Seljuk Rugs and Turkish Beylik Carpets

About Early Antique Seljuk Rugs

Seljuk Rugs – When Marco Polo traveled to China in the thirteenth century, he remarked upon the beauty and quality of the carpets produced in Turcomania (Anatolia) which was then under the rule of the Seljuks.

Fragment of Konya Multi-Gul Carpet, Seljuk, 13th Century, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul
Fragment of Konya Multi-Gul Carpet, Seljuk, 13th Century, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul

In the mosques at Konya and Beyshehir in South-Central Anatolia which belong to this early period of Turkish rule, a series of carpets or carpet fragments has been preserved that scholars have attributed to the period when the buildings were first erected. Possibly the very type that Polo described, these so-called “Seljuk” carpets are the earliest large-scale knotted rugs that have come down to us.

Beylik period carpet from Konya, 14th century, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul (from V. Gantzhorn, Oriental Carpets, ill. 96).
Beylik period carpet from Konya, 14th century, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul (from V. Gantzhorn, Oriental Carpets, ill. 96).

They have allover designs, usually rows of medallions of some sort, or allover floral lattices, with borders adapted from the so-called “Kufic” Islamic calligraphy. Some have geometricized animal designs as well.

Seljuk or Beylik period carpet, Konya, 13th-14th century, Vakiflar Museum, Istanbul, (from V. Gantzhorn, Oriental Carpets, ill. 108).
Seljuk or Beylik period carpet, Konya, 13th-14th century, Vakiflar Museum, Istanbul, (from V. Gantzhorn, Oriental Carpets, ill. 108).

A number of these — Seljuk rugs — may in fact be this early, but some are certainly later, belonging to the period of the Beyliks or petty principalities that emerged in Turkey in the fourteenth century after the destruction of the Seljuk dynasty by the Mongols.

In either case they constitute the first extended group or corpus of Oriental pile carpets. Their center of production was probably the Seljuk capital, Konya, and the surrounding areas. It is also possible that this production involved the participation of local Greek and Armenian weavers who were now working for their new Seljuk Turkish masters.