Antique Ottoman Rugs and Carpets

Guide to Ottoman Rugs and Transylvanian Carpets

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History and Evolution of Ottoman Rugs and Transylvanian Carpets

Ottoman Rugs - In the late fourteenth century, the Osmanli or "Ottoman" Turks were only one of many competing Anatolian principalities or Beyliks. In less than 50 years, however, they emerged as the pre-eminent Turkish dynasty that would rule the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Asia until the First World War.

Rug weaving under the Ottomans had a long and varied development. Initially it evolved out of the repertory of the Beylik and earlier Timurid carpets with their allover field designs and Kufic borders.

Ottoman Rugs - Early Star Oushak carpet by Nazmiyal
Ottoman Rugs - Early Star Oushak carpet

Typical Ottoman rugs of this type are the so-called "Small Pattern Holbein" and "Memling Gul" carpets (see European & Early Carpets and Oriental Rugs & Carpets). The early "Animal Carpets" were also another major Ottoman rug genre.

These utilized medallions containing one or more animals, often with trees of life, rendered in a strongly stylized or geometric style. A distinctive Ottoman offshoot of the allover medallion format was the so-called "Lotto" carpet.

The Timurid innovation of the central medallion composition also influenced the development of new versions of the Ottoman repertoire – the "Large-Pattern Holbein Type," "Crivelli Star " and "Ghirlandaio" carpets, and the large medallion animal carpets (see Europe & Early Oriental Rugs & Carpets).

Antique Transylvanian Rug by Nazmiyal
Antique Transylvanian Rug

The most significant Ottoman adaptations of the large central medallion format, however, were the elegant, courtly carpets attributed to the Ushak region. The earliest of these are now dated to the late fifteenth century, when they emerged as direct adaptations of the new Timurid central medallion carpets.

Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Oushak Rugs developed a series designs with both star-shaped quatrefoil medallions, and circular or ogival ones. These had details made up of sinuous arabesque vinescrolls and tendrils which reflected contemporary Safavid Persian designs. Ushak produced various types of prayer rug as well. In the later seventeenth century a single and double niched prayer rug type also developed.

Often attributed to the European areas of the Ottoman Empire, these "Transylvanian" rugs were probably made in Asiatic Turkey. All these various Ottoman types, which represented the output of organized urban manufacturies, largely in western Anatolia, provided the foundation for a more rustic and lively genre of popular Turkish village weaving all across Turkey, which was informed by a nomadic taste ultimately reflecting the Central Asian background or origin of the Turks.

This tradition of Turkish rug weaving has survived right down into the twentieth century.

17th Century Ottoman Prayer Rug

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