Persian Carpet History
Article Summary: This is an article about the Persian Carpet. It is gives you a brief background of the history of Persian rugs and carpets, how and why they came to be made.
Although we don’t really have much of an idea when exactly carpet making began, we do know that there is a surviving rug, now known as the Pazyryk Rug, that is a type of knotted pile that has been dated to 500 B.C. From this example we can tell that rug making was already at quite an advanced stage even at this early time. Even though we now have modern advances that should improve the overall quality and longevity of rugs and carpets, things really haven’t changed all that much when we consider advancement in other areas.
As mentioned, the best known Persian rug is probably the so-called Pazyryk rug. It was specially made for a Scythian Prince by the name of Pazyryk, hence the name. Discovered by a Russian archaeologist by the name of Rudenko in 1947, the rug was unearthed in the Altai Mountains in Siberia. After the Prince’s burial tomb was ransacked by grave robbers and left uncovered for some 2500 years. It is interesting because it gives an insight into how Persian rugs were made in those ancient days.
Rugs that originate from the East are associated with a quality product. This is certainly true of today after thousands of years of development, but originally rugs were fairly basic pieces of cloth made more for clothing than for flooring. As these garments became more elaborate they began to take on a somewhat mythical character. It was soon realized that within the fabric of the cloth, stories could be told and captured, as well as creating beautiful pieces of art.
The introduction of carpets into Persia is probably attributable to Cyrus, who was impressed by the beauty and uniqueness of the carpets and rugs he found in the city of Babylon. The women of Persia had become skilled in the art of carpet making and were further encouraged by Cyrus, who lavished much praise on the craft.
It was around the period 1500 to 1700 that Persia was ruled by the so called Safavids. It is mainly from this period that various magnificent examples of Persian carpets are to be found preserved in museums around the world. It was during this period that whole industries were established around carpet manufacture and the ruler of the time, Shah Abbas encouraged the craft. It was in cities like Tabriz and especially Isfahan that the art was perfected. Here, carpets and rugs were created that had never been seen before, precious metals like gold and silver were incorporated into them to create true works of art. It was here that King Shah Abbas was mainly responsible for bringing the industry into the city of Isfahan, he held carpet makers in high esteem and carpet maker’s work became incorporated into the elaborate designs. Today the Persian carpet is still considered to be the best quality available.
After Nader Khan gained power in Persia around 1700, he unfortunately did not share the delights of Persian carpets and the craft dwindled in popularity. It was only carried out as a necessity by locals and the craft did not produce anything approaching the quality that had previously been made. Not until the 1800s did the craft once again gain in popularity during the rule of the Qajars. During this period many thousands of carpets were transported overseas to Europe and beyond, and the Persian carpet once again became a popular household item to own.
As time marched on, the Persian carpet was used by Kings and Queens around the world to add color and a point of difference to their residences. As these pieces were required to be as decorative and creative as possible, the craft began to attract skilled workers who toiled at perfecting the craft. Whereas today we may regard a cabinet maker as being a highly skilled and worthy member of society, the carpet maker was once held in similar regard.
As seaborne transportation improved and allowed traders to take new treasures around the globe, so the market place for these carpets increased, along with the demand for items that were representations of wealth and power. Probably the best known of all the British Kings to have purchased quality rugs and carpets was King Henry VIII. Paintings show him surrounded by rugs, carpets and drapes and it was he that was largely responsible for the growth in the carpet making industry in England.Today the Persian carpet still holds a place of high regard with owners, collectors and carpet makers. The trade is still widely carried out in Iran and many quality carpets are sold around the world each year.