19th Century Rugs

About 19th Century Rugs

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Nineteenth Century Rugs – By all measures the 18th century was the height of fabulous Persian rugs. There was a large market in Europe for these beautiful tapestries, and the rugs were created with the flair of the artist. Artistic rug productions were encouraged, but as the 19th century rolled around there were factors that came into play that made 19th century rugs change, and become less artistic.
19th century rugs lost the number of European buyers whom the 18th century had. As Ottoman power began to decline the interest of the people turned more too western made items. The Turkish elite began to covet western styled textiles and carpets and this slowed the production of the great artistic rugs of Persia.

19th century rugs began to regain their strength of presence when the Qajar Dynasty of Persia started a program designed to promote cultural revitalization of the local crafts. The western hemisphere was seeing the emergence of what is known as the “middle class” buyer, and the creation of the artistically driven carpets were being encouraged by the leaders of Persia. The new buyers had money and they wanted to buy items that they saw as being signs of affluence. The Persian carpets of the 18th century were thought to be signs of great affluence so replicas of these carpets were highly sought after.

19th Century Rugs - Antique Persian Tabriz rug
19th Century Rugs – Antique Persian Tabriz rug

The need of the “middle class” western people to own things that represented wealth and power had a great influence on the designs of the carpets being made. The European importers began to again buy the carpets because of the demand for them in the west. As the 19th century began to reach its later stages the carpets were almost back to the production amounts that they had been in during the 18th century.

Each dynasty that ruled over the areas where the rugs were made had some influence into the patterns that were created and the colors that were used in the carpets. The end of the 19th century found the rugs to be in great demand in the west and the production of carpets was increased in Persia, Russia, India, and after the First World War even China stepped up their rug creation in order to fill the need for these items in the west.

19th Century Rugs - Antique Persian Heriz Serapi Rug by Nazmiyal
19th Century Rugs – Antique Persian Heriz Serapi Rug

During this part of the 19th century, the oriental rugs were in high demand and weavers from other countries were busy trying to imitate the patterns and colors. Weavers from the British Isles were working feverishly to create carpets that looked like the ones being made but the Chinese after the collapse of the Manchu Dynasty. The rug production became a fevered industry that was profitable for many nations.

Most of the carpets that you buy from the 19th century era will have an oriental flair to them because of this. The designs and the techniques of crafting the carpets were imitated by almost every country crafting rugs. This can make it difficult to decide exactly where a carpet was crafted.

Revival of 19th Century Rugs

19th Century Rugs – The loss of the European markets in the eighteenth century certainly affected rug production throughout the Middle East, but it was not the only adverse factor in this process. The decline of Ottoman power stimulated an interest in western styles and tastes among the Turkish elite which weakened official artistic production, including textiles and carpets.

During the eighteenth and earlier nineteenth centuries the major rug workshops fell off in quality and quantity, with most authentic Turkish weaving shifting now to popular, village production.

At that time, they could no longer compete for any sophisticated European buyers who might still provide a market. In Persia, the Safavid Dynasty was overturned by an Afghan invasion in 1722, which dealt a serious blow to high level artistic patronage and production, reducing rug weaving all across the region to a shadow of its former greatness, both in the quality of the designs and in the extent of manufacture.

Rug production would not recover until circumstances changed in the West and the Middle East as well.

Antique 19th Century Persian Ziegler Sultanabad Rug by Nazmiyal
19th Century Rugs – A Beautiful Persian Ziegler Sultanabad Rug

In Persia a decisive factor was the emergence of the Qajar Dynasty. Although Qajar art reflected the tide of western influence in costume and elite décor, much the same as contemporary late Ottoman art in Turkey, the Qajars also fostered a program of cultural revival that encouraged traditional crafts like rug production. This coincided with the emergence in the West of a large new middle class with considerable buying power.

In a period of colonialist expansion across the Middle East and much of the world, European and American clients re-acquired a taste for the exotic refinement of the Oriental carpet as it once again began to become accessible, and as commercial ties between East and West intensified.

Soon European importers established headquarters in the new Persian centers of production, and they began to influence the style and quality of the rugs to make them more attractive to western clients.

19th Century Antique Persian Bakshaish Rug by Namziyal
19th Century Antique Persian Bakshaish Rug

This period, especially in the latter part of the nineteenth century, witnessed a revival of Persian rug production that often equaled or at least came close to the great carpets of the classical era and in terms of quantity, far exceeded the production of earlier times.

Almost immediately, rug weavers all across Late Ottoman Turkey began to compete as well for the new western market. At the same time weaving in the Caucasus expanded enormously under official Czarist Russian control. Not to be outdone, colonial British authorities in India began to revive rug production there as well.

Antique Fine 19th Century Persian Tabriz Rugs
Antique Fine 19th Century Persian Tabriz Rugs

In China it took a bit longer, but the period after the First World War and the collapse of the Manchu Dynasty witnessed a marked expansion of rug production geared toward western markets.

This virtual explosion in production helps to explain why most antique carpets that one encounters nowadays were made in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The Oriental rug revival and its impact on the West was in fact so intense and so lasting, that for the first time since the seventeenth century, European weavers, especially in the British Isles, began imitating the design and technique of rugs from the Middle East.

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