A Comprehensive Glossary of Oriental Rugs and Carpets from A to Z
Glossary of Oriental Rugs – The Nazmiyal Collection in New York City is pleased to present this glossary of antique rug terms, which we hope will assist you in your quest to find the ideal rug or carpet for your home. Many shoppers who are new to the world of antique rugs and carpets may find that they are frequently running into terminology, language, and turns of phrase with which they are not familiar – industry specific terms like “Jufti Knot” or “vegetable dyes” are the sort of terms that you may have come across that ultimately left you scratching your head.
Because the world of fine rugs and carpets is so vast and so ancient, such terms are abundant, and are often used between rug-industry professionals. If you find that you are unable to keep up with such conversations, if you are shopping for a rug for your own home, or if you have a general interest in learning more about rugs and carpets, you will find this glossary to be very helpful. If you are seeking to learn more, you may be interested in consulting our Guide to Everything You Want to Know About Antique Rugs, where you will find links to a series of edifying articles covering a wide range of subjects, including a variety of articles about Persian rug and general antique Oriental rug subjects.
At the Nazmiyal Collection, we hope to make your rug buying experience something more than just shopping. We hope to provide you with the knowledge, information, and resources about antique rugs that you need, and that will stay with you for a long time after your new antique carpet is first set into place in your home.
Antique Rug Glossary: A
Abrash: A Persian word meaning rainbow spectrum, used to describe changes in color in the pile or facing of rugs and textiles. Abrash resulted from the inability of dying large quantities of wool in uniform dye lots. Eventually weavers began to embrace or exploit such variation as a deliberate effect.
Agra: A major center of carpet production in India since the great period of Mugal art in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The good rugs from Agra represent some of the best examples of antique rugs available today.
All-over pattern: Repeating designs that fill the entire ground of the carpet. Some patterns include a central motif on a well-filled background comprised of several types of repeating designs, as is exemplified by the Ardabil Carpet. Other patterns use a single motif, such as boteh, in grids or randomly arranged. The technique of completely filling the background of the carpet is used world-wide in weaving, including China, Spain, Europe, America, Persia and Turkey.
Alpujarra: A type of thick-pile, folk-art rug woven in the South of Spain near Granada, whose origins may go back to the fifteenth century. Designs are geometric, in all over repeat patterns. The pile of the rug is left in uncut loops, with fringe running around all four edges.
Americana: Artifacts and designs that reflect American culture, folklore and history. Although Americana-style art is often made as for its artistic and aesthetic qualities today, originally the pieces were made out of necessity. Patchwork quilts, needlepoint, hooked rugs and rag rugs are examples of textile art made as utilitarian pieces that also display aesthetic qualities.
Amritsar:A distinctive production of Indian carpets from a new, nineteenth-century initiative under British rule. Their designs responded to contemporary Persian production, but with a softer more earthy palette, often with a tendency to burgundy or aubergine tones. rnread more about Amritsar rugs from India
Angora wool: A very fine soft, silky wool that comes from the belly of the sheep. Certain Oushak carpets from Turkey are made with pile that uses such wool exclusively.
Aniline Dyes: A term commonly applied to early synthetic dyes of the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Used to produces various shades of intense red, it faded on exposure to light into pinkish tones or a brownish shade like chop meat.
Animal motifs: The representation of animals on carpets is found in almost every culture. Animals are represented singly, as prey, in repose and as elements of large-scene hunting and garden carpets. Animals range from the fantastical such as dragons and phoenixes, to stylized representations of deer and lions or naturally rendered elephants and birds. As oriental carpets gained popularity in the West, Turkish carpets exhibiting animal motifs began appearing in the paintings of western artists as early as the 13th century. Animal motifs are used in folk art in most cultures. Americana-inspired textiles portray farm animals such as cows, sheep, goats, rabbits and dogs, or those found in the wild such as wolves, deer, buffalo and turkeys. Indian carpets of the Mughal period display intricately detailed representations of peacocks, elephants, tigers and leopards.
Animal Pelt Motifs, Particularly Tiger Pelts
Animal pelt motifs, particularly tiger pelts: Traditionally a symbol of power, courage and strength. Representations of tiger pelts were portrayed on Tibetan rugs to symbolize wisdom. A double-headed tiger skin motif represents both the male and female aspect. Hindu and Buddhist spiritual teachers used these carpets to receive devotees and for meditation. Animal pelt motifs used by Tantric Buddhists include representations of flayed elephants, tigers and humans. These carpets were used in rituals and symbolize detachment from the body.
Antique: A term used to designate a carpet or rug at least eighty years old. Rugs between fifty and eighty years old are deemed “vintage.” Rugs between thirty and fifty years are “old.” Rugs less than thirty years old are new.
Arabatchi: One of the rug-producing Turkoman tribes of Central Asia. Arabatchi weavings are relatively rare in comparison to other Turkomans. Early pieces are highly sought after for their distinctive designs, but later ones tend to have weak synthetic colors.
Architectural elements: Representations of buildings, monuments, churches, temples and ruins as major designs or as elements of a larger design. Some carpets display legendary scenes from religious texts and epics that include architectural elements. Other carpets, such as Ottoman and Cairene prayer carpets, use columns to represent the mosque. Weavers portrayed detailed and ornate representations of important cultural monuments such as the palace at Persepolis and Biblical scenes such as King Solomon’s Temple.
Art Deco: A new movement in modern European decorative arts during the first third of the twentieth century. Carpets of this type include the classic Art Deco of the late twenties and thirties, as well as earlier Arts and Crafts styles like Donegals, and Nichols carpets from China. Carpets inspired by contemporary modern painters of the day constitute the most cutting-edge Deco style.
Ardabil Carpet: Actually two carpets with the maker’s signature, Maghsud Kashani, and date of manufacture, 946 (by the Islamic calendar) or AD 1539-40, woven into the design. The carpets were placed in the burial shrine of Sheikh Safi ad-Din in Ardabil, Persia. They remained there until the 1800s when they were purchased by Ziegler & Co. and brought to England. They were sold in 1893. One, purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, was repaired using parts of the second. This carpet measures 34 by 17.5 feet. The second, slightly smaller, is now housed in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The design features a floral central medallion with matching spandrels and an intricately woven field of flowers and vinescrolls. The composition is balanced, with mosque lamps suspended from the central medallion on each long side. This composition has been a favorite of weavers over the last five centuries.
Antique Rug Glossary: B
Bakshaish A type of rug or carpet produced in North Iran, not far from the Caucasus, prized for their bold, geometric, dynamic, and abstract design.
Baluch A nomadic, rug-producing tribe of mixed Iranian and Turkic origin ranging between Eastern Iran and western Afghanistan. Baluch weavings are often considered derivative of the rugs of the neighboring Turkomans, but they made use of a much wider design repertoire and more varied palette, which relates them to various types of Persian and Turkish rugs as well.
Berber Tattoo Motifs on Moroccan Rugs
Berber tattoo motifs on Moroccan rugs: Traditional designs used as tattoos by Berber (Amazigh) women adapted as rug motifs. It is the Berber women who weave, passing motifs and weaving techniques from mother to daughter. Traditional designs include checks, triangles, zigzags, crosses and stars. Designs are a combination of indigenous motifs, those adapted from Islam and those from other African cultures. The design language identifies the village and lineage of the woman. Motifs symbolize energy, god’s blessings, power and protection such as the ability to ward off evil. Both the snake, depicted as a zigzag or curved motif, and the camel symbolize fertility and healing. The eye motif protects from evil eye.
Beshir A sub-group of antique Ersari Turkoman weavings distinguished by their more urban designs, which show either the influence of Persian Mina Khani floral patterns or patterns based on Central Asian Ikat textiles.
Bezalel Rugs – Bezalel rugs are those carpets that were produced in the Israeli art school by the same name which is located in the city of Jerusalem. These carpets were woven by art students and were later sold in the School’s store.
Bibikabad A rug-producing town in the Hamadan region of Iran. Bibikabad carpets are related to Malayers in technique. They tend to come in allover designs, usually the Herati pattern or Boteh (Paisley), which may at times have a medallion as well. Even the borders on Bibikabads are based on the Boteh motif.
Bijar A town in Northwest Iran known for producing some of the finest Persian rugs by virtue of their design and technique. They cannot be identified readily by their patterns, but primarily by their weave, which is perhaps the densest and most durable of all oriental rugs. Bijar carpets were produced in a classical medallion format as well as in allover designs, with drawing that can be classically precise or wildly tribal.
Bokara A major caravan city in Central Asia whose name has come in the rug trade to designate carpets of various Turkoman manufacture that were largely exported through this city. There is, in reality, no such thing as a Bokara carpet.
Border: The frame-like areas at the outer edges of the rug that enclose the field. Their may be multiple borders, with perhaps a main one and one or more minor borders.
Boteh: A paisley-shaped design with ornamentation inside and around the edges. The motif is often used to symbolize immortality, fire and the season of autumn. Boteh are frequently used on rugs from Persia, the Caucasus and Turkey. Boteh can be incorporated into a larger pattern as a minor design element, or can be used as the major design in an all-over pattern.
Antique Rug Glossary: C
Cairene A new style of carpet production emerged in Cairo in the sixteenth century under Ottoman Turkish rule. Closely related to classical Persian models, Cairene carpets have curvilinear designs of arabesque vinescrolls and palmettes organized in a medallion format, with subdued coloration.
Camel motifs are often found in antique rugs from central Asia and the Middle East. Camels were a vital animal of burden in Middle Eastern life, and incorporating the imagery of a camel into a textile was seen as a blessing. Click here to read the full meaning of camel motifs in antique rugs.
Canakkale: A rug producing town in Northwest Turkey. Often lumped in with the Bergama production, Canakkales can be distinguished by their distinctive palette of soft apricots, blues, and ivory in conjunction with classically derived Turkish designs.
Carding: The manual combing of the shorn wool removes any bulk dirt and to begin the process of separating out the fibers for spinning. This cared wool is then washed. Picked cotton balls and silk cocoons are also submitted to a process of carding and washing before they are spun.
Carpet – A term of Armenian origin denoting any form of woven floor covering, but usually referring to knotted pile weavings of any size. Equivalent to the English term rug, Turkish “Hali,” Turkoman, “Khali,” and Farsi “Ghali.”
Cartoon: A weaving aid consisting of a sketch or diagram detailing the design of a rug or carpet, or a portion of that design that can be repeated symmetrically to produce the entire design. The use of cartoons is one of the factors that distinguish the production of city rugs from village and nomadic weaving, where designs are worked out from memory or imitation of existing rugs.
Cartouche: A rectangular niche with ovate ends that can be used in a repeat pattern or as a singular design. Inscriptions, verses, signatures and dates are often included inside a cartouche. They are often used as head and end pieces, or as a border motif.
Central Asia While the dominant nomadic rug and textile production in Central Asia was maintained by the various Turkoman peoples, other tribal groupings were active as well such as the Khirghiz, Uzbeks, and Karakalpaks etc. These, however, are generally referred to under the heading of Central Asian Nomadic. Such production includes, woven carpets, embroidery, and carded felt.
Chinese rugs: Chinese Carpets made in China are enormously varied in design. Often related more to the tradition of silk textiles, Chinese carpets were produced in medallion as well as allover formats, but are usually more open and spacious than Oriental carpets from further west, often containing prominent pictorial elements – trees, clouds, and various animals.
Chinese dragon: Represents the union of earth and heaven, balancing opposites and extremes. The Chinese do not consider the dragon to be monstrous, but benign, associated with water and the bringing of rain. Dragons were often depicted in full form with scales, talons, tail, horns and head with a large hump. A dragon with five claws symbolized the emperor. Certain colors, particularly gold or yellow, were also considered imperial. Four claws were for nobility and three claws were for the common people. The dragon is often paired with the phoenix, the female aspect, or the empress.
Chintamani: Sanskrit word for a wish-fulfilling gem. The design features three balls above wavy lines, a popular Hindu and Buddhist motif. The lines are reminiscent of the stripes of tiger skin. It was used on many ornamental art forms, symbolizing the power of royalty; eventually the design was adapted for use on Ottoman carpets in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Coat of Arms
Learn about the Coat of arms and their meanings here: Coat of arms
Chrome dyes: A later generation of synthetic dyes using potassium bichromate as a mordant or fixer that became common after 1920. Chrome dyes do not run or fade, but they can be harsh and never soften or mellow with time. The ability to make large quantities in uniform tones ended the technique of color variation or abrash in hand-woven rugs.
City Rugs: A rug woven in a town or urban setting, generally as a commercially venture under highly organized circumstances, with set pictorial cartoons or verbal knot- counting commands.
Cochineal: An insect-derived dye made from the bodies of beetles, dactylopius coccus, yielding tones from bluish red to pinkish magenta. Initially discovered in the New World by the Spanish Conquistadors, its cultivation spread rapidly to the Canary Islands and Spain. Its use is attested in Ottoman Turkish documents of the eighteenth century. The active agent in cochineal is carminic acid.
Cotton: A vegetable fiber derived from the cultivated cotton plant. Widely used for the foundation of rugs and textiles, but sometimes as the main material as well.
Cupid: A motif used in Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo European art. When used as a putto, the reference was to Aphrodite, Greek mythology and romantic love. When used as a cherub, the reference was to heavenly beings and angels, implying peace, innocence and leisure.
Cypress tree: An evergreen, a commonly used motif in art in Asia Minor. The cypress is depicted as a variation of the tree of life motif, which represents everlasting life. The cypress is used in rituals with the dead, but symbolizes the eternal life that comes after death. The cypress was the most popular tree used in Persian gardens, and accordingly, was represented in garden carpets. The oldest known living cypress in the world is 4000 years old, in Yazd Province, Iran. Representations in Anatolian and Caucasian weavings are geometric while Persian representations are more naturally portrayed.
Antique Rug Glossary: D
Dagestan A type of rug produced in the East Caucasus, closely related to Shirvan and Kuba rugs from the same region. They tend to have small-scale allover designs utilizing multiple repetitions in fine detail, often adapted to prayer rugs by adding a simplified niche or mihrab at the top of the design.
Dead wool A type of wool obtained from the hides of slaughtered animals by soaking them chemically to remove the fibers. This process destroys the natural luster and durability of the wool, and rugs made from it are always cheap, inferior products.
Density Of Knots
Density The ratio of knots, wefts and warps within a given area of rug surface. The more of these elements, the denser or “tighter” the weave. Smaller knots and finer yarns increase density, but it is also achieved by packing all the elements more tightly, and/or by utilizing depressed warps.
Depressed Warps A type of wefting pulled tightly from either side that displaces the warps through which it passes into two levels, one upper, one lower. On the back of the rug, this bi-level structure will appear to have a ribbed or corrugated surface with an upper warp and a lower or “depressed” warp. In cases were the wefts are pulled absolutely tight, the depressed warps may not even show on the back of the rug in high traffic areas.
Design The particular patterning of a rug or textile involving a host of factors or elements the motifs and their arrangement, symmetry, and coloration. The term design may also refer to a specific type of pattern.
Donegal Carpets, were produced during the later part of the 19th century in Donegal, which is located in Northwest Ireland. Most of the earlier carpets were woven in the Arts and Crafts style while later productions shifted more towards the Art Nouveau aesthetic.
Drawing The particular rendering of form and line in the weaving of the actual design. Drawing can be precise and mechanical or loose and spontaneous.
Dyes A material of vegetal or synthetic chemical derivation used to impart color to the vegetable or animal fibers that are woven. Most dyes require an additional mordant or fixing agent to make them fast in water and light.
Antique Rug Glossary: E
Early Period – A term used to distinguish exceptionally old / antique rugs from the general label “antique,” denoting rugs and textiles that are at least eighty years old. The term “early” signifies that early from the early nineteenth century or before, what is regarded by collectors as a “pre-commercial” period.
Eight Pointed Stars
The eight pointed star appears in spiritual traditions from many different cultures across the globe. The eight pointed star began to appear in Islamic art in the Middle Ages. It is referred to as khatim or khatim-sulayman, meaning “seal of the prophets”. This use of the star is likely related to earlier appearances of six-pointed star in Judaic designs, which are referred to as the “seal of Soloman”.
The Eye, or the “evil eye” is a common motif prevalent in many rug-making cultures, especially those in Africa and West Asia. The eye is a protective symbol, stemming from the superstition or outright belief that one could be cursed simply by being looked at malevolently.
Ersari — A Turkoman rug producing tribe known for its bold and colorful carpets and trappings. Ersari weavings are coarse by comparison to other Turkoman rugs, but they have a bold power that makes them stand apart. In the course of the twentieth century their weaving tradition provided the foundation for Afghan tribal rug production.
Antique Rug Glossary: F
Farahan Carpets and rugs produced in the Arak region of west central Iran. Those with a medallion design are called Sarouk- Farahans. Often they come close to the angular drawing of Herizes and Serapis, but a much finer scale appropriate to designs of classical derivation.
Field:The portion of the rug containing the main design components, usually surrounded by one or more framing borders.
Folk Art Rugs
Folk art: Art created in response to utilitarian need rather than aesthetic value alone. Often made by the self-taught or common man, folk art embodies cultural and utilitarian qualities, in contrast to fine art. Folk art is also termed primitive, tribal or traditional art. Genres span the gamut of artistic mediums in all cultures, from music to metalwork. In textile arts, folk art includes carpets, quilts, wall hangings, needlepoint and other handwork on cloth.
Fostat:Also known as “Old Cairo,” Fostat was the site of a rubbish dump for the first few centuries after the foundation of the newer city of Cairo. This dump has produced fragments of some of the earliest known Islamic carpets, which were collected and published by the Swedish scholar C.J. Lamm.
Foundation: The supporting portion of the rug into which the patterned fibers or yarns are woven. In pile carpets and soumaks, this consists of the warps and wefts. In tapestry or kilim the foundation is the warps alone.
Fuchsine: A synthetic dye introduce from Europe in the 1860’s. It was used to produce a bright magenta purple color, but it faded radically when exposed to light, sometimes to an ash grey or white color.
Antique Rug Glossary: G
Garden design: Portrayal of flowers, trees and other vegetation often with a central fountain. Animals such as tigers, birds and deer were often portrayed in poses of repose and relaxation. Gardens were important in Persian life, representing paradise, and were portrayed on carpets to bring the visual and aesthetic appreciation of the exterior effulgence into the interior. Famous garden carpets include the legendary “Springtime of Khosroe” carpet woven between AD 531 and 579 during the Sassanian period. Garden carpets were popular in the Safavid period and Mughal culture as well.
Geometric representations of a person in a rug often indicates that the weaver was pregnant at the time of the rug’s weaving. In other instances, the inclusion of human figures in rugs was the weavers’ way of illustrating just another aspect of their life and fellow tribes people in their work.
Gol or Gul
Gol or Gul: The word for flower in Farsi, also called a floral medallion or rosette. Round guls symbolize celestial bodies like the sun, moon or stars. Other geometric shapes include diamonds and four-sided guls. The interior is often intricately woven with hooks, geometric shapes, leaves and buds of flowers or ram’s horns. Naturalistically rendered rosette medallions are seen in Persian rugs. Azerbaijani and Caucasian rugs have an extensive design vocabulary of guls.
Golfarnag or Gulfarang
Golfarang, or gul farang: Literally means “foreign flower.” This floral motif emulates the flowers, usually roses, used in French Savonnerie and Aubusson carpets of the nineteenth century. The design features a repeating pattern of bouquets of flowers, often in vases, framed by vinescrolls or floral guard bands. The golfarang was used in Persian weavings during the Qajar Period, a result of foreign demand. The style was also used in Kurdish Senneh and Bidjar weaving in a more stylized, geometrical variation.
Antique Rug Glossary: H
Haji jalili – A term used to denote a very high grade of Persian carpet produced in Tabriz in the late nineteenth century. Hajji Jalili was presumably the master responsible for these rugs, but no piece with his name can be identified.
Hamadan rugs generally produced in scatter sizes drew extensively upon the tribalweaving traditions of Iran. Initially an offshoot of Kurdish village weaving in the same area, Hamadans became one of the most widely exported types of small Persian rug in the earlier twentieth century because they encompassed such a wide range of tribal designs and decorative effects.
Heddle: The heddle is a thin bar or wood serving as an armature for a series of loops that wrap around alternate warps on the loom. By pulling evenly on the heddle it is possible to reverse the over-under orientation of the warps and to separate them so that successive passes of wefting may be run through quickly, easily, and in an alternating over-under weave.
Herati, also called ‘fish’ or ‘mahi’
Herati, also called fish or mahi: A flower or rosette enclosed in a diamond with curved leaves and small flowers placed around the sides and at the corners. Some renderings of leaves resemble fish, the reason the design is also called mahi. Mahi means fish in Farsi. The central flower may be stylized or naturally rendered, depending on the stylistic tradition of the weaver. Herati are used in all-over patterns, as accent patterns in the field and in border designs. Some scholars attribute the origin of the herati design to the town of Herat, Persia; others attribute it to Turkey.
Heriz Rugs – A type of mostly room-size carpet from Northwest Iran distinguished by its monumental floral designs and the expressive power of its angular drawing. They tend to have strong medallion designs accented through the use of rich color, but allover Herizes are not uncommon. Where other Persian carpets would utilize a curved form, Herizes will apply series of angular twists and turns, imparting an emphatic geometry to the design.
Holbein:A group of early Turkish carpets named for the Northern Renaissance painter Hans Holbein the Younger, in whose paintings such carpets appear. Highly abstract of geometric in design, there are two main variants a so-called ‘small pattern Holbein, and a ‘large pattern’ variant as well.
Hooked Rugs A type of folk art floor covering indigenous to the Northeast of the United States and Maritime Canada. Their production began in the 1840’s, gradually spreading all across North America as a cottage industry by 1900.
Horizontal loom: A type of loom used in rug weaving which is arranged parallel to the ground and relatively close to it, requiring the weaver to kneel when working. The use of horizontal looms is customary for nomadic weavers, since it can be set up, dismantled, and transported easily.
Hunters and Archers
Hunters and archers: Human forms depicted on horseback or in a warrior stance with weapons. Hunters have been depicted in art throughout the world since prehistoric times, rendered on cave paintings dated to at least 12,000 years ago. The Persians used hunting iconography in several art mediums, illustrating the hunting prowess of the king, princes and nobility. This was a popular subject portrayed on Sassanian textiles. On carpets, this representation appears in the 1500s depicting royal figures on horseback pursuing animals. Other representations include winged figures of angels, genii and demons. Several hunting carpets include a written narrative or poetry.
Hunting scene: Lively depiction of Persian nobility hunting in the forests. These all-over designs show humans on horseback, trees, gardens, flowers and the animals that are being hunted. Animals include tigers, leopards, elephants, deer and birds, as well as fantastic or legendary animals such as dragons and demons. Several hunting scene carpets still exist today from the Safavid period (1401-1736); two are renowned and housed in museums in Milan and Vienna. The Milan hunting carpet is dated to 1542, the time of Shah Tahmasp. These carpets were produced in several city workshops including Kashan, Tabriz and Kerman. None earlier than the Safavid period are known. The Persian influence on Mughal court life and arts is illustrated by the popularity of detailed hunting carpets from Mughal India.
Antique Rug Glossary: I
Ilkahaid The Mongol dynasty that came to power in Iraq and Persia in the later thirteenth century. No actual rugs of this period are known, but they are represented in various Islamic and Chinese paintings.
Ingrain are textiles and coverlets that that date to the 19th century. They were machine made or loomed and many were used as actual flat woven decorative carpets.
Irish rugs – In both Ireland as well as Scotland the Arts and Crafts Movement became a central narrative of the Celtic traditions. Some of the most desirable and sought after rugs are those arts and crafts that were produced by the Donegal company in Ireland. As time passed, the Donegal Irish rugs evolved from arts and crafts into Art Nouveau.
Isfahan The production of Isfahan may go back to Safavid times in the seventeenth century when Isfahan was the capital of Persia, since many of the court quality carpets of this period that survive today have been attributed to Isfahan. Nineteenth and early twentieth century antique Isfahan rugs continued the style and consummate technical virtuosity of their classical forerunners, although often with a softer, more decorative palette.
Islimi: Also known as arabesque, often used with major floral elements such as palmettes and the Shah Abassi motif. Islimi are spiraling floral vines with a graceful curvature that connect major design elements, used in both the field and borders of a carpet. Islimi are seen in the Ardabil Carpet and are found in many styles of Persian rugs, particularly Nain, Isfahan and Mashhad.
Antique Rug Glossary: J
Joshagan – Persia boasts one of the oldest, proudest, and most prolific rug making traditions of any place in the world. Because rugs have been made all across for Persia for so long, many distinct styles of rugs have developed over the centuries. Often, antique Persian rugs are identified by the region from which they emerge. Joshagan is one such example of this system of classification. Joshagan, situated in Central Iran, is one of the oldest centers for continuous weaving in Iran. It is known for their stylized geometric and floral ornament with a lattice design. Traditionally a vase technique on a single plane lattice vase rug is associated with antique Joshegan Persian rugs. These antique carpets were woven from the 18th to 20th century in Joshagan. Joshagan rugs are prized for their unique characteristics and splendid craftsmanship, as much today as they have ever been.
Judaica motifs include symbolic religious motifs such as the Star of David, as well as Old Testament imagery, and Hebrew texts. The Jewish people were known as wanderers for many centuries, and rugs containing Jewish motifs can be found in carpets from everywhere from Morocco, to Europe, to Asia.
Jufti knot – There are a variety of different types of knots that are utilized in the construction of rugs, carpets, kilims, and tapestries. Among these is the jufti knot, which is a pile technique using symmetrical or asymmetrical knots but utilizing these configurations around pairs of warps rather than single warps, making the pile less dense and quicker to produce.
Antique Rug Glossary: K
Karabagh: Karabagh rugs from the area of Armenia have one of the oldest and most varied design traditions of any antique Caucasian rugs. Many are descended from the classical Caucasian carpets of the eighteenth century. Others are more closely related to Kazaks, with large medallion patterns and a more tribal geometric sensibility.
Karapinar: A type of rug produced in Eastern Turkey distinguished by a design with large, geometricized medallions and angular corner pieces, a pattern traceable to Turkish village weaving of the seventeenth century and earlier.
Kashan Rugs: The city of Kashan, in Persia, has been producing silk weaving since the Safavid period. From the end of the nineteenth century, the weavers in Kashan started weaving very fine quality woolen carpets as well.
Kazak rugs: The antique Kazak rugs were woven in the South Caucasus region. They are one of the most collectible type of rug. Since they are tribal and were woven by nomadic or semi nomadic tribes people, their designs are primitive and unique.
Kerman: A major center for the production of high-quality Persian carpets since the seventeenth century. When Persian rug production moved into high gear in the later nineteenth century, Kerman once again emerged as a producer of the finest carpets in the best Persian tradition. Kerman carpets are known for the fineness of their weave and for their elegantly drawn designs of classical derivation, both in allover and central medallion formats.
Khorassan: The region of Khorassan in northeastern Persia has been famed for fine rugs going back to Timurid times in the late middle ages. In the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries Khorassan became a center for the production of high quality room-sized carpets, although many of these are sometimes known by more specific designations such as Mashad or Doroksh.
Khotan: Khotans are the most outstanding among rugs and carpets of East Turkestan. While the main design elements, details, and drawing appear generally Chinese, the composition with central medallions or allover small medallions in rows relates more to Persian, Turkish, and Turkoman rugs from further west, as does their rich coloration.
Kilim: Turkish word for any form of simple weft-faced tapestry. A flatwoven tapestry rug. The most well-known Kilims are those of Turkey or Anatolia, which are varied in type and effect, but Caucasian and Persian Kilims are also appreciated nowadays for their color and high technical skill.
Kirshehir rugs: Kirshehir rugs, produced in central Turkey, are valued for their rich color, excellent wool, and the geometric vitality of their drawing. Kirshehir weavers are most well known for their prayer rugs, but they also produced a a distinctive form of long rug or runner.
Kizilayak: One of the rug-producing tribes of the Central; Asian Turkomans. Often mistaken as Ersari weavings, they tend to be finer and more precise in their drawing.
Knots Loops or various configuration wrapped around adjacent warps to produce the surface pile of a rug. Spanish rugs are the only pile pieces that have real tied knots.
Knotted Pile Carpets
Knotted Pile Carpets – See Pile carpets.
Konya rugs: Konyas, produced from an early period in Central Turkey, famed for their magnificent color, geometric designs, and unfettered bold tribal drawing. They are the Turkish counterparts to Caucasian Kazaks, and they are no less sought after by collectors, although they are generally older and far rarer.
Kuba rugs: Kuba rugs ares probably the finest and most tightly woven rugs from the Caucasus. Closely related to Shirvans and Dagestans, they are distinguished by a dense, ribbed structure and higher knot count. While medallion compositions do appear on Kubas, they are best known for their meticulous allover patterns of small, carefully worked motifs.
Kufic: A form of angular calligraphic Islamic script named for the city of Kufa in Mesopotamia. Such script became a prominent form of border decoration in Islamic decorative arts of all sorts, including textiles and carpets. Kufic borders were especially widespread in early Turkish carpets and those of Ilkhanid and Timurid Iran, surviving into later Turkish and Caucasian carpets as well.
Kula: A rug-producing town in Western Turkey known for finely woven pieces with medallion designs of classical Turkish derivation. Kula products are sometimes difficult to distinguish from the rugs of nearby Demirci.
Kurdish rugs: Kurdish Rugs are closely related Northwest Persian and Caucasian village weavings, but they may be distinguished by their exceptional sense of design and fine color. The Kurdish rugs are known for their use of bold tribal designs and “happy” upbeat coloration.
Antique Rug Glossary: L
Lac: An insect derived dye made from the beetle coccus laccae, yielding a bluish red tone. It was widely used in classic early carpets from India, Persia, and Turkey up through the seventeenth century, but was eventually displaced by the insect dye cochineal. Its active ingredient kermesic acid is less potent than the carminic acid of the insect dye cochineal.
Ladik: A town in Central Turkey known especially for its antique prayer rugs with a distinctive arch or mihrab and a panel of vertical stylized tulips.
Loom: A rigid framework used for weaving a rug or textile. Rug looms may be either vertical or horizontal.
Looped pile: A technique for making pile carpets in which the adjacent knots are left continuous as a series of loops instead of being clipped to a uniform brush-like surface. Lopped pile as used in late Roman rugs in Egypt and in Alpujarra rugs from Spain.
Lotto: A group of early Turkish carpets named for the Italian Renaissance painter Lorenzo Lotto in whose paintings they appear. Lotto carpets generally feature a highly abstract arabesque allover pattern set against a red ground.
Luri rugs produced by the Lurs of the Zagros Mountains in western Iran, are among the most impressive tribal Persian weavings. Utilizing a primarily geometric repertory along with highly stylized animal forms arranged as allover patterns, Luri rugs rely extensively on the effects of rich color to heighten the dynamic vitality of the designs.
Antique Rug Glossary: M
Mahal The production of Mahal carpets only began in the Arak region in the later nineteenth century. They are characterized by a large-scale curvilinear vinescroll based upon classical Persian forerunners, but rendered in a somewhat more stylized, geometric and robust drawing, somewhat like Herizes. The finest grade Mahals have come to be known in the rug trade as Sultanabads.
Makri The antique rugs of Makri in Southwestern Turkey are distinguished by their elongated hexagonal niche-like field, often rendered in pairs or double columns, and by their brilliant palette of reds blues, yellows, and ivory.
Malayer Rugs – The city of Malayer is located in the northern western part of modern day Iran. There, the weavers created carpets that ranged from all-over designs to medallion motifs. The rugs from Malayer tend to have a unique approach that is not really traditional more are they generally very tribal (though some are). This middle of the way approach to the design of their rugs is what makes them so sought after today.
Mamluk The Mamluk Dynasty, originally “slave-soldiers” of Turkic descent, came to power in Egypt in the mid thirteenth century. By the fifteenth century they had established a thriving carpet industry in their capital, Cairo. The designs of mamluk carpets are quite complex, consisting of large medallions made up of intersecting compartments of various forms adapted from the great tradition of Islamic geometric ornament.
Medallion A type of design that focuses on a central motif or medallion or a series of these arranged concentrically. Often the medallion will be complemented by four quarter medallions or cornerpieces at the four corners of the field.
Melas Antique Melas rugs from southwestern Turkey are famed particularly for their classic red- ground prayer rugs with simple niches or mihrabs, Melas weavers also produced long rugs with geometric patterns. The Melas repertoire is mostly floral, although it is often so abstracted that this aspect is no longer immediately apparent.
Memling Gul A stepped medallion with hooked embellishments usually arranged as an allover repeat design. Memling guls are well known in Turkish carpets from an early period, but they became establish in Moghan carpets of the Caucasus as well. They are named for the Northern Renaissance painter Hans Memling, in whose paintings such carpets appear.
Millefleurs Millefleurs tapestries of Kashmir in Northern India are among the finest virtuoso textiles produced in the Orient. Modeled on designs from the Millefleurs or “thousand flower” Pashmina wool rugs of the Mogul period, these textiles utilize a dazzling array of small floral forms delicately detailed in almost microscopic form.
Mohtashem: A term used to distinguish the earliest and finest of the late nineteenth century Persian carpets produced in Kashan. It is named for the firm or family who initiated this production. The only two carpets inscribed with the name are silk.
Mongolian Mongolian carpets have a transparent composition utilizing see-through motifs against a uniform ground, in keeping with Chinese rug design. The motifs themselves are generally Chinese – meanders, knotwork, and fretted medallions – with an taste for open spaces. Colors are soft and earthy with emphasis on subtle mixing of tones or variegation.
Mordant A technical term for the chemical additives that fix dyes or render them fast when exposed to water or light. Mordants tend to be made of metallic oxides of varying type. Different mordants may be applied to the same vegetable or insect dues to achieve different shade of color.
Moroccan rugs are notable for their dynamic colorful designs and strong geometric structure. None are datable to before the mid nineteenth century, when their production began as an adaptation of central and western Turkish rugs, whose repertoire Moroccan rugs followed closely.
Mugal A dynasty of Central Asian Turkic origin that came to power in India in 1526. Carpet weaving flourished under the Mugals from the late sixteenth to early eighteenth centuries.
Antique Rug Glossary: N
Navajo Navajo rugs represent the native American contribution to the world of textile production. Navajo rugs are most prized that have a more authentic design tradition related to other native American crafts or media. Those that have vegetable dyes predating the introduction of industrial synthetics are also most desirable.
Needlepoint Carpets – The Needlepoint embroidery weaving technique was a used in Renaissance Europe. The Europeans used this technique to copy rare and coveted had knotted carpets that were produced in the Middle East. Beginning in the late 19th century (and on) English needlepoint productions focused more on designs drawn form the Arts and Crafts movement but were competing with the newer French petite-point embroideries that were manufacturing carpets based off of the designs of French Aubusson tapestries and rugs.
New: A term used to distinguish a rug less than thirty years old.
Ninghsia / Ningxia / Ningshia rugs are those rugs that were woven in the central northern province of Ningxia in China. Ningxia produced rugs are some of the most collectible of all the rugs that were made in China.
Nomadic rug A rug woven by nomadic peoples on a portable horizontal loom. Such weaving comprises not only floor rugs, but also various types of tent equipment – door or entrance decorations, and a variety of storage bags. While primarily or initially produced for practical local consumption, nomadic weaving were also made for commercial export. Also see tribal rug.
Northwest Persian The term Northwest was coined to denote highly interesting and possibly early antique pieces that were clearly made in Northwest Persia, but whose production cannot be located more closely. Iran t is used especially for smaller rugs of a tribal or village nature exhibiting ties to Caucasian and Kurdish weaving traditions, as well as to North Iranian weaving like those from Bakshaish, Serab, Heriz, Karadja etc., but which nevertheless are distinctive and stand apart.
Antique Rug Glossary: O
Old A term used to distinguish a rug between thirty and fifty years old.
Any rug that is made in Asia
Ottoman A dynasty of Oguz Turks or Turkomans from western Turkey who came to power first in the Balkans and then across all Turkey and much of the Middle East between the later fourteenth and the nineteenth centuries. Most of the earliest surviving Islamic carpets were made under Ottoman patronage. With the exception of the Seljuk group, virtually all Turkish carpets may readily be described as ‘Ottoman.’
Ottoman Embroidery Needlework embroideries produced in the Ottoman Empire between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries are attributed largely to the west coast of Anatolia, to the Aegean Islands, and the Greek mainland. These embroideries exemplify the many traditions – both Turkish and European – that went into the making of Ottoman art.
Oushak (Ushak) Oushak in western Turkey has been a major center of rug production almost from the very begining of the Ottoman period. Many of the great masterpieces of early Turkish carpet weaving from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries have been attributed to Oushak. In the later nineteenth century Oushak re-emerged as a major center, this time for room-size decorative carpets with central medallion designs as well as patterns of smaller allover medallions or scattered sprays of vinescroll and palmettes.
Antique Rug Glossary: P
Paramamluk The term ‘Paramamluk’ was coined by the rug scholar Charles Ellis to distinguish a variant of the Mamluk production that utilized allover patterns of smaller concentric hexagons, octagons, and squares the so-called “Chessboard carpets.” These have been attributed to Damascus, a major center in the Syrian portion of the Mamluk realm. At the time they were produced, however, this region was already under Ottoman rule.
Pashmina wool A type of fine slky wool that comes from the soft downy layer closest to the skin of the animal. Calssical Mugal carpets are famed for the use of such wool.
Pazyryk A findspot in the Altai mountains of Siberia where a frozen tomb was discovered containing the worlds oldest complete carpet, dating from 400 to 300 B.C.
Peking carpets represent a newer antique production that began in China immediately following World War I, when carpet manufacturing moved from Ningshia and other interior centers to the capital. Peking carpets were now made in larger sizes intended to be more usable as decorative room-size rugs in the Europe and the United States.
Persian knot See asymmetrical knot.
Pile: The thick body or surface of a knotted pile carpet usually trimmed to a uniform length, but sometimes left long and shaggy.
Pile or Knotted Carpets
Pile or Knotted Carpets: Rugs produced by looping short lengths of yarn around successive pairs of warps in horizontal rows, and letting the excess wool hang downward in a shaggy mass. The shaggy ends of the knots may be trimmed as the carpet is being woven, or after it has been completed. This trimming creates the surface of the pile.
Plying Fibers used in carpets and textiles may be plied by taking two or more spun yarns and spinning them yet again into a still thicker yarn. Plying must be spun in the opposite direction in which the component yarns are spun, e.g. S-spun yarns may be plied with a Z-spin and vice versa. See yarn.
Polonaise Polonaise carpets 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 such carpets were exported to. Some were even custom made with the heraldic devices of specific Polish noble families, which led to the erroneous opinion that these carpets were actually made in Poland. Their soft golden coloration and additional detail in gold and silver thread make the Polonaise carpet a masterpiece of bygone grandeur.
Prayer Rugs Technically any small carpet or rug can be used for prayer, so all such rugs are potentially prayer rugs. That said, carpets that were woven with the “mihrab” or “niche” design were made with the specific intent to be used for prayer purposes.
Antique Rug Glossary: Q
Qajar A dynasty of Turkic origin that came to power in Persia in the early nineteenth century. Although their art reflected the tide of western influence in costume and elite décor, much the same a s contemporary late Ottoman art in Turkey, the Qajars also fostered a program of cultural revival that encouraged traditional crafts like rug production. They were largely responsible for the great revival of Persian rug production in the later nineteenth century, in conjunction with a renewed western demand for carpets.
Qashghai”i Rugs and bags or trappings woven by the Qashghai”i nomads of the Zagros Mountain region in southwest Iran. Like the rugs of the nearby Afshar and Bakhtiari tribes, Qasghai”i pieces tend to have geometric designs with stylized animals and human figures. They are prized for their fine weave and rich colors.
Antique Rug Glossary: R
Re-piling A type of repair in which damaged, lost, or worn portions of the pile are replaced into the foundation by sewing or hooking in new yarns and trimming them to the original surface and texture.
Rollakan See Scandinavian
Rya See Scandinavian
Antique Rug Glossary: S
S-Spun See yarn.
Safavid A dynasty founded by Shah Ismail in 1501 which lasted until the early eighteenth century. Under the Safavids the Oriental carpet reached its apogee of technical; and artistic sophistication.
Salor The oldest and most distinguished of the rug-producing Turkoman tribes of central Asia. Distinguished by their exceptional color and design, Salor pieces are generally the finest, oldest, and most prized of all Turkoman weavings.
Saph – The most interesting and complex elaboration of the prayer rug format is the multiple-niche payer rug or “Saph.” Prayer rugs that were woven for mulitiple people to use simultaneously are refereed to as Saph.
Sarouk rugs – there rugs were woven in the area / region of Arak. The best and finest examples of these rugs are refereed to as “Sarouk Farahan Rugs”. From around 1900, Sarouk rugs were one of the first mass produced rug productions ever made. Most of the rugs from this period are referred to as “painted Sarouks” because their background color was hand painted and converted from rust colors to deep red (as people wanted richer colored rugs).
Saryk A rug-producing Turkoman tribe. Saryk weavings are rarer than those of other Turkoman groups like the Tekke, Yomud, or Ersari, but they still constitute an important and distinctive component of the wider body of antique Turkoman rugs and trappings.
Savonnerie A french carpet that was produced mainly for the aristocrats and nobility of France. Unlike the mostly flat woven rugs of Aubusson, the Savonnerie rugs were mostly woven with thich and plush pile.
Scandinavian The Scandinavian region became an area of rug production in Europe at a relatively early period when the knotted pile carpet was introduced from Ottoman Turkey. Scandinavians began to produce rugs for themselves, inspired initially by the imported products, and developing gradually into a distinctive northern idiom. Flatwoven tapestry rugs or coverlets became an established type, especially in Sweden, where they came to be known as “Rollakan.” Pile rugs or Ryiji (Rya), often with a long shaggy nap were produced in Norway and and Sweden, and above all Finland.
Seljuk: A dynasty of Oguz Turkish warriors from Central Asia whose rose to power across the middle East in the eleventh century, first conquering Persia and Mesopotamia, and then Byzantine Anatolia, which was then called Turkey after them. The earliest extant Anatolian Turkish rugs, presumably woven under their patronage in the thirteenth century are designated as “Seljuk.”
Selvedge The spiral wool wrapping that protects the sides of the rug
Semi-antique A term used to distinguish a rug between fifty and eighty-years old.
Senneh carpets, are those rugs that were woven in the Northwest Iranian city of Senneh. Rugs from Senneh are some of the finest carpets ever woven and many are considered to be great works of art. Certain of the more robust, tribal-looking antique Senneh rugs were more than likely woven by Kurdish people.
Antique Rug Glossary: T
Tabriz – The city of Tabriz, in the north western part of modern day Iran has been know-en to produce some of the finest and most desirable rugs during the late 19th century. In addition, they are also one of the most active weaving centers today.
Tapestry A flat-woven textile comprised of vertical warp fibers completely covered by closely packed weft facing.
Tehran Tehran only became a center of antique rug production after the great revival of Persian weaving was underway in the late nineteenth century. But soon it came to establish a high standard in making carpets with designs of classical Persian derivation, on a par with other centers like Tabriz or Kashan.
Tekke One of the most powerful and leading rug-producing Turkoman tribes of Central Asia. Antique Tekke carpets and trappings are prized for the quality and variety of their design and weave. After the Russian conquest, they became the leaders of the Turkoman export production.
Tibetan Like the antique rugs of East Turkestan, those made in Tibet are largely based upon a weaving tradition and design repertoire from China. Many motifs are of Chinese origin – dragons, cloud-bands, floral and lattice patterns etc. But there are distinctive Tibetan designs like the tiger pelt or tiger masks, or pictorial elements of Buddhist origin, and their color is much richer than that of Chinese carpets.
Timuri: A sub-group of the antique weavings produced by nomadic Baluch tribes in the region of Western Afghanistan. The best and earliest Timuri rugs, especially their main carpets, are distinguished by the precision and complexity of their designs, often derived from classical Persian prototypes, and by the depth and range of their color.
Timurid A dynasty of Chagagatai Turks from Central Asia who came to power across much of the Middle East under their founder Timur in the late fourteenth century. Great patrons of the arts, they extensively fostered the production of the earliest Persian carpets known. Although only one fragment of such a rug survives, there are many depictions of such rugs in Timurid illuminated manuscripts.
Tribal rug A rug produced as part of an established cultural tradition of design and technique, either by sedentary tribal groups (village rugs) or by wandering, tent-dwelling peoples (nomadic rug). While motivated by practical domestic needs, tribal rugs of either type were also produced for commercial export or sale.
Turkish Rug Knot
Antique Rug Glossary: U
Ukrainian The pile carpets that were woven in the Ukraine are very similar to the French Savonnerie carpets of France. Their approach to design stems from the Rococco and / or Neo-classical design. That said, they always kept their own unique identity.
Uzbek Embroidery Antique Uzbek textiles and embroideries from Central Asia are considered to be some of the best examples found anywhere. Most of their productions took place around and in Tashkent. These textile works of art will generally feature vibrant coloration as well as bold design motifs. Many of the embroidered textiles were made with silk and and woven onto a linen back.
Antique Rug Glossary: V
Vertical Rug Loom
Vertical loom A type of loom used in rug weaving that stands erect, allowing the weaver to sit on a chair or bench while working. Vertical looms are typical of urban and village weaving production.
Village rug A rug woven in a small town or village, generally as part of a domestic family operation, a so-called “cottage industry.” Such rugs are made for local consumption or for commercial export. Also see tribal rug.
Vintage refers to a designation of semi-antique rugs (and other objects) that are over 30 years old, and under 100 years old. Vintage rugs have experienced a surge in popularity and collectibility over the past decade, especially vintage rugs from the mid-20th Century.
Antique Rug Glossary: W
Wagireh / Samplers
Wagireh The Wagireh or sampler rug is a template or pattern for the design and production of larger carpets. The size of a scatter rug or mat , they do not show the entire design, but only the basic or fundamental portion of the various larger decorative elements of the field and borders, along with selected individual motifs, which could then be expanded according to established symmetrical repetitions to produce the complete composition.
Warps The vertical yarns or fibers strung on the loom and comprising the foundation of a rug or textile.
Weft Faced Tapestry
Weft faced Tapestry See Kilim technique.
Wefts The horizontal fibers or yarns of a rug or textile passing over and under alternate warps. Wefting may be the face of tapestry, or spacing foundation in pile rugs and soumaks.
Wilton carpets are machine-made rather than hand woven. Manufactured in England, Wilton rugs were known to produce rugs that were based off of Persian rugs as well as patterns from the arts and crafts movement.
Antique Rug Glossary: X
Antique Rug Glossary: Y
Yarkand Made in East Turkestan,. Yarkand carpets relate less to Chinese weaving and more to the Islamic world from further West. They often have tree-of-life and pomegranate designs derived from Iran and West Turkestan, or they may utilize mihrab niche patterns for making prayer rugs in the Muslim tradition, sometimes even as multiple niche prayer rugs or saphs.
Yarn A spun or plied cluster of fibers that can be utilized as warps, wefts, or pile, etc. Yarns may be S-spun (clockwise) or Z-spun (counterclockwise).
Yastik pillow or bolster covers – are the most desirable of small Turkish rugs, eagerly sought after by collectors because of their miniature adaptations of many classical Anatolian designs. Yastiks occur all across Turkey; virtually every type of Turkish rug production includes the Yastik format.
Yazd Halfway between Isfahan and Kerman, Yazd became heir to the great tradition of classical Persian rug production. Antique Yazds are finely woven, often in allover symmetrical patterns of delicate floral sprays comparable to those on Kermans or Kashans. Their coloration can be deep and rich, but soft reds, rusts, and saffron tones impart a luminous quality to the overall effect.
Yomud One of the leading rug-producing Turkoman tribes of Central Asia, second only to the Tekke. Though less finely woven, Yomud Turkoman weavings are more robust and expressive in their design, with more pattern variation as well, especially in their main carpets.
Yuruk Yuruk rugs exemplify the great nomadic tradition of Turkish carpet weaving (Yuruk means nomad in Turkish). Produced in Eastern Anatolia, at times they appear closely related to the rugs of the nearby Caucasus. But for the most part Yuruk rugs derive from much earlier Turkish weavings from further west, like those of Bergama and Oushak, but with a darker coloration.
Antique Rug Glossary: Z
Z-spun See yarn.
Zakatala A highly distinctive village weaving from the South. Zakatalas seem to have connections with the rugs from a number of different areas of the Caucasus. As a result, their designs are quite varied; some have medallions, others have allover designs, and still others are somewhere in between. But whatever the design, their approach to form and color is always unmistakable.
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