Sultanabad rugs and carpets tend to have a larger, more supple weave (and accordingly exhibit a bolder, more large scale design)
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Rugs pay tribute to the beauty of their countries of origin. Whether exotic or traditional, tribal or modern, our rugs weave stories through intricate patterns, compelling colors, and touchable materials. These museum quality pieces are a testament to superior craftsmanship.
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Antique Peking carpets represent a newer antique production that began in China immediately following World War I, when carpet manufacturing moved from Ningxia and other interior centers to the capital. Peking carpets were now made in larger sizes intended to be more usable as decorative room-size rugs in the Europe and the United States.
Peking rugs could adhere to the traditional patterns derived from Ningxia production. But at times the designs became simpler and asymmetrical, often tending toward modern western Art Deco taste, and the weaving technique became thicker and tighter to make the rugs more durable for western use.
Traditional Chinese rugs and carpets are immediately recognizable by their simple, classic motifs and unusual colors. These rugs often feature a center, circular medallion; familiar objects seen in nature such as animals, flowers, and clouds; stylized Chinese ideographs; and even entire scenes. They’re usually framed with a simple, wide border. Chinese rugs are woven with a 5-ply yarn, in contrast with the 2-ply yarns used in Persian rugs and carpets. Many Chinese rugs and carpets are sculpted where contrasting colors meet to provide interest and texture to the simple patterns. These rugs are usually of high quality and extremely durable.
Antique Bijar Rugs is a town in Persian Kurdistan located in north-west Persia. The Bijar name is also used to describe the antique rugs that were produced in the many villages in the surrounding vicinity. The Bijar is noted as being the stiffest carpet made; they are very heavy in relation to their size, and very thick and durable. All of the knots are symmetrical and the rows are beaten down during the weaving process producing a dense compact fabric. Given their thickness and construction Bijar rugs can be difficult to fold. The many designs depict the Kurdish influence of the area and often floral and classical geometric motifs are employed as well as the use of large, whimsical medallion designs. The color palate is rich and jewel toned making the Bijar a highly desirable rug sought after by designers.
Bijar rugs, produced in Northwest Iran are among the finest of Persian rugs by virtue of their design and technique. They cannot be identified readily by their patterns, for their repertoire is quite rich and varied. They are distinguished by primarily by their weave, which is perhaps the densest and most durable of all oriental rugs. Bijar carpets were produced in a classical medallion format as well as in allover designs and pictorial or garden patterns. The quality of their wool is lustrous and soft, the drawing at times classically precise or wildly tribal. Some are attributable to Kurdish weavers living in the Bijar region.
Known for producing some of the most important Persian rugs, Bijar weavers have perfected a style of rug weaving that results in what are called “Iron Rugs.” Bidder weavers are also responsible for the so-called “Man’s Rug.”
The city of Bijar is located in the province of Kurdistan in the heart of Northwest Iran. Bijar lies between the city of Senneh or Sanandaj to the south and the legendary weaving center of Tabriz to the north. Kurdish tribes have traditionally been the region’s endemic people. However, the Afshari tribe also produced many Bijar’s workshop rugs using patterns borrowed from Heriz, Tabriz and other great weaving centers of Northwest Persia.
Geography plays a tremendous role in the history of the production of antique rugs from Bidjar. Although the Kurdish tribes have always been a dominant group in the region, they are one of the few cultures in the world who have never had their own country. Bijar’s carpet weaving traditions were formed through a combination of cultural isolation and assimilation that is evidenced in the diverse range of designs used in the region as well as the continued use of natural dyes throughout the 1920s when many other regions adopted modern methods. The rugs of Bijar encompass a broad range of styles and patterns that makes them difficult to define or distinguish from other regions.
Although Bijar was first mentioned in the 1500’s when the region was annexed with Armenia by Safavid forces, archeological evidence of domestic technology and weaving implements dating back approximately 10,000 years has been found throughout Kurdistan.
Situated in a corridor between the border of Persia, Anatolia and the Caucasus, Bijar has been at the mercy of invading cultures for thousands of years. Military invasions from Russia and Europe have influenced Kurdish culture as early as 500 BC when Cyrus the Great launched a large-scale incursion into the region. The turmoil across Northwest Persia and neighboring countries continued through the 1800s with ongoing fighting related to the Russo-Turkish War.
Over the centuries, Kurdish influence has waxed and waned as neighboring empires were distracted with their own wars. At the height of Kurdish power, the group claimed parts of neighboring Turkey and Azerbaijan. However, the Kurdish people had almost always been a subordinate tribal group that was part of a larger empire. The city’s untimely establishment on the world’s maps coincided with the re-establishment of shipping ports and the gradual decline of the Silk Road. This shift changed the course of events in Bidjar and allowed the city to maintain its weaving traditions into the early 20th century.
Influences from Persia, Russia and the Caucasus can be seen in Bijar’s diverse rugs, which include European roses, curvilinear arabesques, inset-lozenges featuring intricate Herati and Mina-Khani patterns, and Serapi-style medallions set on a stark background. The designs used on Bijar rugs often include sophisticated patterns with small details that highlight their origin in the village workshops of tribal weavers.
Examples of weavings from Bidjar include small-format rugs as well as long corridor carpets. However, large-format pieces are relatively rare. Rugs from Bidjar are known for their durable construction and strong, raised pile. Weavers in Bidjar used double weft or double knot construction along with a number of implements to create an extremely firm pile using the symmetric Turkish or Ghiordes knot.
A small number of Bijar rugs were also produced using the asymmetric Persian knot along with traditional curvilinear patterns from Persia. Goat hair is another fiber that is occasionally seen in rugs from the region. Weavers in Bijar used a unique combination of yarns for the weft to create the signature look and feel of the firm pile. First, a dampened shoot of thick weft is inserted and tamped down with tools to secure the knots. The weaver follows this with a second shoot of finer yarn to secure the entire row in place. Wool is the most common foundation found in antique Bijar rugs. However, cotton was also used. Many of the oldest Bijar rugs are extremely coarse and incapable of being folded while later pieces and rugs produced in the neighboring village of Halvai tend to be thinner and finer.
Rugs signed by the legendary master weaver Tajhavi (Taghavi) are among the finest and most prized carpets from the Kurdistan province displaying impeccable workmanship. Bijar is a small city in a sparsely populated province with a rich carpet weaving tradition. The resulting pieces are as diverse as the groups who first created them and their varied designs make antique Bijar rugs equally fitting for traditional and modern interiors.
History of Antique Bijar Rugs
Bijar is a town in Persian Kurdistan located in north-west Persia. The Bijar name is also used to describe rugs produced in the many villages in the surrounding vicinity. The Bijar is noted as being the stiffest carpet made; they are very heavy in relation to their size, and very thick and durable. All of the knots are symmetrical and the rows are beaten down during the weaving process producing a dense compact fabric. Given their thickness and construction Bijar rugs can be difficult to fold. The many designs depict the Kurdish influence of the area and often floral and classical geometric motifs are employed as well as the use of large, whimsical medallion designs. The color palate is rich and jewel toned making the Bijar a highly desirable rug sought after by designers.
Hereke rugs represent the ultimate in finesse and delicacy within the antique Turkish rug production of the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Inspired by the court carpets of Safavid Iran and Ottoman Turkey, the workshops maintained a gold standard of design and weaving technique, above all in their silk rugs, which truly preserved the opulent splendor of the classical past. They are very decorative antique rugs suited well for today’s design market.Centuries later, the town of Hereke still has a flawless reputation for producing elegant, high-quality carpets.
In the mid-1800’s, Sultan Abdulmecid of the Ottoman Empire established an imperial manufactory in the town of Hereke. He recruited the best weavers and artists in the land to produce fine carpets, including several that are still displayed in Turkey’s Dolmabahce Palace. The fine antique carpets of Hereke feature more curvilinear and Persian influenced patterns than other Turkish carpets. However, they continue to use the symmetric Ghiordes knot, but it is used in a double-knot configuration. This construction technique produces highly durable rugs with well-defined patterns. Designed to embody the level of imperial elegance that an Ottoman sultan would expect, Hereke carpets are traditionally made with a combination of silk, cotton and wool.
The extravagant materials and curvilinear patterns are often accented with shimmering gold and metallic silver threads. Hereke rugs are known for both small art carpets and opulent palace-sized rugs. Unlike earlier Turkish rugs that were produced in other cities, antique rugs fromHereke willingly accept Safavid Persian influences and occasionally mimic Persia’s most famous patterns. Antique Hereke rugs are elegant, distinguished and enduring design pieces. It’s estimated that even smaller rugs have taken weavers one year to complete. These magnificent rugs use the finest materials and the most exquisite patterns. Their familiar Persianate designs, Kufic accents, medallions and prayer-rug formats represent the elegant style and exceptional quality that imperial powers sponsored and popularized.
During the early seventeenth century, a weaver named Pierre DuPont traveled to the Levant. Upon his return, he claimed to have discovered the technique of creating Turkish rugs. Oriental rugs were extremely expensive during Bourbon times, and a French manufacturer that could create the same type of rug would lower the price significantly. Henri VI of France–the reigning monarch at the time–took advantage of DuPont’s skills and established a workshop for him at the Louvre. In 1627, King Louis XIII founded a manufactory for DuPont and his apprentice, Simon Lourdet, on the site of a defunct soap factory in the sixteenth arrondissement (also known as Quai de Chaillot). The name “Savonnerie” was born from the French word “savon” meaning “soap.” DuPont and Lourdet worked together, weaving rugs under a royal patent for the king and other nobles, until they had a falling out and split up. Lourdet remained at the Chaillot location while DuPont went to his workshops in the Louvre, though both continued to make Savonnerie rugs.
DuPont’s discovery was an ancient weaving technique called the Ghiordes knot. The Ghiordes is the oldest known knot used in carpet production. It consists of a symmetrical structure achieved by passing a single weft yarn over two warp yarns, pulling through between before severing the yarn to create the pile. The Giordes knot is characteristic of Turkish rugs. This weaving technique created a more durable structure than the tapestries created by European weavers. Tapestries were hung on walls, while the Turkish style French rugs were sturdy enough for foot traffic.
When Louis XVI came to the French throne in 1643, he was a mere five years old, but in 1659 he began a phase of renovations for the Palais de Louvre, at which he commissioned 274 carpets–all of a length of twenty-nine feet with varying widths–from the Savonnerie manufactory. The process was grueling and did not end until 1697 when the final carpet for the Louvre was woven. His favorite artist, Charles Le Brun, drew up cartoons of rug designs for the Louvre’s Grande Galerie. The designs consisted of a dark-colored background, filled with motifs of scrolls, cornucopias, flowers, arms of France, and the monogram of Louis. Inventories of Louis’ possessions show that in the early years of his reign, he had a number of Turkish and Persian rugs, though they were gradually superseded by Savonnerie carpets. At the same time, King Louis was hard at work supervising the construction of his grand new palace at Versailles, and he moved his residence at the Louvre for Versailles in 1678.
Savonnerie carpets also served as grand diplomatic gifts from Louis to foreign ambassadors and other notables. He gifted a collection of music-themed Savonnerie creations to the ambassador of Siam, where they stayed intact and in use for hundreds of years.
The legacy of the Savonnerie manufactory was a great one. The carpets remained the exclusive property of the French rulers until 1768. In the same century, the classic Savonnerie designs were updated with lighter, brighter colors and Rococo elements. The production of Savonnerie rugs declined in the latter half of the eighteenth century, until 1805 when the designs were revived by Napoleon. Twenty years later, the Savonnerie workshop merged with the Gobelins tapestry manufactory. This marked the end of its independence, though the production was ever steady. A number of the first Savonnerie designs still exist today, having survived the Fronde, the French Revolution, and two World Wars. They have avoided going out of fashion by reinventing themselves from Louis XIV style to Rococo to French Empire to Art Deco and beyond.
Antique French Savonnerie rugs exemplify the formal grace and elegance of classical European design. Like Aubusson tapestry rugs, Savonneries originated in France when European taste turned away for a time from Oriental carpets in the later eighteenth and earlier nineteenth centuries. Named for nearby factories that produced soap or “savon,” Savonnerie rugs shared with Aubussons a Neo-Classical taste for naturalistic flowers and swags or garlands in soft colors on a dominant ivory field, except that they were made in knotted pile rather than tapestry technique. Later, carpets of this kind were made in other European centers, most notably in Spain.
Oushak rugs are some of the finest Oriental Rugs, so much so that many of the masterpieces of the 15th and 16th centuries have been attributed to Oushak. The popular star and medallion carpets originated in Oushak.
Oushak rugs are known for the silky, luminous wool they work with. The dyes tend towards: cinnamons, terracotta tints, gold, blues, greens, ivory, saffron and grays.
The late 19th century saw the rejuvenation of Oriental rug production, at this time Oushak re-surfaced as a preeminent center of weaving industry. The new Oushak industry saw two major shifts in design, floral patterns in the Persian tradition were incorporated into design and room size, decorative carpets were woven as European standards demanded.
The late 19th century weavers came from villages outside of Oushak and employed tribal techniques. Paramount to these techniques was the use of larger knots (sometimes less than 30 knots per square inch) and an all-wool foundation. The tribal style fused with the older Oushak designs. The merger of the two styles created a new style simply known as late 19th/early 20th century Oushak carpets. The new decorative Oushak, commercially woven, employed a soft red, as its primary color offsetting the large-scale floral motifs from the field in a bright blue. The luxurious quality of the wool (for which Oushaks had always been known) aided the colors luminosity.
After the 17th century, Oushaks, development of Oushak rug weaving is less well known. Late 17th century saw a decline in the Oriental rug market as European consumers tended to purchase rugs of European origin – primarily Aubusson, Savonnerie and Axminster. The wane in the European market meant that Oushak production declined. Those that were still made throughout the late 18th and early 19th centuries were manufactured for upper-class people in the Turkish territories on Eastern Europe.
Towards the end of the 19th century, when the European market began to be interested in Persian carpets once again, the Oushak Oushak population did not have enough weavers still skilled in the traditional Oushak craft. Manufactories had to turn to neighboring villages and their craftsmen who still maintained traditional techniques.
Oushak carpets, particularly those known as Lotto carpets, are among the later types of Oriental carpets in Renaissance painting, as they were imported by Europeans, where they adorned cathedrals, churches, and the homes of the wealthy and powerful.
Kurdish rugs are as diverse as the ethnic weavers who created them. The presence of Kurdish weavers in the northwestern area of Persia and the Iranian Kurdistan region has led to some stylistic overlap. Antique Kurdish rugs are one of the few under-recognized rug types to emerge in the past 30 years. Kurdish groups traditionally populated the eastern edge of Turkey, northern Iraq, western Persia and small areas near Persia’s eastern borders. Although these antique Kurdish village carpets feature motifs that are reminiscent of Caucasian designs, Kurdish weavers were a very small minority in areas north of Persia.
As their designs reflect, Kurdish weavers aren’t part of a homogeneous group. There are many clans and sub-groups, such as the Jaff and Sanjabi, who produce individual designs. Antique Kurdish rugs feature elegant curvilinear shrubs, superb Herati motifs, Memling guls and exquisite floral. Their style ranges from formal to whimsical. The designs are varied and the colors are exuberant. The rug patterns and symbols used by Kurdish weavers have been absorbed by neighboring weavers and have become part of the larger culture. From the graphic style and the fine fleece to the beautiful colors and iconic patterns, antique Kurdish rugs have innumerable traits that make them highly desirable.
Kurdish Rugs: Long mistaken as Northwest Persian or Caucasian village weaving of indeterminate type, antique Kurdish rugs and carpets have only recently come to be recognized for their distinctive sense of design and fine color. Many of those produced in the Sauj Bulagh region are extremely early, possibly dating before 1800. Kurdish rugs were produced in medallion patterns and more commonly in allover designs, either floral, Mina-Khani patterns, or geometric, like the so-called “Jaff” type. The color of Kurdish rugs is at times astounding, with transparent terracotta and burnt orange tones, gorgeous blues and greens, and vibrant saffron yellows. These color effects are greatly enhanced by the lustrous, silky wool that Kurdish weavers commonly used.
Agra has been a major center of carpet production since the great period of Mughal art in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. When the carpet industry was revived there under British rule in the nineteenth century, the great Mughal tradition got a new lease on life, accompanied by a new interest in the sorts of classically derived designs current in Persian rug production during the same period. Because of this, nineteenth and early twentieth century Agra carpets enjoyed a varied and eclectic background that could draw on all the great achievements of Oriental carpet weaving. Antique Agra rugs present elegant allover designs alongside medallion or centralized patterns. They have the rich pungent palette of classical Indian and Persian carpets as well as soft, cool earthy tones.
Located in the Uttar Pradesh state in northern India, Agra is most widely recognized for the Taj Mahal, the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s mausoleum for his third wife. Less widely known is that it has also been a large center for rug weaving since the 16th century. When Agra first became the Mughal capital in 1566, it too did it establish its presence as a rug weaving center. The Indians themselves had never had much need for large carpets and the craft was introduced relatively late. During the 17th century, a number of skillful Persians were called in to impart their weaving knowledge in India. Large carpet factories were started in Lahore; the patterns as well as the knotting closely resembled Persian work. A number of antique carpets from this time are now found in museums throughout Europe and America. Production of fine rugs continued here through the decline of the Mughal Empire in the 17th century after which most antique Agra rugs were categorized as Indo-Isfahan weaving.
Since the end of the 19th century rugs in India have been primarily woven to order and have been made with the finest quality in mind. Although later rugs do derive patterns from their predecessors, the changing style of Agra carpets can be most clearly seen during the British rule of the 19th and 20th centuries. Production ceased after the 1920’s but resumed again in more recent times. Now, Agra carpets are considered some of the most decorative pieces internationally.
Agra Rugs are difficult to classify as they vary in size, design, and composition. Although they often exhibit open fields with smaller medallions and guards, they can also be woven with all-over designs. Similarly, the fields are usually composed of olive greens, blues, fawns, and tans, but can also be red or other colors. They are usually woven with wool, but can also be found with cotton. The older Mughal pieces are relatively rare (they are usually found in fragments or are re-sized and heavily restored) and as such are much more valuable. The weight of an Agra is one telling factor between Mughal Agras and the Agras from the 19th and 20th century; newer Agras are heavier.
It is also difficult to tell Agras apart from other Indian rugs such as Amritsars. Many times dealers will label a piece as an Agra as the connotation is much better than Amritsar, but this is a misnomer. While the definite location of any one piece is hard to distinguish, one can be sure that real antique Agra carpets are fine pieces and great for collectors and designers alike.
These northwestern districts were home to dozens of villages and niche communities tucked away in mountainous regions and plunging valleys. Together, these distinct settlements and isolated communities formed a strong carpet-producing network that has maintained its international notoriety centuries later. The distinctive northwest Persian geometry of antique Heriz Serapi and Bakshaish Rugs is one of many iconic traits that these regional creations share.
The district of Heriz has always stood out for its aesthetically appealing antique rug creations. These elegant, softly colored and richly patterned carpets continue to attract new generations of consumers and collectors. Antique Heriz carpets are prized for their elegant patina and rich colors that are often attributed to the area’s copper-rich water. Regal terra-cotta reds, clear Persian blues and creamy accent colors are synonymous with the region’s unmistakable coloration. Weavers in Heriz used the finest wool and deeply depressed Turkish knots to produce durable, long-lasting carpets. Antique Persian Heriz Serapi rugs have many of the same physical attributes as the famous iron carpets of Bidjar.
Serapi Heriz antique rugs, which are attributed to the village of Serab, are considered to be some of the finest examples from this region. These elegant carpets feature strongly depressed Turkish knots, distinguished rectilinear patterns and angular interpretations of traditional Persian designs. While regional compositions in Serab and the greater Heriz region tend to favor broad armorial medallions and articulate botanical motifs, abstract rectilinear interpretations of arabesques and lush Persian florals are occasionally featured.
Elegant repeating patterns, cascading willow trees and rustic vine-scrolls are used with greater frequency in Bakshaish carpets. These softer and aesthetically subtle carpets tend to incorporate gentle earth-tone colors and larger more tribal design elements. While Bakshaish is part of the Heriz district, the area is also closer to the acclaimed carpet-producing city of Tabriz. Antique Bakshaish rugs may feature sublime repeating patterns with cascading shrubs and refined cypress trees. However, grand medallions set over strong monochromatic spaces and camel-colored backgrounds are regional hallmarks that are inextricably associated with Bakshaish.
The carpets produced in Heriz, Serab and Bakshaish are distinguished, iconic and elegant in a raw, unadulterated manner. These superficial traits and the impeccable physical construction have earned northwest Persian rugs an everlasting place in Western interiors.
Antique Turkish Oushak rugs have been woven in Western Turkey since the beginning of the Ottoman period. Historians attributed to them many of the great masterpieces of early Turkish carpet weaving from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. However, less is known about what happened to production there in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. When things become clearer toward 1900, the Oushak region re-emerges as a major center, this time for room-size decorative rugs. Antique Turkish carpets such as these are desirable today as highly decorative pieces. They come in central medallion designs as well as patterns of smaller allover medallions or scattered sprays of vine scroll and palmettes. They are notable for the grand, monumental scale of the designs, often a subdued palette in soft apricot and golden saffron tones whose pleasing qualities are enhanced by their particularly soft and lustrous wool.
Cosmopolitan and sophisticated are two words that aptly describe Oushak rugs. Although the Ghiordes knot and the quirky angular designs have a certain primitive air, the rugs from Turkey are exceptionally unique and attractive. Without compromising to appeal to Western consumers, weavers here managed to create one of the country’s most desirable rug styles. The angular arabesques and ornamental medallions are not dissimilar from Persian motifs but are executed in a more rectilinear manner and woven in a unique palette that includes bold Mediterranean-influenced colors and chic pastels.
The Oushak rugs have become the rugs of choice for many of the top interior decorators in the world today. For the most part they are not high quality rugs but that is what makes them so special. Since the knot count is considerably lower than the antique rugs made in Persia – antique Turkish rugs were woven with larger scale patterns. These carpets are also extremely desirable because of their colors – which are usually much lighter and “happier” in feel than rugs from other regions. So if you are looking for an antique or vintage rug with a large scale design and soft colors, theses should top your list.
It is generally believed that rug making in Anatolia began with the advent of the Seljuks in the 11th century. By the 15th century, rugs were being produced by factories and independent weavers in the environs of Oushak. The origins of of the rugs from Oushak must therefore be looked for between these two dates. The rugs of the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries were widely acclaimed in Europe where they were appreciated and depicted in the paintings of many artists such as Lorenzo Lotto and Hans Holbein. During the 18th century the production of Oushak rugs had deteriorated and became much more commercial.
Although the Oushak rugs are made using less complicated methods, they are extremely decorative in nature. Their larger scale patterns along with their soft and decorative coloration make these rugs extremely sought after by the trend-setters and taste-makers in the interior design trade.
While originally woven by nomadic Bakhtiari, most authentic Bakhtiari rugs are woven in Bakhtiari settled communities in west central Iran southwest of Isfahan, Chahar Mahaal and Bakhtiari and parts of the provinces of Isfahan, Lorestan, and eastern Khuzestan, most notably in the town of Shahr-Kurd. Bakhtiari rugs were also known after their place of origin, such as Saman or Hureh (Hori). However, Bakhtiari patterns are copied in other weaving centers in Iran, Pakistan, India and China; so that a place name came to be used to refer to the place of origin of the pattern and quality of the rug, rather than to its place of actual manufacture. Saman and Hori are now regarded as grades of Bakhtiari rugs, rather than as geographical terms.
Bakhtiari carpets are based on a cotton foundation with a wool weft usually taken from the herds of the producing tribe. This leads to unique carpets that differ depending on the characteristics of each tribe’s wool. The wool can range from dull to extreme glossy and the resultant pile is clipped medium to high. The best carpets with the highest knot density are often known as Bibibaff. Prices range considerably with the highest knot density rugs generally being the most expensive, but price is also affected by criteria such as the pattern and the dyes used. Chapel Shotur and Saman pieces are rated slightly beneath Bibibaff productions, but are still considered to be good to excellent. Hori carpets are of looser weave and inferior quality and as such, are generally widely affordable.
The use of colors varies depending on styles of certain tribes. Generally they include shades of white, reds, browns, greens, and yellows. Blue does not appear to feature. Natural dyes produce variations in color, which are particularly obvious on older Bibibaffs.