PERSIAN RUGS: A LIVING HISTORY

In the beginning Persian rugs, now a luxury item, were used by nomads and immigrants to cover their tents from the cold and dampness. The skill to craft grew progressively throughout the centuries inherited by generations to come during times of conflict, war, and peace.

The rugs status rose with the changing emperors, History says, Cyrus the Great tomb was adorned with these. The first documented evidence goes back to the Sassanid dynasty when Hercules razed down ctesiphon and in the spoils was the most notable “springtime of khosro” 90 feet tall, the beauty was cut up and sold by the Arabs. After the Arabs Persia was reigned by Turks whose skillful women introduced their signature knotting style “ghiordes” different from the Persian “senneh” knot. The Mongol reign rather harshly made way towards the reconstruction of lost arts, the carpets in this period were simple with geometrical patterns.

The era when the Persian rugs started reaching new heights was during the 16th century, Safavid dynasty. Concrete proof are the carpets preserved in museums, worldwide. The ruler Shah Abbas introduced reforms and amendments giving the industry a much-needed shock which started the production at a rate never seen before in the history of Persia. He also created a court workshop where skilled artisans created splendid pieces. Most of these were made of silk, with gold and silver threads embellishment. By the late century, the design sewn changed. Large format medallions, ornaments with curvilinear designs, spirals, tendrils, floral ornaments, and animals, were often drawn along the axis to illustrate harmony and rhythm. The former “kufic” border design was replaced by tendrils and arabesque. All these patterns required an elaborate system of weaving, as compared to weaving straight, rectilinear lines, and how they managed that is still unknown.

The period ended with the death of Shah Abdul and Afghan invasion in 1722. Afterward, all the country’s forces were utilized in campaigns against the Afghans, the Turks, and the Russians. During this period, and even several years after his death in 1747, no carpets of any great value were made. The tradition of crafting was only upheld by the nomad craftsman.

In the late 19th Century under the reign of Qajar, trade, and craftsmanship regained their importance. Carpet-making flourished with Tabriz merchants’ exports to Europe. By the end European and American companies set up businesses in Persia. Crafting with Western tastes in mind. Manchester-based German company Ziegler & Co. moved to Iran to develop new carpets for export, their work “the Ziegler rug” is currently one of the most popular rugs in production.

Persian carpets in the modern era are facing more competition than ever before as new versions come as fast as a day and at cheaper rates but the machine-woven material provides no such artistic value as the ones done by hand exuding intricacy, beauty, and splash of vibrant colors in every knot. Hence the carpets retain their title of being a luxurious artistic piece.

By Clare Louise
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