History of Timurid Rugs
Learning About Antique Timurid Dynasty Rugs
Antique Timurid Dynasty Rugs – The Timurid Dynasty, which controlled a region stretching from Central Asia to Eastern Turkey, was founded in the later fourteenth century by Timur, a Chaghatai Turk who claimed descent from Genghis Khan. Under Timur and his descendants in the fifteenth century, art and architecture flourished throughout this realm.
While no actual Timurid carpets have survived except for some fragments, there are many detailed and accurate representations of carpets in Timurid illuminated manuscripts, enough so that the scholar Amy Briggs was able to reconstruct an extensive corpus of Timurid rug weaving. Indeed, the surviving
Timurid fragments compare very closely to the manuscripts, so that one can place considerable trust in the painted depictions as an accurate record of the lost Timurid carpet industry.
Timurid rugs were mostly scatter sized. The designs are overwhelmingly of the allover repeat variety, with staggered rows of small medallions articulated in varied and vivid colors.
The borders of the carpets seem to have had mostly “Kufic” designs like the Seljuk and Beylik carpets, although some had arabesque vine-scroll borders. One can only guess at the centers of production – Tabriz and Shiraz in the west, and Samarkand and Herat in the Central Asian heartland of Timurid power. Toward the end of the fifteenth century, Timurid rug weavers adopted new types of designs, like allover compartment patterns.
Another new design format also emerged at this time– the central medallion composition with quarter medallion corner-pieces. This was essentially a detailed excerpt or blowup of a staggered allover medallion pattern, focusing now on one smaller medallion with portions of the four surrounding medallions arrayed about it.
Originating in Islamic book decoration, this new “central medallion” format was a major design breakthrough and would provide the basis of Oriental carpet design for centuries to come.
Depiction of a Timurid rug with a compartment design in a manuscript of Kalileh-o-Dimneh by Abul Ma’ali Nasrollah, Herat, 1429, Blbliotheque Nationale, Paris (from V. Berinstain et al., Great Carpets of the World, fig. 141).