Looking At Rugs As Great Works Of Art
The beauty and artistry of rugs has fascinated people all around the globe for hundreds of years. There is no doubt that they serve a utilitarian function as furniture, but there is so much more to them than that, and the great examples are true works of art. Rugs have been a part of the art world and interior design for centuries.
Rugs in Classic Art
When you begin to examine rugs as art, at least from an artistic standpoint, the journey will undoubtedly lead you to famous artworks of the Renaissance through the Victorian era. Many times, rugs found their way into the scenery of famous paintings, where they become apparent that they were viewed as more than simple floor or wall hangings. In the old world which was dominated by cold, stone walls, rugs added color and texture to an otherwise somewhat dull interior.
It is not surprising that many of these rugs found their way into artworks. For instance, Jessica Hayllar featured a antique Caucasian rug in her famous 1887 painting, Azalea in A Japanese Bowl. In this painting, the rug serves as a centerpiece that adds color and interest to the design.
Another famous painting, the 1887 painting The Carpet Merchant by Jean-Leon Gerome, features a splendid palatial rug as the main theme of the painting. This painting features a rug that is undoubtedly the work of a master carpet artist and highlights the rug as a work of art presented to a decidedly wealthy class of potential rug buyers.
European artists have had a long fascination with Eastern designs, particularly the Orientalist paintings at the turn of the 20th century. However, it seems that the peak of Western interest in Persian rugs was during the Renaissance. Between the years 1450 to 1550, many of Europe’s most famous painters featured Persian rugs in their compositions. It is apparent that these artists spent many hours studying the intricacies and design details of the rugs so that they could reproduce them in paintings.
Rugs As Art and Rugs in Art
Many trends in interior design and furniture come and go, but the beauty of Persian rugs and the artists who created them have endured the test of time. Many of the modern rugs that we find today are based on classic traditional rug designs used by rug weavers several hundred years ago. What makes each rug special is that it tells a story.
Most antique rugs are based on a design that has a field and borders surrounding it. There are many different variations in the designs within the fields and in the complexity of the borders. Every element of the design is intentional. For large rugs, it is highly likely that it will take over a year, to weave the rug. Creating an Oriental rug is not something that one does on a whim, as there will be a considerable amount of time, money and energy spent to produce it. This means that the choice in rug colors and design are well thought out, so that they give the final desired look that the artist intended from the beginning.
To truly appreciate the artistry of rugs, let us go back and imagine ourselves in a world that was more isolated than the world we live in today. Today, we can cruise the Internet and see wares and treasures from all around the world with the click of a mouse. During the Renaissance period, only the wealthy, or perhaps those in the military, had an opportunity to travel and see treasures from different lands. An imported Oriental rug was considered as a fine piece of artwork and showed the taste and wealth of the person who owned it. This is why they were prominently featured in paintings. They were more than “just” a piece of furniture and told a great deal about the wealth and power of its owner.
The paintings tell us that these rugs found their way into the chambers of wealthy noble women, the homes of wealthy merchants, and the palaces of sultans. They were not featured in the background, but rather displayed prominently, sometimes playing a key role in still life painting or scenes of courtly life.
Who Are the Artists Who Created The Rugs?
One only needs to look at the masterpieces produced by the great master weaver Mohtasham and the other commissioned artists of the sultans, to know why people view rugs as art. These great master weavers created breathtakingly beautiful carpets that are appreciated as much (if not more) for their artistry as for their functionality. Even though rugs are known for their durability, it is apparent that they were not just a floor covering, they were meant to be appreciated for their own beauty and the skill of the designers, artists and weavers who created them.
During the time of the Safavid Empire in the 1500’s, it was common practice for the aristocracy to commission rugs as works of art to be displayed in their homes and places of business. Eventually, these commissioned designs worked their way into the repertoire of established of carpet making. The artistry and designs became a more standardized. However, this did not diminish the beauty and artistry of the designs of the court.
Up to this point, we have talked about carpets produced as a result of formal artistic training and according to popular standards that have lasted throughout the ages. But there is another side of the art of rugs that must be told. This part of the story takes place in the small tribal communities and rural areas of the world. In these villages, the carpets were more likely to serve a utilitarian function than in the wealthy states of the nobleman. However, this dual function does not diminish the artistry of the local weavers.
In remote villages, far away from the standardized designs being produced in the city, were rug weavers who were both the designer and the producer of the rugs. Often, the rugs produced in these small villages used themes and motifs that are found throughout the area. They use the materials that are available to them locally to produce works of art that are every bit as beautiful as those produced in the cities where the production was more of a process.
The artists of the small villages can be compared to the folk art painters, such as Grandma Moses, and other primitive artists. In many of these areas, the craft was not learned through a formal school, but rather was the result of being passed down through generations of oral and hands on teaching. In the tribal rugs, one can often see changes in the design, as if the weaver suddenly decided to go off in a different artistic direction.
These village industry rugs have small imperfections in the design. For instance, perhaps lines are not straight, or design that is not perfectly centered on the field. These small imperfections remind you that this rug was handmade with love and care and that it is a form of self-expression of the artist.
Every Rug Is A Work of Art
It is easy to see that rugs and carpets have an intimate connection with the world of both informal and formal art. They have been the subjects of, and appeared in, the works of many great artists who showed their appreciation for them by replicating them in fine detail. The rugs are also a piece of artwork in themselves. Whether they were produced by the formal systems developed in the 1500’s and represent the fine pieces in noble estates or whether they were the works of individual tribal weavers using centuries of oral tradition for their designs, each one is a unique work of art in its own right.
Rugs have the ability to bring the garden indoors or make even the most common interior design look extravagant. When we consider, rugs as art, they can transform a room and tie the look together. If you need a special work of art for your own palace, rather grand or small, be sure to look around and you will be sure to find the perfect piece for your space.