A Garden Under your feet

 

Mesmerizing world of Persian Rug

By Mohsen Ghanbari

 

For centuries Persian rugs have been appreciated for their fine craftsmanship and high quality. These beautiful and unique handmade Persian rugs can be found in numerous shapes and sizes depending on where and who manufactured them. There are rugs for all tastes, from large rugs knotted in workshops to lively patterned village rugs and charming nomadic rugs.

 

Intro to Antique Hand Knotted Persian Rugs and Carpets

 

Historically, the largest carpet producing centers that flourished in Persia were in Tabriz (1500-1550), Herat (1525-1650), Kashan (1525-1650) and Kerman (1600-1650).

Perhaps the most important cultural contribution to the world of art that was given by the people of Persia is the Persian Rug. Persian rugs are those rugs that were woven in Persia (modern day Iran). For a Persian rug to be considered “antique”, it would have to be at least 80 years old. The rugs from Persia represent some of the very finest examples of textile art to ever be produced.

The complex methods and high-quality materials used, ensured that each piece was a beautiful and unique work of art.

Natural dyes, silk, cotton and / or wool yarn were used extensively. Woven by hand, each piece (of the antique rugs) was like no other and weavers dedication would ensure that their creations would last for decades (and in many cases, centuries)

Historically, nomads, clerics and kings alike utilized the rugs from Persia as floor coverings and decorations. Today, these carpets are appreciated as artworks as well as investment worthy pieces.

Today, the finest antique rugs from Persia are appreciated around the world for their fine quality of weave, beautiful colors and artistic patterns. Simply standing in the same room as a genuine antique Persian rug can be a powerful experience. These gorgeous works of art have the unique ability to instantly transport the onlooker through time and space. Their presence takes us on an exhilarating journey to the exotic, faraway lands, of bygone eras. These are the stuff of some of the most colorful stories ever told.

This trend is fueled by an ever-expanding number of collectors and scholars. The inherent beauty of an antique Persian rug, it’s unique compositions and rarity make it extremely desirable. The sheer variety of these carpets, made over the centuries, is a strong testament to the rich cultural tradition from which they have emerged.

 

The History of Rugs And Carpets From Persia:

 

Persia, now modern day Iran, was an ancient and powerful empire which stretched from Africa to India. The time period between 1500 and 1736 A.D. was considered by many to be its artistic pinnacle, similar to the European renaissance. The ruling class at the time, referred to as the Safavid Dynasty, encouraged arts of many kinds, including paintings, calligraphy and intricate weaving.

During the Safavid period, the modern day cities of Tabriz, Kerman, Herat and Isfahan became major producers of fine carpets. Hand-made rugs with intricate designs inspired by Persian culture were so well crafted and cherished, that many have survived for hundreds of years.

Passed down from generation to generation, these rugs have become a living history. Evidence of a rich heritage and culture, each antique Persian rug has its own story.

During the 16th century these carpets were exported to aristocratic and high-end consumers from all over the world. During the 1850’s, the biggest consumers were the European countries like England and Germany.

These Europeans encouraged the development of additional rug producing factories in the major cities of Tabriz, Kerman, Mashed and Sultanabad. Therefore, the ruler at the time, Reza Shah Pahlavi, built royal carpet and rug factories to produce the highest quality rugs in the region.

Hand knotted Persian rugs are an important part of the modern Iranian culture. Passed down from ancestors and representing a dying skill set, these rugs are priceless heirlooms, cherished more than any other possession. The intricate designs and colors are exotic to say the least. They represent the rich history and origins this art form has evolved from over the past two thousand years. Not only is each rug unique, but each region has its own color palette, recurring themes, and weave pattern stemming from a mixture of its indigenous and nomadic ancestry.

What Is The Difference Between a Persian Rug and a “regular” Oriental Carpet?

 

Oriental rugs are those carpets that were created in Asia. Asia is basically the area that extends from Cyprus and Iran in the west; to Turkey, China and Vietnam in the East; to the Caucasus in the north; and to India in the south.

Naturally, each of these regions has its own distinctive culture, religious traditions, and aesthetic ideals. That said, each of these locals produced rugs that are, in the Western world, referred to as “Oriental” which is simply the Latin word for “Eastern.” Because this term is so broad, the distinctive types of Oriental rugs made throughout the Eastern world are often referred to by the specific region from which they emerged.

“Oriental Carpet” is a broad, all-encompassing term that is used to describe a wealth of different rug types. As such, there is a good amount of misunderstanding and confusion in the general population as to just what the term means.

Therefore, an "Oriental rug" might be a "Persian rug," a "Central Asian rug," a "Turkestanian rug," a "Chinese rug," and so forth - depending on the specific region where it was made.

Thus, all Persian rugs are Oriental rugs, but not all Oriental rugs are Persian rugs!

 

How were the Persian carpets made?

 

The construction of Persian rugs varies based on the city, region or village where they were woven. The "traditional" Persian carpet is tied with a single looping knot (Persian or Senneh knot). The vertical strand of thread in a Persian carpet has one loop. This use of a single knot is essential in establishing the identity of the place where the rug was made and can sometimes help in identifying the artisans who made it.

When comparing carpets, the way to identify the knot used is to splay open the pile by bending the rug against itself and looking at the base of the knot.

Are the Persian carpet designs unique to that region?

The design of a rug can be misleading. Some rugs may feature a 'Persian design' but were woven elsewhere. An example of this convention would be Indo-Persian rugs. These carpets were woven in India with Persian design and construction elements. It's a surprising fact that, despite the tribal wars, migrations, commercial influence and rebellions - the methods of rug construction used by different cultures has changed very little over time.

Persian rug patterns are recognizable to the trained eye and have existed for many generations.

Many of the older Persian carpets from Tabriz have a central medallion, quartered corner medallions appearing over a field of scrolling vine ornaments, accented with single animals or birds, animal combat scenes and mounted hunters. Carpet grounds were red, blue and sometimes white but colors tended to be muted, partly because the sheep in the Northwest have coarse wool but mainly because of the salt quality of the water used in the dyeing process.

 

How did the rugs from Persia make it to other countries and the rest of the world?

Following the Silk Road, the rugs from Persia also made their way west to Europe. In Spain, the Islamic insurgence brought rug weaving traditions from Northern Africa and Morocco to Southern Europe through the Mediterranean trade routes. They transported rugs from the Caucasus and Transylvanian Balkans to the Renaissance painters and Italy’s upper class.

In the Caucasus, the bottleneck of rug weaving traditions intensified as displaced ethnic groups from Romania, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia shared cross-cultural designs that were transported north to Eastern Europe.

With various points of entry, including longstanding Viking trade routes, through the harsh Arctic Sea, these carpets as well as the actual weaving techniques thrived throughout Europe, Scandinavia and Great Britain.

 

What would be considered the most famous carpet from Persia?

As many authorities believe, the most famous Persian carpets came from Tabriz and are referred to as the twin Ardabil carpets. These carpets are in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Los Angeles Country Museum.

 

some of the best styles and types of Persian carpets

Beginning in the second half of the 19th century, an importer of merino wool conceived the notion of re-launching the rug making industry. The greatest Ustadan (weaver) Mohtashem, is responsible for these finely woven carpets made in both wool and / or silk.

Mohtashem Kashan's are characteristically known for their purple or less often ruby red silk bindings used for the selvages and pretty much all were woven using blue wefts. These are the most highly regarded of all the Kashan weavings.

Kerman carpets have a unique structure called the 'vase technique'. The earliest examples have been escalating in value and interest at an unbelievable rate.

Garden carpets (ornamented with formal gardens and water channel) and ogival lattice carpets are examples of this technique. Designs of fantastic complexity were executed.

 

What makes Persian Rugs so valuable? Aren't there a lot of these carpets around?

The number of antique Persian rugs will only decrease over time. This is one of the reasons why they are of such great value. While today there may be a lot of rugs available on the market, very few are considered by the trade to be "good examples".

As time goes on, less and less of the true antiques will survive. As the number decreases, the value will rise. Today we are in the midst of an escalating interest in these works of art. This is why the best and earliest examples have been consistently selling for, what would be considered, only a few years ago, unfathomable amounts (the record for a rug sold at auction is currently $34,000,000).

How long does it take to weave a Persian Rug?

Typically, a single carpet could take months and even years to create. The actual time depends on the size and quality of the carpet.

The finer the carpet, the more KPSI it has and therefore the longer it takes to create. Often times many people would work side by side on the same carpet.

This is part of the deep appeal and the timeless quality of antique Persian carpets!

 

Do the designs and patterns of Persian rugs have meaning?

The older Persian rugs will mainly feature abstract pictures of geometric and / or floral shapes. This is mainly a result of the fact that many of the Persian people are Muslim and Islam does not allow living beings to be duplicated through imagery and art.

But what may seem like random shapes and abstract designs, are, for the most part, anything but!

The patterns and designs have been passed on from one generation to another and many of these motifs have pretty profound meanings (such as lucky charms, wishes and messages).