Oriental And Persian Rugs: History Of Weaving


There are no records to definitely indicate in what land the art of rug weaving originated, or to disprove that it developed independently in different regions of the world. It is believed that, in ancient times, even people in Switzerland grew and spun flax, and had looms. It is probable that the savages of cold climates learned to weave garments with the wool of their sheep and the similar process of weaving mats as a floor covering for their huts would naturally follow. However, the existing evidence now points to the civilizations of the Euphrates or the Neil as the birthplace of this art. Although we do not know when the first rugs were made, without a doubt they existed before the pyramids of Egypt. On carved walls of palaces over three thousand years old, are detailed drawings indicating that rugs of outstanding workmanship were then in use. In the borders of some of the robes worn by the rulers are designs of rosettes and latch-hooks, very much similar to patterns that may be seen in rugs of today. Moreover, designs on pottery, tiles, bowls, and walls, similar in appearance to those found in the oldest existing rugs, display clear evidence to their antiquity and character.

Antique Flat-woven Rug

Antique Flat-woven Rug

This art, that necessity created, comfort nourished, and luxury matured, has been a process of slow development. From earliest times, mats of reeds, straw, bamboo, or other flexible material have constantly been made. At first they were doubtless without ornament; later they were colored with dyes obtained from roots and herbs to increase their attractiveness; and finally designs symbolic of nature or everyday life were decorated on them, to which more and more detail was added as wealth and luxury increased. However, the idea behind weaving Oriental rugs and Persian carpets, has initially been a device of warm and durable floor covering. Slow as was this development, as early as the Christian era, the work of the most skilled weavers of the Orient deserved to be classed as a fine art.

As the imperfect records available to us today indicate that the finest carpet collections of ancient times were in the mosques and palaces of Syria and Egypt, it has been assumed that they were woven by native artisans. To some extent, this could be true, as rug weaving was one of the oldest industries of these countries. But it is more probable that most of them were made elsewhere and later acquired as presents or by purchase. Some were made in Armenia, Assyria, and Turkestan. But the largest number, as well as the most expensive and elaborate, most probably came from villages and cities of Persia where many of the finest pieces are being woven today. In several of these towns as many as three or four hundred looms were constantly at work. Carpets of this era consisted of warp and weft only, so they were perhaps produced much more rapidly as opposed to modern rugs in which knots are tied to the warp. But if they lacked the richness of deep, heavy pile, they were magnificently woven with threads of gold and silver, and were often embellished with precious stones. Regardless of the historical origin of these wonderful works of art, they sure have the ability to lighten up any otherwise dull and boring space.

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