HISTORY OF PERSIAN RUGS
It can be easy for many of us to confuse Persian rugs with other Oriental rugs. However, it is important to be mindful of the essential difference between the two before proceeding to look into the history of how these rugs were made. Persian rugs were made in modern-day Iran, while Oriental rugs were woven in a variety of countries, such as Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Tibet, Afghanistan, and Turkey. So, it is clear that Persian rugs are a subset of Oriental rugs.
For centuries, Iranians have been creating stunning rugs and carpets, hand-weaving intricate designs that have graced floors worldwide. Originally used as a practical solution against dampness and cold temperatures by nomadic people, these pieces were crafted over generations, honing their craft to create the exquisite, vibrant items we know today. We must also acknowledge the growth of international commerce in this, for it allowed for a diverse set of patterns and motifs to be explored in carpet-making.
Though many historians give Cyprus the Great credit for introducing the art of carpet-making to Persia, there is evidence that Persian nomads were creating area rugs with durable wool from their goat and sheep herds even before his reign. This appreciation of carpets and their craftsmanship predates the 539 BC date of the conquest of Babylon.
In 1949, Russian archeologists uncovered an awe-inspiring relic from the Pazyryk valley in the Altai Mountains of Siberia - the world's oldest knotted carpet. This intricate piece of artistry, dated to the 5th century BC, speaks to the incredible development and refinement of carpet-making over centuries. This ancient artifact was carefully preserved for two millennia inside the icy tombs of Scythian nobility and now stands as a reminder of the immense skill of carpet weaving present in those ancient times. Today, the Pazyryk carpet can be viewed in person at the St. Petersburg Hermitage Museum in Leningrad - an awe-inspiring testament to the art of carpet-making from distant eras.
The Seljuks notably occupied Persia from 1038 to 1194 AD, thus playing an essential role in the development of Persia's rug-making tradition. It is widely known that the Seljuk women crafted intricate carpets using the Turkish knotting technique, which is still practiced in the provinces of Hamadan and Azerbaijan. Furthermore, the impact of the Mongol rulers of Persia - who held power between 1220 and 1449 AD - is notable, as evidenced by the lavish carpets that were used to cover the floors of Mahmud Ghazan's Tabriz palace. Even today, these carpets still hold an aesthetic charm, with simple motif designs adorning their beauty.
In the 16th century AD, during the Safavid Dynasty, the art of carpet weaving in Persia truly blossomed. To this day, around 1500 pieces from this period are preserved in private collections and museums worldwide. It was Shah Abbas who, in the 16th century, made Isfahan the center of this vibrant industry. The weavers, artisans, and designers employed in the workshops of the time created some of the most exquisite, beautiful carpets ever seen.
The art of Persian rug-making has endured since then, and its influence is also visible in the rugs and carpets now enjoyed in homes around the world - a reminder of the craftsmanship of ancient Persia.