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History of Rug
History has a strong bearing on the present. In discussion of an art form steeped in tradition, like Persian and Oriental rug weaving, the influence of history is even more pronounced. In this section, we briefly discuss historical evolution of rug-weaving and important examples of this art form in historical context.

The Ancient World:

What we know of carpet weaving in ancient times is mostly based on historical records and archeological findings. Very few samples are found, and still fewer are well preserved or large enough to allow for a comprehensive reconstruction of rug weaving technology in the ancient world.

The Pazyryk Rug:

Archeological evidence indicates that the earliest pile-weave rug discovered in its entirety, dates back to the 5th century B.C. It was discovered frozen in 1949 by a Russian archaeologist, Rudenko, in a Scythian burial site in the Altai Mountains of Siberia near the north western border of Mongolia. The importance of Pazyryk rug is that it proves pile weaving is an ancient craft. Until the discovery of Pazyryk carpet, the scholars relied on literary accounts about the existence of certain rugs in history that did not specify the technique by which the rugs were woven
The dimensions of Pazyryk are 6' by 6' and it is woven by symmetric knots of about 200-225 per square inch. It is uncertain what the origin of Pazyryk is; however, it has Persian Achaemenian (a Persian dynasty who ruled from 550 to 331 BC) motifs. Some scholars believe that because of its Achaemenian motifs, it was made in Persia and was imported. Others disagree and believe it was made near the area where it was found. Currently the Pazyryk carpet is in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Spring of Khosrau

In Persian manuscripts of 6th century A.D. there is mention of a rug called the 'Spring of Khosrau' (Baharistan-e Khosro), which some scholars say belonged to the Persian king, Khosrau I of the Sassanid Dynasty, who ruled from 531-579; others say that it belonged to Khosrau II (590-628), grandson of Khosrau I. The rug was kept at the Sassanian grand palace at Ctesiphon in modern day Iraq, near Baghdad. 'Spring of Khosrau' was woven with wool, silk, gold, silver, precious and semi-precious stones. It was possibly a garden design. Experts believe that it was a flat-weave and was not woven in one piece. This rug was cut into pieces and looted when Muslim Arabs defeated Persians and captured Ctesiphon in 639 AD.

Medieval World:

Between the Muslim conquest of the Middle East and North Africa in the seventh and the eighth centuries AD and the age of discovery in the fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries, rug weaving technology progressed in leaps and bounds.
Persian weavers continued producing high quality rugs in Kerman, Fars, Khorasan, Heart, and Trans Oxiana (Central Asia). Their style of weaving, based on the Persian knot is still predominant in south west Asia. Arabs brought Persian rug weaving techniques to Egypt, North Africa as far as Morocco, and across the straight of Gibraltar to Spain. Carpet production was concentrated in villages and tribal settlements. Turkish tribes converted to Islam and migrated from Central Asia to Caucasus, Azerbaijan, and Byzantine territories in Asia Minor, which became modern day Turkey. They brought their own rug weaving technology, including the Turkish knot.
Medieval rug weaving reached its zenith during the period of Great Islamic Empires from 1400 to 1700 AD. Ottomans Sultans, Safavids Shahs of Persia (Iran), and Mughal emperors of the Indian subcontinent and southern Asia actively encouraged rug weaving. The best rugs of this period were Persian rugs of Safavid Iran.

The Safavid Dynasty:

The greatest period of Persian art and especially rug weaving blossomed during the reign of the Safavid Dynasty (1502-1722), most prominently during the rule of Shah Tahmasp (1524-76) and Shah Abbas I (1588-1629). Shah Abbas himself was a skillful weaver. Safavid Shahs (Emperors) established royal weaving workshops in the cities of Kashan, Kerman, Isfahan, Joshaqan, Tabriz, Yazd, Shiraz, Herat (part of Afghanistan today) and Sabzevar. As a result, many quality rugs were designed by famous artists. Rug weaving transformed from a rustic and nomadic craft into a sophisticated art form. The designs also transformed from their geometric nature into curvilinear patterns. The design repertoire was also dramatically increased. Ardabil Carpets
A prominent example of rugs woven during the reign of Safavid Shah Tahmasp (1524-1576) is the almost identical pair of Ardabil Carpets. The production date, 1539-1540, and the name of the designer, Maqsud of Kashan, has been woven into both rugs. The dimensions of both rugs are the same, 17' 6" by 36' 6". Their foundation is silk, and they have been woven with 300 asymmetric (Persian) knots per square inch.
One rug is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England and the other is in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The former has been repaired with fragments of the latter. Therefore, the one in Victoria and Albert museum is in whole and the one in Los Angles is missing its borders. The origin of the rugs has been linked to Ardabil, Kashan, Mashad and Tabriz, as well as other places.
Introduction of Rug Weaving to India Rug weaving was introduced to India during the sixteenth century at the time of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. At the same time rug weaving was flourishing in Persia (Iran) under the rule of the Safavid Dynasty. Many of the Indian workshops were set up under the supervision of Persian weavers. Consequently, Indian designs were strongly influenced by those of Persia, mainly by the curvilinear styles such as Isfahan. It is even possible that the first Persian weavers who were brought to Lahore (at that time part of India, now part of Pakistan) came from Isfahan.

The Qajar Dynasty

The first synthetic dye, Fuchsine (a magenta aniline), was developed in the 1850s. Shortly after, other synthetic aniline dyes followed. Synthetic aniline dyes, made from coal tar, were brilliant, inexpensive, and easy to use; however, they faded rapidly with exposure to light and water. In 1903 Nasser-e Din Shah, the Persian king of Qajar Dynasty (1794-1925) banned the use of aniline dyes in Iran. Persian weavers discontinued the use of synthetic dyes until the modern synthetic chrome dyes, which were colorfast, were developed in the years between the First and the Second World Wars. Introduction of Rug Weaving to Europe Rug weaving was introduced to Europe through Spain during the control of Muslim Moors who ruled most of the Iberian Peninsula, southwestern Europe, from the 8th through the 13th century. Spain became an important rug producing area in the twelfth century.

Aubusson Rug

Savonnerie Rug

Significant European Styles The most important European styles in the history of European rug weaving are the French Savonnerie and Aubusson styles of the 17th and 18th century, which are still being copied by countries such as India, Pakistan, China and Iran. The Savonnerie workshops were set up in Paris by Pierre Dupont in 1628 with supervision of Henry IV. Savonnerie rugs were mainly woven for palaces and by special orders. These designs were produced under the direction of artists of the royal courts. The greatest period for Savonnerie rugs was between 1650 and 1789. Their production was interrupted by the French Revolution, and finally in 1825, the Savonnerie workshops were moved to the Gobelins. Aubusson rugs were first made in Aubusson, France in about 1665. By the 1870s rug production had stopped in Aubusson.

Modern Times:

Production of Persian and Oriental rugs became increasingly commercialized with the advent of industrial revolution in the West. Design and size of the carpets were altered to satisfy the Western customers. Many countries tried to develop an indigenous rug production industry. Introduction of Rug Weaving to China: It is unclear exactly when and where rug making first began in China; however, the general assumption is that rug weaving was brought to China from Turkistan or Mongolia some time before the late seventeenth century. Chinese rugs were influenced by Persian styles from the early eighteenth century until the mid-nineteenth century, and after the mid-nineteenth century, Chinese weavers adapted some of their designs to the western taste. Rug production for exportation started in the late nineteenth century in Beijing and early nineteenth century in Tianjan. Tianjan became the center of commercial production from about 1910 to 1930. However, rug production was discontinued between 1930s and 1960s because of the Japanese invasion, the Second World War, and the revolutionary war. Currently, Chinese, Persian and French Aubusson styles are produced in Chinese workshops. China is one of the largest exporters of handmade rugs in the world. Market sizing data from the exporting countries is difficult to obtain, as some of the countries may not track the data or disclose it. Nevertheless, from foreign embassies, industry specialists, and magazine articles, the 1998 rug export estimate for China and Nepal is 500 million dollars. China mainly produces rugs for exportation and not for its local market. Introduction of Rug Weaving to Egypt: Early Egyptian rug weaving can be divided into the two periods of Mamluks and Ottomans. Egypt's greatest period of rug weaving was during the rule of Mamluks from the fifteenth century until the early sixteenth century. The rugs of this period, known as Mamluks, were characterized by their complex geometric designs and bright colors.
After the conquest of Ottoman Turks in 1517, the geometric patterns became more curvilinear. These new rugs were known as Ottomans. After the eighteenth century, rug production decreased dramatically in Egypt.
However, in the 1950s because of import restrictions, Egypt resumed its production of handmade rugs in and around Cairo. Even though these contemporary rugs are of great quality, only a small number of them are exported. If we travel to Cairo today, we will see many small local rug shops trying to attract tourists. Tibetan and Nepalese Rugs: Tibetan rugs seem to have been influenced by Chinese and to lesser degree East Turkistan rugs. Tibetan rugs were mainly produced in Tibet for local use. However, after China took over Tibet in 1959, many Tibetans escaped to Nepal, Bhutan and India. In refugee camps, they began considerable commercial rug production. A rug industry did not exist in Nepal before the migration of Tibetan refugees.
The important weaving centers of Nepal include Katmandu, Pokhara, and Patan. Today, Tibetan style rugs made in Nepal are known as Tibetan rugs. Even though Tibet itself is not a major rug exporter, Nepal today is among the major rug exporters of Tibetan rugs to Europe. In addition, many Tibetan rugs made in Tibet and India are exported from China and India to Europe and the US.

Turkish (Anatolin) Rugs:

The earliest Anatolian (Turkish) handmade rugs date back to the thirteenth century. Many examples of Anatolian rugs can be seen in European paintings from 1350 to 1450. Rugs have been woven in Turkey for at least as long as they have been in Iran.
Rugs produced today are generally very beautiful and high quality. In the late 1970s the government began a program to improve the quality and profitability of the rug industry. The program reintroduced the use of natural dyes and traditional weaving methods. Thus, DOBAG (a Turkish acronym meaning Natural Dye Research and Development Project) was created. Turkey produces a wide variety of village and workshop rugs particularly in Hereke, which also produces one of the best silk rugs in the world and, to a lesser extent, in Kayseria. Turkish rugs are sometimes woven with traditional designs and colors and sometimes for the Western market and taste.