own color palette, recurring themes, and weave pattern stemming from a mixture of its indigenous and nomadic ancestry.
What Is The Difference Between Antique Persian Rugs and "regular" Antique Oriental Rugs ?
"Oriental Carpet" is a broad, all-encompassing term that describes a wealth of different art forms. As such, there is a good amount of misunderstanding and confusion in the general population as to just what the term means. In general, "Oriental carpets" or "Oriental rugs" are almost always pieces that are are handmade, either knotted with pile or woven without pile. Further, Oriental carpets and rugs were woven by master weavers who lived in a massive geographical area: Oriental carpets and rugs are those that were made in an area that extends from Cyprus and Iran in the west; to Turkey, China and Vietnam in the East; to the Caucasus in the north; and to India in the south.
Naturally, each of these regions has its own distinctive culture, religious traditions, and aesthetic ideals -- but each produced rugs that are, in the Western world, referred to as "Oriental," which is simply the Latin word for "Eastern." Because this term is so broad, the distinctive types of Oriental rugs made throughout the Eastern world are often referred to by the specific region from which they emerged. So an "Oriental rug" might be referred to as an "antique Persian rug," a "Central Asian rug," a "Turkestanian rug," a Chinese rug," and so forth, depending upon the specific region where it was made.
Thus, all antique Persian rugs are Oriental rugs, but not all Oriental rugs are Persian rugs.
Learn why a rug in an "Antique Persian Rug"?
There are several different qualities that make a rug and antique Persian rug. First, an antique rug must be at least 80 years old -- otherwise it is not an antique rug at all. Also, in order for a piece to be considered a genuine antique Persian rug, it must have been hand knotted in Persia -- which is coterminous with the modern nation of Iran. The construction of these rugs is also important: the traditional Persian carpet is tied with a single looping knot (Persian or Senneh knot). The vertical strand of thread in a Persian carpet has one loop. This use of a single knot is essential in establishing the identity of the place where the rug was made and the artisans who made it.
The source of the design of the rug can be misleading, since some rugs may be referred to as possessing 'Persian design' if they are woven in another country in a traditional Persian style. An example of this convention would be Indo-Persian rugs: those woven in India with Persian design elements. It's a surprising fact that, despite the tribal wars, migrations, and commercial influence and rebellions that have influenced the Eastern world over the past two thousand years, the methods of rug construction used by different cultures has changed very little over time.
The weaving patterns of antique rugs from Persia are recognizable to the trained eye and have existed for many generations. When comparing carpets the way to identify the knot used is to splay open the pile by bending the rug against itself and looking at the base of the knot. Historically, the largest carpet producing centers that flourished in Persia are in Tabriz (1500-1550), Herat (1525-1650), Kashan (1525-1650) and Kerman (1600-1650). Many of the older persian carpets from Tabriz have a central medallion, quartered corner medallions appearing over a field of scrolling vine ornaments, accented with single animals or birds, animal combat scenes and mounted hunters. Carpet grounds were red, blue and sometimes white but colors tended to be muted, partly because the sheep in the Northwest have coarse wool but mainly because of the salt quality of the water used in the dyeing process.
As many authorities believe, the best known of the Tabriz works are the twin Ardabil carpets in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Los Angeles Country Museum. Herat carpets are characterized by a wine red field. They also depict scrolling vine ornaments and palmettes with dark or light green or deep blue borders. They are known for their large ornaments arranged round the middle of the field. The Herati pattern and Herati border with its linked palmettes, clear outlines and accurate symmetry indicate the work of skilled craftsmen. Kashan is known for its silk carpet production (pile as well as ground weave). But it's most famous for the three silk hunting carpets. These carpets depict a classic pattern of medallions, corner pieces and a leafy field through which huntsmen on horseback pursue lions, leopards, wolves and other animals. (Currently in the collections of the Vienna Museum of Applied Arts, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Stockholm Museum). Both silk and wool carpets are classically designed with medallion patterns with floral field decoration; and repeated flower-vase or wreath patterns.
Beginning in the second half of the 19th century, an importer of merino wool conceived the notion of re-launching the industry. The greatest ustadan, or weaver, Mohtashem, is responsible for these finely woven carpets made in both wool and silk. MohtashemKashan's are characteristically known for their purple or less often ruby red silk bindings used for the selvedges. These are the most highly regarded of all the Kashan weavings. Kerman carpets have a unique structure called the 'vase technique'. Garden carpets (ornamented with formal gardens and water channel) and ogivallattice carpets are examples of this technique. Designs of fantastic complexity were executed. The most popular design in recent years employs a medallion of roses and a dense floral border that often flows over straight lines into the field, which is a rich single color, most commonly red. Kerman carpets are noted for their lightness of their shades.
Overall, antique Persian rugs are among the most diverse and the most beautifully made of all antique Oriental rugs. The rich story of the cultural and historical background of antique Persian rugs is one of the most interesting in all of art history, shedding light on a truly wonderful art form. There is an antique Persian rug out there for anyone who seeks one, and that quest is sure to be one rich with exciting and edifying experiences. The world of antique Persian rugs is dynamic and as exciting as any in the art world, and stories are still being written today.
How Do I Know If My Carpet Is Really an authentic Persian Rug?
Authenticity also plays a crucial role in the appraisal of an antique carpet. The more the history and art of a particular culture is represented in the design, and the more aesthetically pleasing the carpet is as a whole, the more valuable the carpet. For example, the 16th-century Shah named Humayan found two painters after being exiled to Persia for 10 years. When he returned to India and regained power, he directed weavers to translate the painters' style into rugs. These rugs can still be found today. Their unique beauty and inherent history is a paradigm example of what makes antique Oriental rugs so valuable.
Are Antique Persian Rugs and Antique Iranian Rugs The Same Thing?
- Antique rugs are rugs that were made at least 80 years ago.
- The number of Antique Persian Rugs will only decrease over time. This is one of the reasons why they are of such great value.
As Western influence expanded across the Middle East throughout the 20th century, primary cultures began to lose their autonomy. People's abilities to sustain traditional crafting techniques faded and original motifs were slowly lost. The divide between antique carpets and all those that follow shows, over time, that the quality of these pieces diminished on all levels.
Are Rugs from Persia considered works of Art?
Antique Persian Rugs are regarded as one of the highest levels of artistic sophistication accomplished by humankind. As such, designers, artists and collectors covet these masterpieces. Today, Iranian carpets, both modern and antique, have found an ever expanding home within the art world. As Jason Nazmiyal, says, "rugs seem to me to focus most effectively on the convergence of color, texture and design in perfect balance and harmony."
Antique Persian Rugs as a whole vs. An individual Persian Rug
A master weaver's signature and method can help in determining where the carpet was made. It can also assist with what style the carpet exhibits, and naturally, who the weaver was. Urban cities have traditionally facilitated Persian rug weaving as a commercial industry. A certain manufactories production was greatly influenced by the market demands of the time. At the helms of such manufactories were the master rug-weavers who chose the colors and organized the weavers. These master-weavers designed with a personal identity that superseded group identity and in such instances, vernacular craft gave way to conscious visual art form. Today these masterworks can be found in museum collections such as The Metropolitan Museum. They can also be found in the inventories of fine antique carpet galleries.
Do Antique Persian Rugs Make For a Wise Investment?
In addition to being beautiful works of art, Persian carpets have been collected throughout history. They are also collectible today by individuals as investments. Historically, Persian carpets have been referred to as ' Iranian stocks and shares'. Iranian market places are full of underground vaults where businessmen keep their precious pieces. Persian carpets of museum quality of true will provide an investment similar to that of a master painting. That said, they are relatively less expensive and of a more practical for use. Today Persian carpets still remain a viable commodity. Note: Relative to market demand, unless damaged, antique Persian rugs do not depreciate in value; therefore making valuable investments. Prices will reflect market demand.
How Are The Names Ascribed to Antique Persian Rugs?
With the introduction of varying cultures' commodities and art (in all its varying forms) at the market place, came the inevitable copying and constant modifications of designs and motifs. A rug's design, in and of its self, does not necessarily identify where it was made. Nor does it tell us who the people who authored it were.
In general, Antique rugs from Persia receive their names from either:
- The tribes or people that wove them(Ex: Kurdish rugs were woven by Kurdish people and since they were mostly nomadic, they are not assigned a specific city or region.)
- The region (city, district, town, villages) in which they were crafted.(Ex: Tabriz rugs were woven in the city of Tabriz.)
Information about the dyes used to make rugs from Persia
The dyes used when weaving antique Persian rugs were generally natural. This served to create lustrous, animated works with great depth of field. The recipes used to dye the fibers were commonly comprised of berries, insects, minerals and seeds. The combinations were unique to the tribes. The weaving techniques they employed and the recipes were guarded as precious tribal secrets. The first chemical dyes were introduced to the rug markets during the mid 1800's. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see such dyes in late 19th century pieces.
Note: There are exceptions to this general rule, as is the case with Serapi Rugs. In the case of Serapi carpets, the term Serapi refers to the older and "better" rugs that were made in the city of Heriz.
Learn about Rugs from Persia as a Family Business
Design styles were passed down through long lineages of craftsmen within a tribe or group. Family members wove alongside one another. Weaving first for the household then for the market. For the common designer, individual identity was not important. What was important, was to accurately execute the traditional style. Thereby ascribing the signature patterns and motifs of the"tribe" to each carpet.
How long does it take to weave a Persian Rug?
Typically, a single carpet could take months and even years to create. The actual time depends on the size and quality of the carpet. The finer the carpet the longer it takes to create. Often times many people would work side by side on the same carpet. This is part of the deep appeal and the timeless quality of antique Persian carpets: their construction is a veritable art on its own, an art that results in a tangible and enduringly beautiful composition.
Learn About the Different Persian Carpet Knotting Techniques
Knot types used in antique Persian rugs include:
The two most commonly used knots in Persian weaving are the Turkish (used in the Caucasus, some Turkish and Kurdish areas of Iran, Turkey and East Turkmenistan) and Persian knots (Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, China and India). The Persian knot is commonly used when weaving finer rugs. Simply because it is generally a much smaller than its counterparts. Wrapping around one warp, then passing behind the neighboring warp so that it divides the two ends of yarn, makes the knot. The Turkish knot is made by passing between two neighboring warps, looping under one, wrapped around both, then pulled through the center. Both ends will come out between the two warps. (Diagram of Turkish knot.) Double Knotted: The second knot sits in front of the first knot. With the double knot technique, the second knot is not visible from the back.
What Is The Literal Definition of a " Rug " Vs. a " Carpet " ?
The terms "carpet" and "rug" are somewhat interchangeable. Each term refers to floor coverings, but the "official," technical difference that separates a carpet from a rug is size. "Carpet" is the term used when talking about larger rugs that cover most or even the entirety of a room. Anything larger than 6' x 9' is considered a carpet. Anything smaller is considered a rug.
Learn the difference between Hand Knotted Carpets vs. Tufted or Machine Made Rugs
As the term implies, machine made rugs are not woven by hand. They are made by machine, loomed on a computer generated apparatus. There are no knots. Rather, threads are looped or glued onto a plastic solid backing which cools and hardens. They typically employ cheaper inorganic materials, acrylics or chemical materials that are not easily cleanable and do not breathe. Because they are loomed in one continuous reel, they can't sustain damage or be repaired by hand. They lack the intricate designs that can only be achieved by hand knotting and they do not improve with age, are not collectible and do not retain their value.
Hand knotted rugs are made by hand on a loom and each knot is knotted and tied. Pile materials are wool and silk. The foundation of the warp and weft is usually cotton, wool or silk. These natural materials are easily cleanable. There is no glue or backing. Wool breathes and the natural dyes soften and develop a patina that ages gracefully. These highly collectible rugs improve with age and last for decades. Tufted rugs are made by hand with the assistance of a tufting gun. The process is faster than tying knots by hand. In a tufted rug, the bottom of the piece is flat and no knots are visible. Glue is used to hold the tufts in place. A combination of inorganic and organic dyes are used, and the pile material is often poly, synthetic or can at times be organic wool. The rug's pattern is printed on a cloth material used as the foundation which makes it easy to reproduce by machine and therefore not unique.
It is important to note that if a rug is machine made (including hand tufted), it is not a Persian rug.
What are The different Yarns used when weaving rugs?
Carpets by nomadic people were comprised solely of wool. Persian rug materials later expanded to include cotton and silk as well. It is not unusual to see a rug made of more than one material. For example, many rugs were comprised of cotton foundations and wool pile.
Yarn plays an important role in the value of the rug or carpet. That said, the knots themselves play a bigger role. Whether silk on silk or wool on cotton, it is the quality of the weave that truly makes a difference. When the yarn is woven together in a manner that creates an orchestrated symphony of color and design, that piece will be of great value. Note: Persian carpet weavers either used 2-Ply or single strand yarn.
What are The Different Rug Weaving Techniques?
The weave is the major factor in structure and the basis for comparison amongst rug types. Note: In 1913 Walter A. Hawley was the first Western author to describe the characteristics of structure to be seen in various rugs.
What are Pile Carpets & Rugs?
Most immediately, pile rugs are a decorative alternative to hides and sheepskin. They developed out of necessity by nomadic tribes. The pile is the yarn that is knotted onto the structural foundation (warp and weft). This gives the rug both its texture and design. Note: The oldest known pile carpet (The Pazyryk Carpet) dates back to 600 BC. note that the craft is thought to have existed even earlier.
A Carpet's Foundation i.e. The Warp and Weft
The warp is composed of the tightly stretched vertical threads of the foundation. Warps run throughout the entire carpet from end to end. The weft stretches from side to side. They stretch throughout the entire carpet and lay between the warp threads. The warp is sometimes called the 'filler', as it is used to fill in the weft, creating designs.
Learn about Hand Knotting a Piled Carpet
- Antique Hand Knotted Rugs are the only Persian / Iranian rugs.
- Hand-knotted carpets are more valuable than hand-hooked or machine-made. This is mostly due to labor intensity and exceptional skill level needed to execute designs.
- Hand-knotted carpets are more tightly woven than their counterparts. This makes them stronger and more durable.
What does Knot Density mean?
Knot density refers to how many knots are agglomerated per square inch. While some consumers value knot density. The astute collector knows that the number of knots per square inch does not necessarily translate to a piece of greater value.
If a Carpet is Handmade, does that mean that it is Had Knotted?
Not all handmade carpets are hand knotted. Handmade may also refer to rugs and carpets tufted with a hand held tufting machine. Hand tufted rugs are of a lesser quality than hand knotted rugs, as they lack the artisanal craftsmanship and attention to detail that are so important in hand-knotting.
How do I know if My Carpet was Hand Knotted?
An easy way to check if a carpet or rug is hand knotted is to fold a portion of the rug and look for an actual knot. If you see that a knot was tied around the foundation then it is hand knotted. No machine-woven rug has the capability to actually make a knot.
What does the term "antique" really mean with regards to rugs?
- Of all the contributing value factors, Age is the easiest to quantify.
- When referring to carpets, the term "antique" refers to a piece that is at least eighty years old.
What do people mean when referring to a rug's provenance?
Simply put, provenance is where an object comes from. When referring to the provenance of rugs and carpets, one is generally referring to the people who made the rug, the region it is from and who has previously owned the piece. What gives an antique carpet its value is the degree to which it reflects the culture of the era in which it was created.
What do people need to know when Buying Rugs?
Normal wear and tear is a consequence of age. A carpet's wear adds to the patina of time and charm; therefore, the collector should look at some wear fondly. An ideal carpet condition is one in which the entire pile is present, including the fringe, side cords, and selvedges. A typical situation is one in which the rug pile is worn evenly, and reduced in height.
What is Abrash?
- Abrash refers to the change in color of a rug. The Change is due to the use of different dye lots of wool.
- An Abrash will follow the weft from left to right.
- Rug connoisseurs favorably regard abrash as a mark of authenticity.
Today it is not uncommon to find manufacturers of machine-made rugs copying this effect. This is done in an effort to make the rugs appear hand knotted.
What do I need to know about antique rug repairs?
Usually, repaired carpets are not as valuable as carpets in their original condition. That said, some repairs are unavoidable. A simple repair or extensive restoration may serve to increase the value and maintain the use of an antique carpet. To determine the value of an antique carpet, it is important to know how many repairs have been made. Since not all repairs are readily apparent, some research should be done. As with any work of art, a bad repair will decrease the value. Therefore, it is important, when collecting antique carpets, to evaluate the condition of each piece. As opposed to machine woven carpets, hand knotted carpets can be repaired!