Persian Carpets; a short history
The art of hand knotted carpets is surely one of the oldest crafts known to man, one of which through the centuries has remained basically unaltered. Probably the oldest known example of a hand knotted pile fabric or carpet is the ‘Pazyryk.’ This now lodged in the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad. The discovery was made in 1947 when excavating a burial ground in Southern Siberia. The rug preserved by ice was in remarkably good condition. By nature of its designs the origin has been attributed to Persia, and sufficient evidence unearthed to date the rug as having been woven in the 5th century BC.
Regrettably there are few Persian carpets that are known to have survived prior to the 15th century. During this time and well into the 16th century the artists of the day have introduced many fine examples of Persian carpets into their paintings and one can trace the gradual flow into Europe, mainly by the way of Venice.
The late 16th century began the ‘Golden Age of Carpet Weaving’ and the best-known example of this period is the ‘Ardbil.’ This is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The warp and weft are of pure silk and there are approximately 325 knots to every square inch.
The 17th and 18th centuries then saw the emergence of the Turkish prayer rugs, which were of good quality. In the Persian Empire an onslaught of enemy invasions plunged the entire country into chaos, extinguishing the ‘Golden Age of Carpet Design.’ The art was revived in the mid 19th century, and the remaining fine pieces on the market today date from this.
Weaving, Design & Colours
Persian carpets are woven on perpendicular looms in the villages and towns whereas in the more rural areas of Afghanistan and Baluchistan, horizontal ground looms were used by the nomadic tribesmen for the ease of transportation. Therefore, it is very unusual to find many large carpets from these districts.
Designs remain basically unaltered; no two carpets are ever identical. The irregularity in the designs makes for the originality and uniqueness of each design, adding considerable interest for the owner. These old designs form the basis for our entire traditional Axminsters and Wilton machine made carpets.
Dyestuffs were of animal or vegetable origin and to some extent it is still true today. However, chemical dyes are becoming more commonly used in the town and village weaves.
Caring for your investment…
One can readily appreciate the value of investment in such good items of manmade art, especially in this modern age of machinery and technology. It is a good idea to preserve a fine old Persian rug which you may own, or intend to own, by displaying such a fine piece as a wall hanging. Always protect your rugs by attending to the fringes and selvedges: these are usually the first parts of a rug to show any signs of wear and tear. Periodically, you should move your carpets. The safest and most beneficial way of cleaning them is by brushing with a hard bristle brush. This improves the luster of the pile as well as preventing moth attack. We offer a rug and carpet cleaning service in our premises in St. Andrews. Repair work can also be carried out here by our experts, helping to preserve the life of older pieces.
Further information and advice will gladly be given on request and we trust you will have found this exhibition of this ancient craft to be of interest.