Persia, together with the Turkish world, is the origin of the most beautiful carpet productions. However, A sign of its prestige, the expression “Persian Carpet” is sometimes misused to refer to all oriental rugs.
The art of the carpet is not a specifically Islamic art. Indeed, knotting and loom existed hundreds of years before the birth of Islam, and the motifs and symbols still used today date back to prehistoric times. However, Islam allowed their development and diffusion and the creation of original forms, such as the prayer mat.
For Westerners the carpet is a luxury object, but for Iranians it is a daily and practical object and an outward sign of wealth. In addition, In the western world Persian carpets have been precious artifacts for centuries to furnish rooms such as homes and apartments. on the other hand, in many Eastern countries they convey the multifaceted ideas and the millenary culture of the peoples who created them.
To the Middle Eastern nomads one must with high historical probability the sublime art of knotting. Their pre-Islamic history and their subsequent history are all wonderfully woven into the knots of Persian carpets.
It is the furniture par excellence in the nomadic tribes, blazon of a clan, a society, an art of living. Through its symbols and its beauty, it also conveys cultural and spiritual values. For example, evoking paradise, it is said in the Quran that believers will rest on splendid carpets.
Persian carpet was essential object of daily use for their movements, rich in heterogeneous values: from prayer to practical use in the tent. Furthermore, there are the symbols of the clans they belong to, the moments of their collective history as a clan and also of the creativity of individuals, to represent an idealized and magnificent nature. The Persian carpets are often decorated with floral designs and numerous hunting scenes. In ancient artifacts, we also find the short stories.
The origins of Persian Carpet
The origins of the Persian carpet remain mysterious today. The oldest known carpet was discovered in the Altai Mountains region, in Siberia, belonging to a Scythian prince (4th or 5th century), with clear Persian Achaemenes influences. No other example prior to the sixteenth century has reached us so far and it is only from texts and miniatures that it goes back to the geometric motifs and style changes that have taken place in the various eras. For example, Mongols brought the Timurid carpets with Chinese motifs (animals, birds, peacocks, lotuses).
Starting from the Safavids (1501–1732) the geometric and rectilinear motifs which was dating back to the Turkish style of the Seljuk era, change to organic and floral harmony of gardens, animals and small characters. after that, through the carpet and silk trade with Europe (and later also with Russia in the eighteenth century), They introduced new European-style motifs and there was a decline in the quality and use of chemical dyes.
Nomadic Persian Carpets
In parallel to this urban production there has existed a very rich and varied creation of nomadic carpets, knotted or woven, with a sober and intense aesthetic, more stylized and less naturalistic, with geometric motifs and a more limited range of colors. The nomadic fabric or kilim rug has numerous weaving methods according to the complexity of the motif.
The raw materials of Persian carpets are wool (of mutton and sheep or of goat), cotton, silk, and in some luxurious carpets the threads of gold or silver. After cutting, carding and spinning, the weaver dye wool with products that are sometimes chemical, but often natural. In the history of wool, weaver dye carpets usually with natural products: red obtained from cochineal, tar, madder roots, cherry or pomegranate juice; yellow from saffron, from turmeric, from pomegranate peel; the blue from the indigo; green from copper acetate; brown and black from boron, tobacco and tea.
Weaving a Persian Carpet
Weaving a carpet has a very rich meaning. The vertebral column of the carpet, the warp yarns, evoke the immutable and divine axis of the world, which connects the earth to the sky, But the horizontal yarns of the weave symbolize the infinite weaving of worlds and destinies. The carpet is an image of the universe, where a weaver has knotted creatures on the chain of God omniscience. According to its decoration, it is also an abstract figure of the soul, of its balance and its complexity.
Each carpet is a miniature world and reflects the ideals, values and life of a community. It leads to the invisible, to the threshold of the soul. It can be the support for an infinite meditation along the woven senses of the fabric. The symbols and colors and shapes have regenerating and illuminating virtues.
Whether they are nomads or citizens, the carpets use the same archetypes: the composition and the geometric figures (primordial metaphysical signs), the vegetation (image of paradise), the animals (heraldic figures), the symbolism of the edges and of the center that expresses the relationship between the body and the heart or between our world and paradise.
Some Persian poems compare the carpet to a heavenly garden, always flowery and fragrant, of a starry sky, whose beauty dispels worries. Although there are certain symbolic elements in persian carpets, every city and every tribe has its interpretation of signs and its symbolic style.
In the carpet, as in all Iranian arts, the symbol is the living relationship between God and man, between the soul and the world, between society and nature. Its meanings are as immutable as the spirit, but also as diverse as individuals and knowledge.
The Persian carpets often derive their name from the area in which they are produced, for example Tabriz, Hamadan, Mashhad, Kerman, Kashan, Isfahan, Nain and Bijar. The carpets can also be named as the respective ethnic groups, such as the Ghashghai.
Persian Carpet Types
Here we present the main types of Persian carpets, with in-depth information related to the history and characteristics of them.