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History of Persian Carpets

Here is the interesting Persian carpets history, arts and its features.

According to Susie Beringer, "Iran is the genesis of most motifs, patterns and traditional colorations produced in rugs throughout the world today."

Woven into the fabric of Iranian history, religion, society, and culture for more than 2,500 years, Persian rugs are geographically intrinsic to Iran. When a rug was made in Persia, it was synonymously linked with Persia and Iran thereby also meaning the same thing while referring to rugs. Intricately tied with Persian economy and trade for centuries, the hand-woven rugs were especially known for their artistic beauty and quality.

What distinguishes one rug from the other is the design; one unique aspect of the Persian rugs is their curvilinear designs. Curved-design weavings are much more difficult to execute than geometric ones.

The most unique feature of this Persian rug were the material and dye used, knot count, the design, and grade. Rugs made of silk or high quality wool are much more expensive than those made of cotton or materials of lesser quality.

However, the rug showed better and lasted longer. Vegetable dyes did not run and ruin the rugs when washed or exposed to sunlight. With regard to knot count, the higher the knot counts per square inch in the warp, the higher the quality of the rug.

A silk Persian rug may have more than 1,000 knots per square inch; As for design, the more complex the design, such as using curvilinear instead of geometric lines, the higher the rug's price. As for the rug grade, the higher it is evaluated, the more expensive the rug. Still, if the rug is hand-made, antique particularly during the Safavid period, and well-maintained, the rug is guaranteed to be of high quality and, of course, valuable.

Carpet weaving was believed to be introduced by Cyrus the Great during his reign of the Persian Empire in 529 B.C. They were made in villages for personal use with designs and weavings identifiable of the specific village or tribe. The artistic design and quality of Persian rugs reached its pinnacle during the Safavid Dynasty between1499 and1722, because the reigns of Shah Tahmasp and Shah Abbas who created a weaving industry that focused on "large-scale artistic and commercial enterprise revolving around highly skilled and organized weaving workshops."

Royal workshops were established specifically for designers and weavers to work creating the best carpets with intricate designs, using silk with silver or gold thread for additional decoration. Artists would create the carpet designs, and the best designs would be woven by the best weavers in the empire. The patronage of the shahs ensured the carpets were top-notched.

During this time, trade was established with Europe with Persian rugs as one of the threads that spurred economic exchange, and Persia reached its golden age. The majority of the prized Persian rugs were made from during this time with the two greatest rugs wove in the mosque of Ardebil in 1539. These can today be located in Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the other one in Los Angeles County Museum.

This court-endorsed carpet making, ended with the Afghan invasion in 1722. Nader Khan became the Shah of Persia in 1736 but used his people to fight against the Turks, Afghans, and the Russian. Rug weaving survived with craftsmen in villages and nomads continuing to make carpets. However, the artistic designs and quality were not up to par as was in the Safavid period, and no high-valued carpets were woven during this period.

Toward the end of the 19th century, carpet weaving and trade flourished once again. Through trading via Istanbul, Americans and Europeans took an interest in Persian rugs and even established carpet businesses for rugs destined to the West. Today, carpet making is revived and wide-spread, due to the interest from Western countries, particularly Europe and the United States, with weaving made from workshops and in most Iranian homes.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London brought a Persian carpet for 2, 500 British pounds in 1892, and it was deemed too expensive. Today, the "Ardebil Carpet" is well-known and is considered the best carpet on public display. In 1999, the famed auction house, Christie's London sold a Persian rug for more than $2 million.

Another unique quality of Persian rugs is their historical link. Of course, rugs made during the Safavid period are prized because of their unparallel quality and design. However, Persian rugs are still famed for their ties with its regional historical connection. Rugs are named for their designs, tribes, or locations of origin. For example, a rug made in Herat is termed a Herati. Rugs belonging to the Qasagai tribe are distinguished for their use of red and gold colors. 6 Rug weaving is strongly threaded to Iranian that there appears to be a rug named for every single city, tribe, or village of Iran.

One can look at a rug and see the history of the weavers. For example, a tribal rug with woven trees state that this tribe was on the move and that rug's "centre is the tree of life and it joins the underworld to this world and to the heavens."


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