The Best of the Best Antique Rugs Woven by Master Weavers
The Making of Master Weavers
The range of magnificent artistic design in Persian rugs is extraordinary. Throughout their long history, the designs have evolved to offer some breathtaking creations that have the ability to transform interiors into something almost magical. There is no doubt that the world is filled with rugs created by some quite accomplished, unnamed artists.
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However, over the centuries, a few names have stood out from the rest of the Persian rug weavers. These names include the likes of Haji Jalili, Ustad Zufilkhar Ed Din Mohtashem, Ziegler in Sultanabad and Aboul Ghasem Kermani, among others.
When you look at the works of a master weaver, you know that there is something special about it. It has a quality that transcends the ordinary, but it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes the rug so special. It just seems to come together. This is the very question that we are about to explore.
What is it that makes a rug weaver a true master?
Rugs of A Different Class
A majority of the tribal rugs that you find on the market were woven by rural country people. They learned their craft from passing on oral traditions from generation to generation.
Many of these village rug weavers could never read or write, but we appreciate their works for the folk art approach, simplicity of the patterns and the charm that they bring to the art form. Rugs made in small villages often stick to traditional designs and motifs that have been passed down, rather than exploring one’s own inner artistic expression. There is some room to change the designs and personalize them, but it is bounded by the strict traditions that have been passed down through the generations.
In contrast, the carpets produced in the cities are a different matter. Those woven in metropolitan areas were more likely to have been woven by someone who may be able to read or write. In some cases, they may have attended a formal school to learn and perfected the craft of rug weaving.
Sometimes, one will find a signed rug among those produced in weaving centers such as Tabriz, Isfahan or Kerman. Many times, the rug designs are standardized and represent a certain school of artistic thought. There is a bit more variation in the designs, but they still stick to a certain set of standards for the most part. Sometimes, these carpets are signed with the weaver’s name, or they may sign the name of the weaving family.
Rugs produced in the rural and urban settings have qualities that give them a unique character. However, sometimes one comes upon a rug that stands out as something special. The rug colors and design come together in a way that mesmerizes and has an almost sublime quality. These are the works of the master weavers, who are the true artists of their profession.
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One Could easily compare the master rug weavers to the master painters of the Italian Renaissance such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo or Sandro Boticelli.
Let’s dive deeper.
What Makes A Rug Weaver A Master?
To answer the question about what makes a “regular rug weaver” a “master”, it is important to explore two essential questions.
The first is what makes a good quality / fine rug? The other is what constitutes master artwork?
The first consideration is the execution of the workmanship:
- The work of a master weaver is flawless.
- It combines high quality materials, master carpet dye techniques, artistic design and color combinations that are extraordinary.
- While not always the case, one of the aspects of carpets produced by the master weavers tends to be a high level of detail within the motifs. This is accomplished by producing rugs that have a high knot count. This means that there are a higher number of knots in a square inch. The second is that the weft and warp must be woven thin enough to accommodate the details of the design. This takes highly skilled weavers as well.
It is as important to understand that a master weaver does not carry out the entire process by themselves. They are often the designer of the pattern, the selector of the colors, the overseer, the quality controller, but then they must put together a team of wool spinners, dye works and skilled rug weavers to carry out the design. Often, these rugs are custom ordered by wealthier clientele or sometimes public entities.
The works of master weavers are often, but not always on a grand scale. They are many times not designed for the average home but are destined to be displayed in a public building, palace, religious structure or in an estate.
Due to their high knot count, the works of master weavers often take years to complete. These masterpieces are a work of dedication and a true passion for the art. Often, when the carpet is completed, the weaver will proudly sign their name to it. Though not always the case, if you so happen to find a rug with a signature, it could point to significant find.
The Safavid Tradition and Master Weavers
The tradition of hiring master rug designers to create the cartoon, or pattern, that the weavers will follow goes back to the Golden Age of the Safavid Dynasty in the 1500’s. During this time, the antique rugs were a status symbol and a major export item that stood for the wealth and glory of the empire. It was during this time that the tradition of hiring court artists to create the floor coverings and tapestries that graced the interiors of the grand palaces began. Often, the works of these master artists were given as political gifts to solidify relations.
In 1732, the Safavid Dynasty came to an end. During this time the carpet weaving industry sunk back into the rural communities. While there were still a few artists producing masterworks, they were not of the scale and quantity being produced during Safavid rule.
In the late 1800’s, a group of master weavers attempted to revive the old traditions of the former master artisans. They invented innovative designs based on traditions, but that also appealed to the design sensibilities of the time. They were successful and the industry reignited with a passion. One only needs to look at the works of these master weavers to know that they were true masters of their craft.
Master Craft People vs. Rug Design Artists
One thing to understand about masterworks is that the physical act of weaving is considered a craft, while the design aspect is considered an art.
The master weavers seldom were the actual hands on craftsman who created the works, but rather they created the design and then closely supervised the work of the craftsmen as they produced the work. Some of these rugs are massively enormous and would take quite some time for a single person to weave. They were woven by a team of rug weavers who worked all day long (sometimes even around the clock in multiple shifts) as their profession. The master weavers chose their team carefully and closely monitored their work throughout the process.
The designers of masterworks possess powerful imaginations that make these area rugs and carpets outstanding. No two are alike, just as there are not two Mona Lisa’s or Sistine Chapels. Someone may produce a similar work, but there is only one original piece. The same can be said for these master carpets.
Often the designers of the rugs we engaged in other areas of art such as Persian miniature art, music, oil painting and painting the beautiful artwork that lines the architecture of mosques. They were often multifaceted designers. However, the ability to create masterworks did not happen haphazardly and they had to go through many hard years of training and school.
One form of education was formal instruction under their parents, acquaintances and relatives who were known to be accomplished in the profession.
The second was to actually be schooled at an institution by Masters in the field. Some examples of these schools that were “Honarhaye Ziba” in Tehran, “Sanaaye Mosstazrafe” in Tabriz and “Honarhaye Ziba” in Isfahan.
Years of study and training in a formal setting is what separates the masters from the country craftsman. The art of rug weaving is one area where designers and craftsman come together to produce a work that stands out as exquisite and is a magnificent representative example of the state of the art at the time of its creation.
We often have the fortunate opportunity to bring one of these masterpieces by a master rug weaver and designer into our collection. You only need to take one look to know that it is something special to behold.
Feel free to browse around our collection of masterpieces and find that special piece that will transform the space and give it the sublime quality that only the works of the masters can do.
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The more familiar master weavers such as Mohtashem, Haji Jalili, and Kermani created some of the finest quality antique rugs to ever come out of Persia. Other rugs are known not for the weaver that created them, but the company that commissioned their construction. One such example is that of Ziegler and Co., a company that commissioned high quality rugs from the Arak region of Iran to be made for Western tastes. These pieces are prized for their decorative design and colors that veered away from the traditional Persian compositions.