Antique Polonaise Rugs – Embellished with threads in precious metals, antique Polonaise rugs are among the most elegant and lavish of the court productions made under the Safavid dynasty in Iran during the seventeenth century. Large numbers of these antique rugs were exported to Poland where they were highly prized by the aristocracy at a time of enormous political power and wealth.
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Some Plolonaise rugs were even custom made with the heraldic devices of specific Polish noble families. All this led to the erroneous opinion that these carpets were actually made in Poland, which is nowadays discredited. The soft golden coloration of the antique Polonaise rugs and carpets, supremely delicate drawing and additional detail in gold and silver make the Polonaise rug a masterpiece of bygone grandeur that is still usable as a decorative carpet today.
The term “Polonaise carpets” refers to a specific group of antique silk carpets. Some were embellished in gold and silver threads and originated from Persia in the 16th to 17th century. They are called “Polonaise” because many of these antique Persian rugs were shipped to Poland for the aristocracy to use as decoration and symbols of their wealth.
In particular, the Count Czartoryski of Poland was among the first to exhibit them, and many of these beautiful antique Oriental carpets bare his coat of arms. The heavy ties these carpets have with the Polish aristocracy led to the common misconception, in the nineteenth century, that the rugs must have originated from Poland. This is now known to be false. The true origins of the Polonaise have now been identified as Persian, most frequently from the cities of Isfahan and Kashan.
Since the Polonaise rugs are all centuries old, few of them still have their original coloring. When they were first made, the Polonaise carpets were dyed with vibrant colors and accented with metallic threads, giving them a bright, flashy design. Due to the natural deterioration of the dyes, metal and silk, almost all Polonaise rugs now have a more muted color scheme. The few Polonaise rugs known to have weathered the centuries well enough to still have their original coloring are mostly housed in museums scattered around the world and in private collections.
Historically these rugs were exported outside of Persia, and were often brought to members of the ruling class of Europe by Persian ambassadors as diplomatic gifts from the Shah. Most of the surviving Polonaise rugs were those very same ones that were gifted to the European aristocracy, who treasured these gifts and took care to preserve them as best they could over the last several centuries.