Historic Carpets and Rugs of Persia

Persian/oriental carpets and rugs evoke images of opulence, splendour and grandeur. It is an art form that has captured the imagination of those in the occident for generations, those who have felt the need to aspire to an aesthetic which has been essentially forged in the orient. Carpets and rugs produced in Persia during the Safavid period are particularly evocative, for they represent the 'classical period' of carpet production, pieces which are resplendent in silk, metal brocade, with the most intricate artistic designs. The finesse with which these pieces were made would seldom ever be matched again and the extant pieces from this period now grace some of the great private and public collections in the world.

 There is a sense of irony, in that the development and indeed continuation of this art form, particularly in the last two hundred years or more, has undoubtedly been impacted upon by artistic and commercial trends in the West, without which in Iran/Persia, (the foremost producer of carpets and rugs in the world), the industry may well have remained stagnant, or even had reached its demise. How and why this occurred has been discussed by Cecil Edwards and Professor Kurt Erdmann in their respective works,[1] but what is most evident is that carpet weaving in Persia by the beginning of the 19th century began to recover after a turbulent and destructive period in that country's history. By the middle/latter part of the century, carpets and rugs were being made to order at the behest and procurement of western agents and companies, those with a commercial and aesthetic understanding of what was required by the new-found wealth of the burgeoning middle classes in the West on the back of the industrial revolution.

 By the middle/late nineteenth century, manufacturers all over the country were working to maximise this commercial opportunity. Vitally, from a point of view of colour, design and manufacture, artisans were drawing inspiration from the earlier epoch of 'classical’ carpets. The materials which were used were also often strictly vetted, this is why pieces made in this period still resonate with beautiful colours and lustrous wool, enhancing the design and overall impression of these pieces.


[1] “Persian carpets of the Safavid period", In: Pantheon No. 5, 1932, p. 227-231 & The Persian Carpet. A Survey of The Carpet-Weaving Industry of Persia. Edwards, A. Cecil., Gerald Duckworth & Co. Limited,, London, 1953.