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History of Persian Rugs


The history of Persian Carpet dates back to 2,500 years ago.

Persian rugs are the culmination of artistic & cultural excellence. The Iranians were among the pioneer carpet weavers of the ancient civilizations, having achieved a superlative degree of perfection through centuries of creativity and ingenuity. The skill of carpet weaving has been handed down by fathers to their sons, who built upon those skills and in turn handed them down to their offspring as a closely guarded family secret. To trace the history of Persian carpet is to follow a path of cultural growth of one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever known.

From being simple articles of need, floor and entrance coverings to protect the nomadic tribesmen from the cold and damp, the increasing beauty of the carpets found them new owners – kings and noblemen, who looked upon them as signs of wealth, prestige and distinction.

A Russian professor, Rudenko, discovered the earliest existing Persian carpet in 1949 during the excavations of burial mounds in the Altai Mountains in Siberia. Dating back to the fifth century B.C., it is now kept in the Hermitage Museum of Leningrad.  Another rug found in the same area, dates back to the first century BC. However, historical records show that magnificent carpets adorned the court of Cyrus the Great, who founded the Persian Empire over 2,500 years ago.

A Russian professor, Rudenko, discovered the earliest existing Persian carpet in 1949 during the excavations of burial mounds in the Altai Mountains in Siberia. Dating back to the fifth century B.C., it is now kept in the Hermitage Museum of Leningrad.  Another rug found in the same area, dates back to the first century BC. However, historical records show that magnificent carpets adorned the court of Cyrus the Great, who founded the Persian Empire over 2,500 years ago.

A great period in the history of Persian carpets came during the Sassanian dynasty, from the third to the seventh century AD. By the 6th century, Persian carpets had won a worldwide fame and were being exported to distant lands. After the fall of the Sassanian dynasty, from the seventh to the twelfth centuries, Persian carpet weaving became a rather spasmodic industry in many parts of the country. After the invasion of the Moguls in the 13th century and for the next two centuries, under the devastation wrecked by the Moguls, the artistic life of the country, including carpet weaving, declined. But Tamer lane, the Mogul conqueror, spared artisans from his bloody havoc and under his successor, Shah Rokh, who put great emphasis on Persian carpets, the art began to flourish once again. Outstanding specimens started appearing from the court subsidized looms.

The Persian carpet reached its zenith during the reign of the Safavieh dynasty in the 16th century. When Shah Ismail ascended the throne in 1499, he began laying the foundation for what was to become a national industry that was the envy of the neighboring countries. The most famous of the kings of this era, Shah Abbas, more than transformed the industry by establishing a royal carpet factory in Esfahan, his capital. Artisans were hired to prepare designs to be made by master craftsmen. Two of the best know carpets of the period; dated 1539 come from the mosque of Ardebil.  Many experts believe that these carpets represent the culmination of achievement in carpet design. The larger of the two carpets in now kept in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum while the other is displayed at the Los Angeles Country Museum. Rugs of distinctive beauty were also woven in Kashan, Kerman, Yazd, Fars and Khuzestan. The art of utilizing gold and silver thread in carpet weaving was also developed during this period. A magnificent example of such carpet is the great coronation carpet now held in the Rosenburg Castle in Copenhagen. The growing demand for gold and silver threaded carpets turned it into a major export industry of the country.

 

Since many a centuries the Persian carpet has received international acclaim for its distinctive and spectacular artistic accomplishment. In palaces, famous buildings, mansions and museums the world over, a Persian carpet is amongst the most treasured possession.

Known as the home of the original oriental carpet, Iran (Persia) the oldest and once most powerful empire in the Middle East, stood at the crossroads of Eastern and Western civilizations. Under the Safavid Dynasty (1502-1736), Iran attained its artistic height. Court weaving, together with the arts of calligraphy, miniature painting, and tile work, flourished to exceptional heights. This brilliant era witnessed the development of highly qualified carpet factories in the cities of Kerman, Isfahan, Kashan, Tabriz, and Herat. Iran is the genesis of most motifs, patterns and traditional colorations produced in rugs throughout the world today. Over the centuries, Persian carpets have become treasured heirlooms passed on from one generation to the next.

Persian carpet exports began in the 16th century. Starting in the 1850s, American, English and German firms established new factories in Mashed, Tabriz, Kerman, and Sultanabad (now Arak), thereby ensuring the art form’s continued development. Under Reza Shah Pahlavi, royal factories were established to utilize the finest materials and methods of manufacture.

Persian carpets and rugs have always been and still are an intrinsic part of Iranian culture and its people’s daily lives. Indeed, carpets and rugs are in many cases the most valued possessions, and they are an integral part of an Iranian home. Thus, it is not surprising that current production levels throughout Iran equal those reached prior to the Islamic Revolution of 1979. In fact, rugs are now even produced in areas where weaving was heretofore not practiced. Furthermore, Persian carpets continue to boast very high quality standards and command a very brisk interest in domestic and international markets. While large city workshops were an important factor in the past, much of today’s production is fashioned along cottage industry lines in smaller villages and towns.

Persian carpets and rugs have always been and still are an intrinsic part of Iranian culture and its people’s daily lives. Indeed, carpets and rugs are in many cases the most valued possessions, and they are an integral part of an Iranian home. Thus, it is not surprising that current production levels throughout Iran equal those reached prior to the Islamic Revolution of 1979. In fact, rugs are now even produced in areas where weaving was heretofore not practiced. Furthermore, Persian carpets continue to boast very high quality standards and command a very brisk interest in domestic and international markets. While large city workshops were an important factor in the past, much of today’s production is fashioned along cottage industry lines in smaller villages and towns.

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