Persian and Oriental Rugs: The “design”


Hunting Scene

Hunting Scene

It has been said that Persian carpets and Oriental rugs are written pages. In their maze of design is a symbolic language, the key of which, in its endless transmission through the centuries, seems to have been lost. A rather deep and complicated symbolism pervades every denomination of these rugs no matter what type of ornamentation they employ. The general pattern forms an endless universe of animated beauty in every single piece. Every color used has its own significance, and the design, be it mythological or natural, geometric or floral, has its hidden meaning. Even the representation of men hunting wild beasts have their special indications. It would be interesting to note that irregularities in drawing or coloring, almost always apparent in any hand-knotted rug, are seldom accidental, the usual deliberate intention being to avert the evil eye and insure good luck.

In view of studying genuine fabrics of Eastern countries, we must consider ourselves misfortunate as time has left very few, if any, of the more common authentic examples of extremely old pieces of Persian and Oriental rugs. As a result, actual comparison of rugs entering the American market today, with those woven for everyday use hundreds of years ago, is practically out of question. However, some of the modern Persian rugs preserve features of the wonderful old carpets contained in existing collections around the world. It is then fair to presume that the more common varieties of these rugs cannot be much different from those of the older times. Perhaps, this will explain the reluctance of experts to assign a date, or point out a definite locality of manufacture to most of the superfine antique pieces of rugs.

Cartoons for a Design

Cartoons for a Design

The strongest form of Oriental art would definitely be pieces of handmade rugs woven by the native for his own use, necessarily free from Western influences. Not pressed by outside modifying influences, nomad rugs would be the best samples of this class. Far below the high-class Persians as exponents of artistic status, the products of the mountain districts and nomads outrank many of those in point of consistency, and are to be prized as truthful reflections of the native life and character. Perhaps less credit is to be accorded to the nomad weavers for having adhered stubbornly to their distinctive colors and patterns, since inhabiting the deserts and unpopulated regions, knowing no contact with society other than their own, they have met with no temptation to vary the character of their handicraft, or to stray into the fields of strange design in quest of some device better calculated to attract the attention of buyers. They are races which do not change from decade to decade. Therefore their product, being, at least until very recently, made for their own uses, and not to please the tastes of Western decorators and homeowners, has remained unaltered. The designs are, or at least were, tribal property, almost as unmistakable as a native accent. Consistency is as decisive a virtue in an Oriental rug as in human conduct, and the lesson to be read so plainly in some of these nomad rugs is one that may well be borne in mind in judging the merits of the finer varieties. The fact is, any really good fabric should stand the test of consistency, and so many of these gorgeous rugs do.

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