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Learn More About Turkish Rugs
What is a Turkish rug?
A Turkish rug, also known as a Turkish carpet or Anatolian rug, is a type of traditional woven textile that originates from Turkey. Turkish rugs have a rich history dating back thousands of years, and they are renowned for their exquisite craftsmanship, intricate designs, and vibrant colors.
Key features of the Turkish rug include:
- Materials: Turkish rugs are traditionally made from natural materials, with wool being the most common choice. High-quality wool sourced from local sheep is often used to create durable and soft rugs. In some cases, silk may also be used for luxurious, fine rugs.
- Weaving Techniques: Turkish rugs are handwoven using various traditional techniques, with each region in Turkey having its own distinct style. Some of the prominent weaving techniques include the symmetrical knotting method, known as the Turkish knot or Ghiordes knot, and the asymmetrical knotting method, known as the Persian or Senneh knot. The type of knot used can impact the density, durability, and appearance of the rug.
- Designs and Motifs: Turkish rugs are famous for their intricate and elaborate designs, which often include geometric patterns, floral motifs, and medallion configurations. These designs are typically inspired by local cultural and artistic influences and can vary depending on the region and the ethnic group of the weavers.
- Color Palette: Turkish rugs are renowned for their vibrant and harmonious color palettes. Traditional Turkish rugs often feature rich reds, blues, greens, and yellows, along with softer pastel tones. The use of natural dyes is common, contributing to the rugs’ unique and dynamic hues.
- Regional Variations: Different regions in Turkey have their own distinct rug-weaving traditions, resulting in various styles and designs. Some of the well-known types of Turkish rugs include the Hereke, Oushak (Ushak), Kilim, and Sivas rugs, each showcasing distinct characteristics and techniques.
- Symbolism: Turkish rugs often incorporate symbolic elements that hold cultural and religious significance for the weavers. These symbols may represent luck, protection, fertility, or other traditional beliefs.
The Turkish rug has a global reputation for it’s beauty, craftsmanship and artistic value. The area rugs from Turkey are highly sought after by collectors and interior designers for their ability to add warmth, elegance, and a touch of history to any living space.
Additionally, Turkish rugs have become an essential part of Turkey’s cultural heritage and continue to be treasured for their artistry and craftsmanship.
History of antique Turkish rugs
Turkish rugs (also referred to as Anatolian rugs) are, arguably, the rugs that started it all. These carpets were among the first wave of Oriental antique carpets to be exported into Europe. The vintage Turkish rugs were prized commodities and artistically influential pieces. The designs of Turkish rugs such as the iconic guls, prayer rugs and small repeating patterns found on these carpets, worked their way into the iconic paintings of the European masters, including Memling, Lotto, Bellini, Hans Holbein and many others.
These painters were inspired so much by Turkish rugs and the design motifs they feature that the artists have lent their names to some of these famous Turkish patterns. One of the most famous artists that incorporated rugs from Turkey in his painting was the great and iconic 16th century painter Hans Holbein.
The styles of Turkish rugs varies widely. Bergama rugs, for example, produced tribal-influenced Turkoman pieces, Hereke rugs feature elegant curve-linear patterns worthy of Ottoman palaces and the most well known of all rug weaving centers in Turkey – Oushak produces decorative room-sized carpets that are revered, above all else, for their soft pastel-coloration.
The Romanian master weaver – Theodor Tuduc, also produced exceptional carpets. His rugs were based on existing styles and designs from the Caucasus, Turkey as well as Persia. Antique Turkish rugs are elegant and beautifully varied in look, texture, quality and design.
Turkish Rugs are a major component of the carpet weaving traditions in the Middle East. It was largely the Turkish people and related groups from Central Asia who introduced the knotted pile carpet to the Islamic world. The largest and oldest collection of early Oriental rugs comes from Turkey. The so-called geometric or Seljuk carpets from the thirteenth century have been well preserved in the mosques of Konya and other towns in Central Anatolia. While most antique Persian rugs are fine and intricate, the antique Turkish rugs are extremely desirable by interior decorators. Since many of the antique rugs from Turkey boast larger scale design patterns that are usually also set against softer colors, they do have a very decorative appeal. The early Turkish rugs are also some of the most collectible rugs in today’s market due to their more primitive designs and the fact that not many were produced.
Antique Turkish Rugs History And Significance
History of Turkish rugs and weavings is as complex as it is ancient. The production of fine rugs and carpets is a practice that dates back millennia. In certain societies and cultures across the world, rug weaving is of particular importance.
It is regarded as an art form of the highest order, as well a quintessentially significant cultural practice. This is especially true in Turkey, which has been one of the most important rug producing countries for centuries. With a complex history that involves warring dynasties, invading forces and contentious relations with its neighbors, Turkey is one of the most unique countries.
The modern day nation state of Turkey spans two continents. This is the result of the wide-reaching empires that have governed Asia Minor and the southeast of Europe from capitals which were located in modern Turkey and Persia.
Standing at the crossroads of the great civilizations of the east and west, Turkey has long acted as a natural go-between for European traders seeking to trade in exotic goods, as well as Persian traders seeking to do business with those in the west.
As the demand for fine rugs and carpets has waxed and waned over the centuries, so has the craft of artisanal rug weaving. It adopted new styles and patterns and introducing new rug weaving techniques as well.
More so than anything else, rug production in Turkey has been a flexible and dynamic enterprise, resulting in a corpus of material that is always exciting. The clear and uncontested historical record of Turkish rug production dates back to at least the thirteenth century, during the reign of the Seljuks.
During this period, some of the earliest antique rugs that still survive were woven. Sophisticated compositions, these rugs are indicative of a weaving culture that was not only already mature, but deeply rich and refined.
The Seljuk style is generally characterized by repeating, allover patterns. They often feature stacked medallions and small compartmentalized areas that were occasionally decorated with floral detail elements. These unique carpets offer great insight into a distant point in time. By the fourteenth century, however, the power of the Seljuks had vanished.
During this time, portions of eastern Asia Minor, in modern day Turkey, were governed by the extensive Timurid Dynasty. The Timurid Dynasty claimed an expanse of land that spanned from eastern Turkey to western China, an area that comprises several large, independent nations today.
During this period, the production of Turkish rugs changed significantly. The Timurid era saw the birth of the central medallion pattern, which would go on to become one of the defining styles of Oriental rugs. Similar advances were made at this time, as the Timurids took a special interest in the craft of carpet production.
Like the Seljuks before them, the Timurids were not destined to govern Turkey for long. Soon, an insurgent group of Turks would take seize of the country and established the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottomans quite literally seized the reigns of Turkey. They would go on to govern one of the largest contiguous land empires that the world has ever seen. By the end of the fourteenth century, the Ottomans governed their massive empire from Istanbul.
From there they oversaw one of the most radical transformations of Turkish culture. Regarding the Turkish rug production, the Ottomans were the heirs to the advances of the Seljuks and the Timurids. Each of whom, had left a distinctive mark on the ancient practice of rug weaving.
Naturally, the popular central medallion rug format that had been pioneered by the weavers of the Timurid period remained a favorite. Other popular styles were maintained, but altered.
Most early Ottoman rugs are referred to by their patterns. These include the Memling Gul pattern and the so-called “Small Pattern Holbein,” which is named after the European painter who depicted such rugs in his portraits of European nobility.
Another important development during the Ottoman era was the introduction of animal designs in carpets. These fascinating Turkish rugs feature medallions decorated with animal motifs and designs.
The early Ottoman period also saw the introduction of the Crivelli Star and Ghirlandaio styles. Those styles also played on the popular central medallion format. All of these advances elevated the already vaulted craft, and the internal demand for such carpets rose sharply.
Perhaps the most important developments in the weaving of Turkish rugs occurred in the important historical weaving center of Oushak. The ancient Turkish city of Oushak had already been producing rugs for centuries.
The Oushak rugs were widely celebrated and acknowledged to be among the very best of all Oriental carpets. During the sixteenth and seventeenth century, the Ottomans oversaw a series of important changed in the weaving of Oushak rugs.
During this time, we witness the emergence of star-shaped and circular medallions. Further, elaborate arabesques and complex vine scrolls soon became common in the finest Turkish Oushak carpets.
These rugs featured intricately detailed fields flowing over with winding detail elements soon coming heavily into vogue. At this time, the Safavid rulers of Persia were also overseeing aesthetic changes in their carpet production, and the ornate and intricate carpets that were coming out of Tabriz and Kashan had an important influence of the style of Turkish rugs that were being woven.
Further important developments occurred during the reign of the Ottoman Empire which stretched into the late seventeenth century. At this time, niched prayer rugs began to be produced and shortly thereafter we see the emergence of the double niched prayer design rugs.
These important productions were exceptionally important, especially to the Islamic cultures that were the foundation of the Ottoman’s empire. Many practicing Muslim would utilize such pieces during their daily prayers.
The Turkish rugs that were manufactured throughout western Turkey also began to come into their own during this time. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the West was caught up in a tremendous Oriental revival.
It is during this time that the Turkish rugs were considered to be especially fashionable. Even the rustic tribal carpets woven in traditional rug weaving villages proved popular with Western consumers, who admired such pieces for their cultural verisimilitude.
Over the centuries, Turkish rugs have developed both as the result of internal sociopolitical changes as well as the influences and demands of the Western world. A storied craft with one of the richest bodies of material in the world, the art of Turkish rug weaving is an important facet of our shared history.
The rich and fascinating world of Turkish rugs offers insight into the culture and traditions of a region, and it also offers insight into the nature of our humanity.
Why Designers and Decorators Clamor For Turkish Rugs
Fine antique Turkish rugs are loved by many for their lustrous pastels, beautifully stylized arabesques and monumental botanical designs. Anatolia (the modern day country of Turkey) played an indispensable role introducing Oriental carpets to Europe and creating many elaborate wool rugs that appeal to Western designers and consumers of today.
Turkey produces a tremendous variety of symbol-filled Anatolian rugs, palatial medallion carpets and decorative rugs that feature an assortment of Safavid Persian symbols and patterns depicted in a distinctly Turkish manner. With their muted tones with brighter highlights, they make extremely coveted decorative pieces for any interior designer.
Oushak, Konya, Milas, Sivas, Ghiordes and the Ottoman rug and textile weaving centers and people in Hereke, all produce a number of distinctive carpet styles. Each one offers specific highlights and patterns for any type of room and design an interior designer is trying to achieve.
The legendary Turkish prayer rugs with their decorative pillars, angular mihrab and red ground are regional icons as are the splendid medallion rugs, fluid Safavid-style arabesques and angular botanical decorations, which are incomparably elegant and stylish. The rugs bring together the designs of the room, accentuating and complementing the furniture.
Exquisite oxidized colors, posh pastels and whimsical botanical designs make Turkish rugs essential designer carpets for rustic spaces and palatial drawing rooms alike. With multiple patterns and sizes, it’s obvious to see why they’re a popular choice for interior designers trying to create a elegant and pulled together look.