Rugs: Oriental and Occidental, Antique & Modern - A Handbook for Ready Reference
by Rosa Belle Holt
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SIZE 8 x 6.3

This interesting and valuable rug is of antique Tabriz weave, of finely blended colors, and rare design. It represents the individual squares on the floor of a mosque, each one of which may be occupied by a worshipper kneeling in prayer. Rugs with a single design of this kind are usual, but a grouping of many such spaces in one rug is rare. Forms of the Tree of Life are represented in different panels, and the border is very rich and handsome. The fabric is fine, the texture soft and firm. The rich and splendid hues of the various panels are so soft in tone that, while there are several different colors in juxtaposition, these have been arranged so deftly and artistically that the effect is perfectly harmonious. It is impossible to describe in words the mellow richness and rare art displayed in this unique product of the loom.




A Handbook for Ready Reference



New and Enlarged Edition, Entirely Reset

With 33 full-page Illustrations, 12 in full color, and other drawings in the text, and a Map of the Orient





This Enlarged Edition published October 10, 1908




When the first edition of this book was published in 1901, it stood almost alone as a reference work on Oriental Rugs. In the six years which have since elapsed, several volumes dealing with the subject have been published.

The extended knowledge of the public concerning the subject has materially altered the conditions of buying and selling. It has also served to increase curiosity and enthusiasm regarding these products of Oriental workmanship. I have been gratified to observe that a desire for additional information is sought. My mail has contained an increasing number of requests for an enlarged edition of my book, and my own enthusiasm for the subject makes me believe in the interest of my readers. I take pleasure in sharing with them the results of recent investigations made in the United States, in the art centres of Europe, and in the Orient.


NEW YORK CITY, February 1, 1908.


While there is a singular lack of books in the English language treating directly of Rugs,—a theme which is so intensely interesting to buyers,—it is noteworthy that under the category of Oriental Carpets are to be found a few volumes of interest. These, however, are too rare and expensive for the general reader. For this reason I have undertaken to present in a concise form certain facts that may enable a novice to appreciate the beauty and interest attaching to rugs, and assist a prospective purchaser in judging of the merits of any particular rug he may desire to possess.

For much valuable information on the subject I am indebted to publications which are referred to in my Bibliography, to correspondence with Ministers to Oriental countries and Consuls residing therein, to interviews with rug-dealers in various cities, and to certain learned Americans, Armenians, Greeks, Syrians and Turks. It has also been my good fortune to be intrusted, for purposes of description and reproduction, with many beautiful and rare rugs, from owners who cherish them as treasures. These true rug-lovers have generously contributed to whatever there may be of interest in this book.

R. B. H.

NEW YORK CITY, August 1, 1901.




The History 15 The Loom and Its Work 22 The Weavers 26 The Materials 30 The Quality 32 The Knotting 34 Designs 37 The Dyes 44 Oriental Colors 47


Rug-Weaving in Egypt 51 Persian Rugs 53 Characteristics of Certain Persian Rugs 58 Turkish Rugs 71 Characteristics of Certain Turkish Rugs 74


Indian Rugs 87 Characteristics of Certain Indian Rugs 90 Afghanistan Rugs 95 Beluchistan Rugs 97 Turkoman Rugs 98 Characteristics of Certain Turkoman Rugs 100 Caucasian Rugs 105


Rugs of the Holy Land 111 Chinese Rugs 113 Japanese Rugs 116 Khilim Rugs 117 Polish Rugs 119 Prayer Rugs 120 Silk Rugs 123 Felt Rugs 126 Hunting Rugs 128


Rug-Weaving in Europe and the United States 131 Greek Rugs 132 Moorish and Spanish Rugs 134 Bosnian, Servian, Roumanian, and Bulgarian Rugs 136 English Rugs 138 French Rugs 141 Rugs of the United States 143


Inscriptions on Rugs 153 Concerning Oriental Symbols 156 Chinese Symbols 157 Egyptian Symbols 158 Indian Symbols 159 Japanese Symbols 160 Persian Symbols 160 Turkish Symbols 160 Miscellaneous Symbols 161 Meanings of Some of the Place-Names Associated with Rugs 162 GEOGRAPHICAL DATA 164 Localities Arranged Geographically 165 Localities Arranged Alphabetically 170




PAGE Antique Tabriz Silk Rug Frontispiece Oriental Rugs Decorating a Balcony 20 Turkish Loom and Weavers 24 Vats for Washing and Dyeing Wool—Turkey 28 Soumak Rug 30 Indian Rug Designers 32 Sinna Rug 34 Rugs being Transported 38 Wool Drying after Dyeing 44 Antique Persian Rug 54 Khorassan Rug 56 Bijar (Sarakhs) Rug 58 Camel's Hair Rug from Hamadan 60 Feraghan Rug 62 Shiraz Rug 68 Arabian Rug 70 Old Ghiordes Prayer Rug 74 Indian Prayer Rug 78 Indian Loom and Weavers 82 Afghanistan Rug 95 Tekke-Turkoman or "Bokhara" Rug 98 Samarkand Rug 102 Daghestan Rug 106 Kazak Rug 108 Antique Chinese Wool Rug 114 Khilim Rug 117 Old Kirman Prayer Rug 120 Old Anatolian Prayer Rug 122 Persian Silk Rug 124 Derbent Rug 126 Early English Rug 138 Navajo Rug 146 Antique Persian Rug 156 Map of the Orient 164


A Loom 25 Persian or Sinna Knotting 35 Turkish or Ghiordes Knotting 35 Soumak Weave 35 Five Forms of the Palmette 39, 40 Herati Border 40 Central Design 41 Running Hook Design 41 Pomegranate 41 Palm Leaves 41 Cloud Bands 41 Lozenge 41 Wave-like Designs 42 Rosette 42 Reciprocal Trefoil 42 Central Design 42 Four Characteristic Caucasian Designs 42 Fylfot, or Swastika 42 Guli Hinnai 43 Lotus 43 Medallion 43




Fair warp and fitting woof Weave a web that bideth proof.






The History

Rugs, in the house beautiful, impart richness and represent refinement. Their manufacture was one of the earliest incentives for the blending of colors in such harmony as to please the eye and satisfy the mind; consequently, it is one of the most important of the industrial arts. Since the days when ancient peoples first lay down to sleep wrapped in the skins of animals, the human intelligence has quickened, and as the race has become more civilized, rugs have gradually taken the place of skins. Thus began the industry of rug-weaving, and it has grown to such an extent that it is now of world-wide importance.

The word Rug is used in this volume in the following sense: "A covering for the floor; a mat, usually oblong or square, and woven in one piece. Rugs, especially those of Oriental make, often show rich designs and elaborate workmanship, and are hence sometimes used for hangings," In several books rugs and carpets are referred to as identical. In fact most written information on rugs has been catalogued under the term carpets; and there seems to be good reason for assuming that the terms tapestries and carpets, as used in ancient times, were synonymous with the word rugs of the present day, for these were spread loosely on the floor without the aid of fastenings.

Historical references to spinning and to the weaving of tapestries date back to a very early period. An ancient Jewish legend states that Naamah, daughter of Lamech and sister of Tubal-Cain, was the inventor of the spinning of wool and of the weaving of thread into cloth.

On at least two of the wonderful rock-cut tombs at Beni-Hassan, in Egypt,—2800-2600 B.C.,—there are pictures of weavers at work. In one, women are filling a distaff with cotton, twisting it with a spindle into thread, and weaving this on an upright loom. Beside them is a man, evidently an overseer, watching the weavers and their work. The other wall-painting represents a man weaving a checkered rug on a horizontal loom. Other monuments of ancient Egypt and of Mesopotamia bear witness that the manufacture of rugs dates a considerable time prior to 2400 B.C.

At Thebes a fresco, dating 1700-1000 B.C., represents three men weaving at an upright loom. A small rug, discovered in that city some time between the years 666 and 358 B.C., and now in the possession of Mr. Hay in England, is described by Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson as follows: "This rug is eleven inches long by nine broad. It is made like many carpets of the present day, with woollen threads on linen string. In the centre is the figure of a boy in white, with a goose above it, the hieroglyphic of 'child' upon a green ground, around which is a border composed of red, white, and blue lines. The remainder is yellow, with four white figures above and below, and one at each side, with blue outlines and red ornaments; and the outer border is made up of red, white, and blue lines, with a fancy device projecting from it, with a triangular summit, which extends entirely round the edge of the rug. Its date is uncertain, but from the child, the combination of the colors, and ornamental border, I am inclined to think it really Egyptian, not of the Pharaonic, but of the Greek and Roman period." Dr. Samuel Birch, who edited the last edition of Wilkinson's work, affirms that this is so.

On the marbles of Nineveh is represented the pectoral worn by Sardanapalus. It is an exact miniature of a Kurdish rug of modern times. The Tree of Life, the motif of most of the Persian rug designs, is in the centre, and the border is ornamented with rosettes and bars.

Phoenician art is intermediate between Egyptian and Assyrian. The color most prized in the art of Phoenicia was the rare and beautiful purple (properly crimson) dye used exclusively for the garments of royalty. For centuries the process of making this dye was lost, and even at the time of its highest fame it was familiar only to the maritime Canaanites, who procured the color from an animal juice of the murex, a shellfish. The shellfish and the dye were known to the ancients as conchylium.

When Cleopatra, the famous Queen of Egypt, went to meet Caesar for the first time, she knew that he would not allow her to enter his presence if recognized, and therefore she cleverly had herself carried into his palace wrapped in a rug of the finest texture. It may well be imagined that the unexpected disclosure of the charms of this subtle Egyptian shared largely in bringing the great Roman general into her toils.

Besides Biblical writers, Homer, AEschylus, Plautus, Metellus Scipio, Horace, Pliny, Lucan, Josephus, Arrian, and Athenaeus all speak of rugs. To persons interested in rugs the search for these allusions is a most fascinating occupation.

The Egyptians bestowed the greatest care and patience upon the rugs they wove, as upon all else of their handiwork. They spread them before the images of their gods, and also on the ground for their sacred cattle to lie upon. They loved Nature intensely; like true lovers, they seemed to have reached her very heart, and they symbolized her works in their artistic designs. Even to this day many Oriental rugs have symbolic signs borrowed from the works of Nature.

In design and color the rugs woven to-day in the Orient are similar to the Assyrian and Babylonian textile fabrics of 1000-607 B.C. (Fall of Nineveh) and 538 (Fall of Babylon). At that early period these were used for awnings and floor-coverings in the palaces of the Assyrian kings Sargon, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Sardanapalus. The designs on the stone slab from the palace of Koyunjik, Nineveh, and on the door-sill from the palace at Khorsabad, are probably copied from rugs.

From Egypt and Chaldea the manufacture of rugs was carried into Assyria, and then into Asia Minor. Ancient Egypto-Chaldean designs are occasionally seen in modern rugs, but usually in a modified form. For a long time the industry of rug-weaving was supreme in the countries mentioned, but about 480 B.C. it arrived at a high degree of perfection in Greece. Later, the art was corrupted by the Byzantine (Lower Roman) influence. In the seventh and eighth centuries the Saracens came into power in the Persian Empire after the fall of the Sassanian dynasty, and in the African and Syrian provinces. The Saracens believed that all labor tended to the glory of God; consequently, on their western campaigns they carried rug-manufacture into Sicily, Spain, France, and Italy; and thus it was introduced throughout Europe. It should be here noted that the name Saracen was given by the later Romans and Greeks to certain of the nomadic tribes on the Syrian borders of the Roman Empire. After the introduction of Mohammedanism the name was applied to the Arab followers of Mohammed.

From earliest times it has been the custom in the East to hang rugs over graves. About the vault of the mosque at Hebron where the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are said to be buried, rugs are hung at the present day.

During times of grand fetes in Europe, when house decoration is done with lavishness, people, to make their homes more attractive, drape with beautiful rugs the balconies, the loggias, and the front walls of buildings. The richness and color of these rugs blend harmoniously with flags and other emblems, producing an effect of great magnificence and splendor.

When we see the exquisite loom-work that has been wrought in the Orient, we sometimes wonder how the weavers have achieved such success, for they are destitute of what we call education, and they dwell amid the humblest surroundings. But Nature has been their instructor, and the rare shadings and varied designs of the rugs are excellent imitations of the forms and hues of the natural world. The weavers have intuitively grasped what is correct in color from the works of Nature surrounding them, and we reap the benefit in the rich specimens of their art which they export.

These patient toilers of the East delight in subdued colorings and artistic designs; and without a doubt many a story is woven in with the threads that go to form the fabric, many a song of joy, many a dirge of woe and despair. The number of Orientals engaged in the manufacture of rugs in the United States is increasing. It is now not an uncommon sight to see these weavers at work before the loom in the show windows of the rug-importing establishments of the larger cities.

The increasing use of polished hard wood and yellow pine floors and mosaic work, even in buildings of moderate cost, is displacing the use of cheap flooring, which could be covered satisfactorily only with carpets or matting. This has enormously increased the demand for rugs; and the selection of them affords a much wider range for the exercise of personal taste and discrimination in securing an article not only of greater artistic merit, but of greater durability.


The hand loom is Oriental, the power loom Occidental. The former adds much to the fame of the Orient. The exquisite fabrics it produces have made it world-renowned, and although it is simple in structure, its products show careful and finished labor. Hand looms in all Oriental countries are similar, and are to-day almost as imperfectly developed as when used by the ancient Egyptians. To weave their mats, the ancient Egyptians took the coarse fibre of the papyrus and, with the help of pegs, stretched it between two poles which were fastened in the ground. Two bars were placed in between these poles, the threads of the warp serving to keep them apart. The woof thread was passed through and pressed down tightly a number of times with a bent piece of wood.

The loom now generally used in the Orient is made by fastening two poles perpendicularly in the ground to a sufficient depth, leaving above ground as much of each pole as equals in length the desired rug. This framework supports two horizontal rollers, the warp threads being wound around the upper, while the ends are fastened to the lower; at this the weaving is begun, and on it the rug is rolled while in process of construction. To the warp threads of fine linen or cotton the weavers tie the tufts of worsted that form the pile. This worsted, which has been dyed previously, hangs over their heads in balls. When a row of knots is finished, it is pressed down to the underlying woof by a long and heavy comb with metal teeth. Then the tufts are clipped close with shears, to make the pile. In the finer rugs there are seldom more than two, or at the most three, threads between every two rows of knots, but in the coarser kinds there are more threads. In many districts every family possesses a loom, and it is generally small enough to be carried from place to place.

Sir George C. Birdwood has seen the web in the horizontal loom in Western India kept stretched by being wrapped, as worked, round the body of the weaver. In some instances the spinners make thread from the cotton wool by using the left hand as a distaff, and the right one as a spindle. In other cotton rugs which he has seen, the warp threads were placed horizontally, and the loom was without treadles and reed. The woof threads were thrown across by the weaver and brought together with a small hand comb. The same style of loom, arranged vertically, is that on which some of the richly figured cotton rugs from the Deccan are woven.

In some parts of Turkey there are European factories that have adopted some of the native methods; but as the majority of Turkish rugs are apt to be crooked, frames that weave them straight are now imported from Europe.

Mrs. Isabella Bird Bishop describes a tribe of people living at Biratori, on the Island of Yezo, Japan, and bearing the name of Ainos, whose women employ their time in weaving mats. Their loom is certainly a most primitive arrangement. A comb-like frame, through which the threads pass, rests on the ankles of the weaver. There is a heavy hook fastened in the ground or floor, and to this the threads at the far end of the web are sewed. A cord fastens the near end to the waist of the weaver, who by spinal rigidity supplies the necessary tension. As the work proceeds, she drags herself along nearer and nearer the hook. This is slow work, only about a foot being accomplished in a day; as in other countries, however, the women enjoy the neighborly chats that their work allows; and often two or more will bring to the house of a neighbor their simple apparatus, and, hanging the hooks to the roof or to a tree, will weave all day.

The power looms of modern civilization are chiefly to be found in the United States and Great Britain, Philadelphia being the principal American centre, and Kidderminster, Wilton, Worcester, Rochdale, Halifax, Dewsbury, and Durham, the English centres. Brussels and Scotland contain a number of such looms. In all Western countries schools of art furnish most of the designs, and have done much to improve taste. This can also be said of good colorists in their branch of this industry.


Rug-weaving in the Orient is an industry that, until recent years, has been carried on almost exclusively by women and girls. From childhood to womanhood, and on to old age, these weavers are at work. Girls of six years of age help their mothers, until they become experienced by long practice. Even ladies of rank and wealth weave rugs of fine quality for their own homes. In some districts, besides weaving for the market, girls weave one or two rugs for their dowry; this purpose furnishes them with enough excitement to keep them interested in their work and ambitious to excel. Now that there is a greater demand for rugs, and not enough women to supply the demand, men and boys have come into the business, but generally only in places where there are large factories, and especially in the cities. This is noticeably the case in India, where boys from nine to fifteen years of age do much of the weaving.

There are two classes of weavers, the sedentary and the nomadic. The former weave in their houses during the Winter, and in their courtyards during the Summer. The nomads spend the Winter in mud villages, and in the Summer go to the mountains with their flocks and live in tents made of goat's hair. The manner of life of the sedentary weaver works havoc with her constitution even in her youth; and consequently one is not surprised at her frail appearance. In Summer she is oppressed with heat as she sits before the frame, and in Winter she is almost frozen, for she has to work in the open air in order to have sufficient light. Hers is not an easy life. It would be pleasant to believe that in her toil, which she carries on with wondrous patience and in the humblest surroundings, the conscientious weaver finds the same inward satisfaction that comes to the true artist elsewhere.

The duties of the male portion of the family are to tend the flocks, shear the sheep, separate the various qualities of the wool into bundles, dye it, and make the framework for the rug. With the extension of the industry, a class of workers has arisen whose sole task is to manipulate and dye the wool for use. The reason why men do not usually weave is that the occupation, besides not being a paying one, requires an amount of patience not within the power of men accustomed to work out of doors. Nor is it a remunerative occupation. The reader, who is perhaps also a prospective rug-buyer, may be interested in the following calculation of the amount of labor bestowed upon a given piece of the best type, the cost of the materials, and its value when completed. A square foot of the best Persian rug is worth about ten dollars, and it takes a single weaver twenty-three days to complete this portion. This allows the weaver about forty-four cents per day for her wool and her labor; but as three-fourths of this amount goes to pay for the wool, only eleven cents per day is left for her labor. The wages of the producer of the inferior article are somewhat better. A square foot of an inferior rug is sold for about sixty cents, and the time required for weaving it is but two days, thus allowing the weaver thirty cents per day for her wool and labor. She uses inferior wool, washes but little of it, and pays only a nominal sum for a cheap dye. The framework of her loom costs comparatively little, as the rug it produces is from twenty to thirty times the size of the superior rug. Thus it appears that, in the long run, the inferior weaver is better paid than the one who fatigues her brain with her efforts to produce a rug of the best quality. On the other hand, the weaver of the superior fabric has advantages which the other has not. As a general rule, she weaves to order, and is paid for her work in advance. This prepayment is of great importance, considering the poverty of the weaver. The situation of the weaver of the inferior article differs in that she has to buy her wool, dye it, finish her rug, and then watch the market for buyers.

The weavers live on the simplest fare; bread, cheese, and a raw onion make an average meal. In some districts the weavers have to work in underground huts, for the air at the surface is so dry that the threads would lose all their elasticity out of doors. In these underground places the weavers produce enough moisture by keeping at hand utensils full of water.

Although the business is conducted with the manufacturer on a strictly commercial basis, it is very difficult to induce the weavers to keep their appointments and finish a rug at the time it is promised. In India, for example, the weavers are very superstitious; and if a boy weaver be taken ill, the entire force on that loom will stop until he recover. If he die, the entire force of native weavers may be changed. This of course causes vexatious delay, not only of days, but often of weeks and months.


The materials used in the manufacture of rugs cover a wide range, and are indigenous to the place where the weavers are located. Sheep's wool, camel's hair, mohair from the Angora goat, hair from the yak and from the Thibetan goat, silk, cotton, linen, hemp, flax, and jute are all used. In the Spring the raw wool is generally taken to the nearest market, where it is cleaned, washed, and spun. The cleansing process is very necessary, as it affects in an important degree the quality of the material. The wool is usually washed in running water by the men, and then sorted and cleansed a second time.

Persia, Turkey, and India all produce wool, the two former countries in larger quantities than India, but some of the very finest wool comes from that part of India known as Kashmir. The celebrated Turfani wool comes from Chinese Thibet. It is very choice, and beautiful fabrics are woven from it.

The pashim is the soft downy wool growing next the body of the goat. In color it is white, dark gray, or drab; and of this many of the finest India rugs are woven. Large-tailed sheep are common in Kabul, Peshawar, and other districts; these furnish wool from which many a rug is woven. It is possible that the very sheep watched over by the shepherds of Judea the night of our Saviour's birth were reared partly for their wool, with a view to rug-weaving.

The camel is useful not only as a beast of burden; its hair is woven into fabrics both fine and durable, chief of which are rugs, beautiful, much desired, and costly; the younger the animal the more is its hair esteemed. The natural colors harmonize readily with the furnishings in most rooms, and the soft texture of the best ones is attractive.

The process of carding is accomplished by means of a block with vertical pins in even rows close together. The wool is drawn through these many times, and then spun into yarn.


The fineness of a rug depends largely upon the quality of the wool and the number of knots to the square foot. In one yard of the best made Persian rugs there are between twenty thousand and thirty thousand stitches made by hand. The wool must be of fine quality, but not too soft. It should be closely woven, and evenly cropped. A great deal depends upon the manipulation of the wool in the rough, and careful attention should be given to this particular.

The quality of the wool is affected by whatever circumstances affect the well-being of the sheep, and in a marked degree by climate. Hence there is a decided difference in the wools of various districts and sections of a country. It is a well-known fact that the wool produced in cold countries is soft and fine, while that of the warmer climates is, on the other hand, harder, firmer, and more lasting. Hard wool is easier for the weaver to handle, and the tufts can be cropped with more facility. It is partly owing to these facts that the rugs of the cold districts are most in demand.

The fact that some rugs are so much better than others is a natural result of the superior skill of the makers. Weavers are like other workers, some doing perfect work, some indifferent, and others very poor. But the quality of the rugs offered for sale in this country depends also upon the knowledge and the conscience of the wholesale buyer at the place of manufacture. When the buyer for an importing establishment brings over quantities of rugs not all of which are artistic, the question may be asked: "Why do you not always select rugs that are beautiful?" He may reply that it is his business to get those that will sell, and that as there is a great variety of taste among his customers he must try to please every one; or he may say that he buys a thousand rugs at a time, and does not see them individually. It is in the retail shop that the final purchaser may pick and choose.

The most famous rugs of the Orient have been selected with great care by men who have special knowledge of the subject, and they are owned by museums and connoisseurs. Some have been brought to this country by distinguished soldiers and statesmen, to whom they have been presented by potentates as tokens of respect. Others have been obtained through the fortunes of war.


Except in the Soumak and the Khilim, which have the flat stitch, there are only two kinds of knotting used in Oriental rugs. These knots are called the Persian or Sinna, and the Turkish or Ghiordes.

In the Persian manner of knotting there are more knots to the square inch than in the Turkish, and the result is a finer surface. Often the Persian knotting is so fine that the surface of the fabric is like velvet. The Persian knot is tied in such a manner that one end of the pile yarn extends from every spacing that separates the warp threads. It is made in such a way that a noose is formed, which tightens as the yarn is pulled. Occasionally it is turned in the opposite direction, and executed from left to right. In this case two threads of yarn are employed, this of course making the pile twice as thick as in the other.

The Turkish or Ghiordes knot has the yarn twisted about the warp threads in such a manner that the two raised ends of the pile alternate with every two threads of the warp.

[Illustration: SINNA RUG

SIZE, 4.6 x 6.6

This is a beautiful example of the very fine texture and the even clipping that characterize the Sinna rugs. Thickly studding the dark blue field are minute designs in blue and rose hues, with which pale green, yellow, and a sapphire blue blend most harmoniously. All these small designs rest in the usual diaper design, which may be traced throughout the rug. The border is charming, with its groundwork of fine yellow, on which are delicate tracings of light green, ivory, and blue. The effect of light and shade upon this exquisite piece of weaving brings out plainly the marvellous sheen which is a feature of this rug. The innumerable small figures which appear throughout the rug, with their blending of soft hues, present a kaleidoscopic effect.


Experts have spent much time and invested much capital in the endeavor to make the rug industry as perfect as possible. Judging from the examples of India rugs I have seen,—some with a seven-by-six knot, others with a sixteen-by-sixteen knot,—I am convinced that the beauty, durability, and artistic effects produced by the efforts of the manufacturers will be appreciated more and more. From the fact that the best-known firms in the rug business in New York, Chicago, and other cities in the United States, and several leading firms in England, are sponsors for the present rug industry in India, it may naturally be inferred that it is prosecuted with skill and care.

The different stitches made are as follows: seven by eight, or fifty-six hand-tied knots to the square inch; eight by eight, or sixty-four knots to the square inch; ten by ten, or one hundred knots to the square inch; twelve by twelve, or one hundred and forty-four knots to the square inch; and sixteen by sixteen, or two hundred and fifty-six knots to the square inch. These finer stitches are made in the very best examples produced by the finest Persian weavers. A specimen recently shown me was an exact reproduction of the rug owned by Prince Alexis Lobanow-Rostowsky, in which the stitch was the sixteen by sixteen. It was made in one of the factories in Kashmir.

The famous rug of Ardebil in the South Kensington Museum has three hundred and eighty hand-tied knots to the square inch, or thirty-three million in the whole fabric.


The designs of Eastern rugs are often the spontaneous outcome of the fancy of the weaver. Sometimes they are handed down from one generation to another; in some cases young girls are taught the design by an adult, who marks it in the sand; at other times a drawing of the rug is made on paper, the instructor showing her pupils the arrangement of every thread and the color to be used. When all this has been done, the pupil must make the rug without looking at the drawing.

Persian rugs excel those of other countries in artistic design as well as in harmonious coloring. The Persians seem to have a natural intuition in the use and blending of different shades, and in the designs that contain these colors they achieve the happiest results. It is really wonderful what exquisite fabrics these people, born and reared in ignorance and poverty, produce.

The designs in Persian rugs are generally floral; and in some districts, especially Fars, the women weavers invent the designs, varying them every two or three years. The Mohammedan religion does not allow any direct representation of animal forms; consequently rugs woven under its influence take floral, geometric, and vegetable forms. The Shiah sect of Moslems, however, numbering about fifteen millions,—of which eight millions are Persians,—do not regard representations of animals as unlawful. By the industry of this sect, and that of all who disregard the law of the Koran, animal forms are seen on some Persian rugs.

Among the good antique Persian rugs there are about thirty designs, all having different borders. Each design is the peculiar work of a family or tribe, and is produced continuously, from generation to generation without noticeable change, except in compliance with the demand of a buyer, or by a weaver who carries out some special fancy. Many buyers select the color, design, and size, leaving their orders with an importer or a manufacturer.

In the modern Oriental rug the designs are not to be entirely depended upon. They are apt to vary at the will of the weaver; and moreover, Occidental designs are now sent to the Orient to be woven into rugs by the native weavers of the Eastern country. The designs sent to India, to be reproduced by the different European and American firms having factories there, are almost universally strictly Oriental in character, being copies from fine old Persian pieces, or rearrangements of Oriental forms. When the design reaches India, it has to be re-drawn to the exact size of the rug that is to be made. From this is copied what is called a talim, which is the only direction the weavers have. This talim, or guide, shows the weavers exactly how many knots of a color are to be tied; and when these different colors are put together, the design is formed. These talims are carefully kept, and as they are records of the designs, can be reproduced at any time.

Large rugs show best in large and bold designs, for small and crowded designs would not be artistic. Small designs are, however, preferable on small rugs; a bold design on a small rug is inappropriate. The finer the border of a rug of whatever size, the more beautiful and costly the rug.

An average size for a large rug is six yards by four, and for this a bold vigorous design would be suitable.

Some designs found in rugs are here reproduced.

I. Five Forms of the Palmette.

a. With sharply marked outlines this palmette is a characteristic of the Djushaghan rugs.

b. This is a geometrical form of the palmette, frequently met with in modern Caucasian rugs.

c. This form of the palmette has an oblong central nucleus, surrounded by wreaths of leaves. To the right and left lancet-shaped leaves nearly encircle the whole. This design is most frequently seen in old Persian rugs.

d. In some old Persian rugs this form of the palmette with its diagonal projections is seen. It tends toward the geometrical, although its centre contains a small floral spray.

e. This palmette, with its two flanking lancet-shaped leaves, is frequently seen in modern Feraghan and Kurdistan rugs.

II. The Herati Border, or some form of it, may often be seen in Herat, Feraghan, Khorassan, Kurdistan, and Sinna rugs.

III. The central design is formed by eight valvular or four heart-shaped leaves. This form is often seen in Kirmanshah and Shiraz, and sometimes in Caucasian rugs.

IV. The Running Hook design found in the Daghestan, Shirvan, and Soumak rugs.

V. Pomegranate. The fruit is often depicted on ancient Assyrian and Egyptian sculptures. It had a religious significance in connection with several Oriental cults and was early introduced into rug designs.

VI. A palm leaf with regular contour, its centre containing a small floral design. This form of design is found in more or less detail in the rugs of Persia and India.

VII. A palm leaf formed by a floral branch and without distinct outline.

VIII. Cloud bands, seen in Chinese and old Ghiordes rugs.

IX. A lozenge surrounded by the Hook design. This is found in rugs made by nomadic tribes of Asia.

X. A continued wave-like design with rosettes attached. At intervals a delicate tendril effect is interposed on either side of the wave-line.

XI. A continued wave-like design interrupted by a two-cleft figure.

XII. A rosette, the tips of its leaves bending backward. The rosette is often met with in old Khorassan, Herat, Feraghan, and other Persian rugs.

XIII. Reciprocal trefoil, or spade design. Found as a border design in many of the Caucasian and some Persian rugs, especially the Saraband.

XIV. The central design holds a rosette, to which are joined four blossoms resting in valvular calyxes, the complete design forming a cross.

XV. Four designs characteristic of the Caucasian rug.

XVI. The Fylfot is in the form of a Greek cross with each arm continuing at right angles. It is also known as the Swastika, and is the symbol of good fortune. It has been a favorite design in the rugs of Greece, and of the Orient, while it predominates in the Navajo rugs of the United States.

XVII. The Guli Hinnai is a decorative floral design found at its best in the old rugs of Feraghan. It is copied from the flowers which grow in small clusters on the henna-plant, from which it derives its name.

XVIII. The Lotus is the water lily of Egypt. In various forms it is found in antique rugs of Persia.

XIX. The Medallion, in both floral and geometrical designs, is seen in many rugs of all rug-weaving countries.

There are many more designs which by careful investigation can be found. Among others the Arabesque, Chinese fret, Circle, Comb, various forms of the Cross, Mina Khani, Octagon, the S form, Scroll, Serrated leaves, Shah Abbas, the Star,—six or eight pointed,—the Tarantula, Triangle, the Y form, and the Zigzag.


When doing their best work, Oriental weavers use the softest of permanent dyes. The result obtained is in every case a thing of beauty and utility. The aniline dyes are, of course, not to be compared to the vegetable, although the best of them are not to be utterly condemned. The poorest aniline dye eats into the rug, and the color fades.

Madder ranks high among those plants which yield a permanent dye. It belongs to the genus Rubia; the root employed is that of the Rubia tinctorum. This is largely cultivated in certain districts of India, but the best comes from near Smyrna, and from other parts of Asiatic Turkey. The plant grows wild throughout a large section of Central Asia and Russia. With both the European and the Indian madders the roots of the plants are the only parts that yield the dye. In the roots three coloring matters are obtained: alizarin and purpurin, which are both red, and xanthin, which is yellow. Cochineal was introduced for dyeing purposes in 1856. It is the product of an insect called Coccus cacti, which lives on a species of cactus. Yellow is often produced from Persian berries, turmeric, saffron, and sumac.

Tyrian purple dye was greatly prized by the Phoenicians. As stated above, it was obtained from a shellfish; but the secret was known only to the maritime Canaanites. The art of producing this dye has been lost, although some aver that in recent years it has been re-discovered.

Kermes, red in color, is one of the oldest of all dyes. It was known in Syria, 1200 B.C. It is not so brilliant as cochineal, but it is much more durable. Plutarch is authority for the statement that after one hundred and ninety years stuffs dyed with kermes retained their original color. The dye is the product of the bodies of females of the species of coccus which infest certain trees along the Mediterranean coasts. When the Romans conquered Spain, a part of the tribute demanded was paid with these little bodies.

Greens are obtained from various sources. The Chinese green is a dye obtained from Rhamnus chlorophorus and Rhamnus utilis, a genus of shrubs. The fruit of several buckthorns, or the Persian berries, as they are generally called by dyers, also give greens and brilliant yellows. Most of the greens, however, are produced by the combination of indigo with yellow.

Indigo, mentioned by Pliny as Indicum, yields the deep blue dye so much prized by the Romans. Arrian speaks of indigo, and says that it was exported from Barbarike, on the Indus, into Egypt. This plant is grown in India, China, North and South America, Mexico, Central America, Africa, Japan, Madagascar, and Jamaica. When the Indian indigo plant, Indigofera tinctoria, is in flower, it contains the largest quantity of coloring matter. The beautiful vegetable and animal dyes which were compounded with consummate skill are now largely supplanted by the chemical dyes which are easily obtained. But in years to come the commercialism of the present will probably give way to the restoration of the splendid dyeing of the past.


Among Orientals a good deal of significance has attached, from the earliest days, to color. In Babylon scarlet was the symbol of fire, blue of air, and purple of water. Tyrian purple was an exquisite and rare shade of crimson. Many allusions are made to it by classical writers. The principal colors of the ancient Egyptians were red, yellow, and blue. Black was the symbol of error. White signified a holy life, purity, innocence of soul. The priests of Zeus and of Osiris were robed in white. Red was the symbol of zeal for the faith. Yellow was supposed to bring evil and sorrow. Blue was the symbol of truth. Black and white were often used to outline other colors.

The Persians, unlike most other Orientals, are not fond of bright colors. They are apt to avoid the light shades of red and green as being too showy, and further, as being liable to fade. Greens and yellows in dark shades they treat with more favor. They consider black and indigo as the symbols of sorrow; rose is the symbol of Divine Wisdom; green represents initiation into the knowledge of the Most High.

Among the Chinese, yellow is the symbol of royalty. The Emperor of China and his sons may wear yellow robes; their descendants wear yellow sashes and have yellow bridles for their horses. Red is the symbol of truth, virtue, and sincerity. It is the color of the highest degree of official rank. White is the symbol of mourning; black represents vice and depravity.

In Turkey, green is the most sacred color; and for that reason a true follower of Mahomet will not permit it to be used in his rugs, for fear it may be profaned by being stepped upon. Thirty-five or forty years ago no Christian was allowed to wear even a vestige of green anywhere upon him, while in Turkey; but this law is not now so rigidly enforced. If the Prophet or any of his family wear this color, no objection is raised, as he and they are considered holy, and thus exempt from the penalty. White is the color permitted to a student or a teacher of the law. To the Mohammedans of India and Persia, as to the Chinese, white is the emblem of mourning. In India, orange signifies devotion or pious resignation, and blue means ill-luck to the Hindoo.

Red was the favorite color of the Gauls, purple of the Romans, and saffron of the Greeks.




The supply of skins having been found inadequate to the gratification of their desire for comfort, the ancient Egyptians gradually developed the art of making mats from papyrus, a plant as important to them as any of our trees, fibrous grasses, or hemp are to us. While at work on the manufacture of these mats, the weavers used to squat on the ground. They became skilful, both in constructing the fabric and arranging the colors; the latter were quite bright and effective, being chiefly red, blue, yellow, and green, with black and white to define.

Egyptians used rugs in the decoration of their rooms, hanging them on walls and also suspending them between the pillars. But as the glory of Egypt departed, her skill in rug-making also declined; and the Egyptian rugs of the present day are of a coarse quality, being made in private houses under the primitive conditions that existed thousands of years ago. The last manufactory in working order was at Boulak, a suburb of Cairo, but it has been closed for several years. A great many rugs, however, are imported into Egypt, the majority being from Persia, Turkey, and India. Cairo is still one of the leading emporiums for the sale to tourists of rugs of Eastern make.


In Persia the art of rug-making has attained a very high degree of excellence, having been practised there during many centuries; indeed, the exact period when this industry was introduced into that country is not known. Tradition has it that long before the days of Alexander the Great, rugs were woven at Shuster, then the capital; and being a luxury, they were woven solely for kings' palaces, and on the finest gold warp.

The Persians having been an industrious and civilized people for many centuries, and a large proportion of them having been accustomed to the nomadic and pastoral life, it is a natural inference that love of gain and the demand from the growing towns for articles of beauty and luxury gave the wandering tribes the opportunity to utilize their wool by supplying the demand for rugs. Encouraged as it was under the reign of Shah Abbas, the industry prospered. Various kings of Persia cultivated certain branches of art and industry, but Shah Abbas especially gave a decided impetus to rug-weaving. He had a particular fondness for the beautiful creations of this industrial art, and the rugs made during his reign bring fabulous prices. After his death a reaction followed. Rugs fell into comparative disuse, and the manufacture deteriorated until about 1850, when, thanks to the demand in Europe, the industry revived. To-day it is in a flourishing condition and the most important source of Persia's income.

Persians, from the Shah to the peasant, sit upon rugs when eating, with cushions placed behind them. It is only the lowest beggar who has no rug. The rugs used by the Persians themselves are rather small, the larger ones being exported to foreign countries. Usually the rooms of Persian homes are small, and narrow in proportion to their length; consequently only small rugs are required. But even when the rooms are large, the Persians prefer several small rugs to one large rug, as a floor covering. They often first cover the hard-beaten ground with a matting of split reeds, and then lay over this so many small rugs that the matting cannot be seen. This custom is becoming more and more common in Persia. With their taste in design and color, they produce beautiful effects.


SIZE, 15.3 x 6.7

The tree design in its best and strongest elements is typified in this wonderful and most interesting Persian fabrication of olden time. The harmony of design and color is most impressive, and the size of the rug enhances this effect. It was evidently woven by one weaver, and years of patient labor and the greatest skill must have been bestowed on it. The richness of coloring, the velvet-like texture, the repose of design, are all unusual. The foundation is of a deep rich blue, and the exquisite rose and sapphire blues and ivory tones are in the softest and richest of permanent dyes. The border is wide, the main stripe of the rose shade, and the coloring all so blended that the continuity of the rug is complete. It is doubtless a product of Kurdistan.


The finest rugs are closely woven, with a pile like velvet, and with stitches on the back that resemble needlework. A rug has scarcely reached its prime until it has been down ten years; and it should last for centuries, if carefully used. As a partial explanation of this wonderful durability, it should be remembered that in their own homes the Persians use their finest rugs for hangings, and also that they take off their shoes before entering the house.

In ancient days rug-weaving in Persia was generally restricted to Ispahan, Khorassan, and Shuster, but in modern times the most noted districts are those of Sultanabad, Fars, Hamadan, Feraghan, Bijar, Kurdistan, Khorassan, and Kirman. But the industry is so widely spread over Persia that there is not a class of women who do not live by it, and very often really fine pieces of work are produced in districts where the art receives no encouragement. The districts mentioned above are more noted for the quality of the rugs they produce than for anything else. The rug of each district has a peculiar character of its own, both as to the quality of the wool and the design. The peculiarities characterizing each district are so noticeable that an expert can generally tell at a glance where a rug was made.

It is very difficult, if not impossible, to discover the exact value of the export and import trade of Persia. The source of this information is naturally the Customs Administration, which in Persia exists but in name. The duties of the ports and principal towns are farmed out to various persons, whose interest it is to send the inquirer away as ignorant upon the subject as he was before the interview began. But it is possible, after a great deal of labor in collecting statistics from the dealers of a particular article, to form an estimate probably not very far from the truth. By this method we judge that the average yearly export value of rugs in Aaragh (the Sultanabad district) is three hundred thousand dollars; Hamadan one hundred thousand; Bijar one hundred and ten thousand; Malair one hundred thousand dollars; Kurdistan fifty thousand; Fars seventy-five thousand; Kirman and Khorassan one hundred thousand; and in the less known districts collectively, fifty thousand dollars. The total of these figures classes the rug export in the very first order of exports. It is plain that this amount does not represent the full value of the manufacture, inasmuch as a great quantity of the goods does not leave the country. This quantity is perhaps small in comparison with that exported, but it is large enough to make the value nearly a million dollars.

It may be of interest to mention here that the export duty on rugs on the average is two and a half cents per square foot, and carriage to the seaports ten cents per square foot, while the import duty to the United States is forty per cent ad valorem and the specific duty ten cents per square foot.

[Illustration: KHORASSAN RUG

SIZE, 10 x 26

This is a perfect example of a Meshhed rug. The capital city of Khorassan has furnished many characteristic specimens of fine handicraft, but none more representative or beautiful. Here, on a splendid rich blue field, is the elongated palm leaf, with its markings of magenta, red, and blue. These palm-leaf designs extend over the entire rug, which is of enormous size. The border is in harmony with the field, and in coloring has the same deep, rich hues. The texture is firm and the rug is very heavy and imposing, with an air of solidity and strength. The illustration shows a section of this rug, giving a clear idea of its detail.


In Persia several firms have done a great deal in the way of encouraging the industry of rug-weaving in that country. To supply the demand for Persian rugs in Europe and America, these firms have erected buildings in Sultanabad, where they keep the weavers under control and steadily employed. These firms, having been long established, are conversant with the Persians and their character; and to prevent any deception they pay the weavers by the piece instead of by the day.

The rugs produced by these firms are of the medium quality. The wool is bought in the rough and manipulated for use. Every day a quantity of it is given out to the laborers, who must reproduce the design placed before them, and each laborer is paid from two to four dollars per square yard, according to the quality of her work. In the service of these firms, the weaver is obliged to put aside her individual taste and follow closely the designs, which are prepared in accordance with the prevailing fashions abroad. The independent native weaver does not pay any attention to the taste of the buyer. She places her work in the local market, and the native merchant purchases it for exportation.


Bakhshis rugs are made in a small village in the district of Azerbijan, and in the neighborhood of Herez. Those of thirty years ago were excellent, but now the materials of which they are made are poor, the rugs badly woven and of indifferent coloring. They come in large sizes, usually having a medallion in the centre.

Bibikabad rugs are quite modern, and are supplied to the market at Hamadan. Aniline dyes prevail, and the rugs are of inferior design and texture.

Bijar rugs of olden time were artistic; of those of to-day this statement cannot be truthfully made. The wool is still fine and silky, but there is an element of crudeness of design and a defiance of the laws governing color. A pronounced medallion in the centre is usually seen. This is set in a solid field of a strong contrasting color. Sometimes the field is of a bright red or blue, with the medallion omitted. The borders are generally in the same color as the field, or in camel's hair, sometimes covered with crude figures of human beings or animals, or decorated with flowers in vivid red, yellow, or green. The rugs are heavy, and in the American markets are known as Sarakhs.

Birjand rugs (so called) are woven almost exclusively in the village of Daraksh, about fifty miles northeast of Birjand. The weavers of these rugs came originally from Herat. The rugs are generally satisfactory, the weaving being fine, although the pile is often uneven.

Burujird rugs are made sixty miles from Sultanabad, and south of Hamadan. They resemble in their field and in the firm texture the Saraband rug, the palm-leaf design being arranged throughout the field. The border is mainly white, with minute variations of the palm design.

Djushaghan rugs are woven in a district south of Feraghan. They are durable and attractive. The Shah Abbas design is a favorite one in antique rugs of this kind. The field is generally of a rich red, and occasionally a rare sage green. Often there is a lighter shade in the border than in the field. Crosses with angular ends are a feature, and between these are floral designs.

Feraghan rugs of olden time are as satisfactory as any rugs handed down to us. They are so harmonious in coloring and design as to be most restful to the eye. They have a richness and sheen that make them most desirable, and when to the usual soft colors a deep violet is added the attractiveness increases. A distinguishing feature is the Herati design, covering a field usually of a rich deep blue. Sometimes the Guli Hinnai design is observed, with its more elaborate treatment. The border is often a light ground covered with a design in the form of rosettes and palmettes connected by a running vine. The main border stripe is frequently in a rich green and sometimes of a deep rose. When there are corner areas and a centre medallion they are arranged so symmetrically that the harmony is complete. The colors in these areas and the medallion are often in cream, light green, or red. At the present time Feraghan exports annually a large number of rugs rather loosely woven, but soft and durable. These are made by the Bactrian tribes. The entire centre is often filled with rather small irregular figures on a dark blue field. Yellow is often employed in a modern Feraghan, both in the border and in the field. Quite an important feature of Feraghan and other places of high altitude is the rug-woven saddlebag. When stuffed, such bags make comfortable sofa-pillows, or they can be placed as seats on chairs. Throughout Asia, saddlebags are used for the transportation of household and personal effects and other goods, and by children for their schoolbooks.

Goerevan rugs are woven in the neighborhood of Herez. They are exported in large sizes, and are generally rather showy and elaborate. Quite firm and durable, they are popular for dining-rooms. As they are in great demand in the trade, they are turned out too rapidly, but careful selection brings happy results, for sometimes a truly beautiful rug, with rich warm coloring and a medallion not too pronounced, is found.

Hamadan rugs are generally of camel's hair, although sometimes goat's hair is added. The field is in the natural shade, as is the surrounding border. An elongated medallion appears in the centre; this is ornamented with floral designs in red, blue, and yellow, as are also the corner areas. Antique Hamadans are very beautiful. Soft and silky, yet with firmness of texture, and in subdued coloring, they seem appropriate for any room. Some of them, with fine, delicate tracery, in soft shades, remind one of beautiful stained glass seen in the old cathedrals of Europe.

Herat rugs are now woven in Persia by tribes originally from Afghanistan. The old city of Herat was under Persian influence, which accounts for the fine character of its rugs. The modern Herat rug is of excellent quality and durable. The leading design is naturally the Herati, and again one sees the palm leaf with its apexes all pointing in the same direction. The field is generally a deep blue, although sometimes a rich red, and even ivory. Green is apt to be the main color in the border, and occasionally the butterfly motif is noticed. Some of the modern rugs have medallion centres, in which the wool is generally red or blue, and sometimes green or yellow.

Herez rugs are attractive, the chief color often being a fine blue, upon which rests a pronounced medallion. The corners are defined by serrated lines, and are in shades of the red in autumn leaves. Often these corners are decorated with small designs. The main border stripe is light in color—often cream—with good-sized markings. Herez rugs are made in the province of Azerbaijan.

Iran is the official name for Persia, and when a rug is called by this name, the meaning is simply that it is a Persian rug.

Ispahan rugs are antiques. During the sixteenth century and the reign of the great Shah Abbas, and even earlier, these magnificent fabrics were woven. Superb in coloring, with beautiful designs and of superior workmanship, the examples still in existence are indeed precious. In these old rugs one finds a field of red that is rich and rare. It looks like carmine, and then again it seems as if one were looking into a goblet containing the choicest wine of past centuries. Once seen, the shade is not forgotten. So also with the wonderful moss-like green that occupies the main border and the running vines of the Ispahan rug. Black—the most corrosive of all dyes—although used, has disappeared, leaving only the foundation. A medallion, star-form in effect, often occupies the centre. Over the field are scattered palmettes and lotus forms, all connected by running vines. A wide middle border between two narrow stripes holds the rosette and palmette, and also the lancet leaf, in tiny form. When cloud bands are seen they show Chinese influence, as do the lotus forms.

Kara Dagh rugs are made by nomads who are called Aylauts, and who live in the mountainous region north of Tabriz. In appearance, as well as in texture and size, they resemble those produced in the Caucasian province of Karabagh on the other side of the boundary. The natural color of the camel's hair, and rose color too, are much used. Sometimes the camel's hair is mixed with goat's hair. The designs are floral and rather striking in effect.

Kermanshah rugs of modern make have usually a medallion with a lotus motif in the centre of the field. This is generally of ivory, ornamented in soft tones of blue, green, or rose. The usual light effect of the rug makes it rather more suitable for a reception room or a bedroom than for other places. There are, however, deeper tones in these rugs, and sometimes there are no medallions. Perhaps the rug is most pleasing with the palm-leaf design and that of the tree, or with many birds and various floral conceptions. The borders blend harmoniously with the rest of the rug. The finest rugs of Kermanshah were formerly made in the palace of the Governor, and many were presented to leading rulers.

Khorassan rugs are woven in the province of that name and are characterized by various forms. A long palm effect or floral design is apt to be in the borders of antique Khorassans; and a prominent color in these rugs is magenta, which, though sometimes rather harsh in the modern rugs, is soft and beautiful in the antiques. Blue is also a leading color, and animals, including the lion and the gazelle; birds of several varieties; flowers symmetrically arranged, and geometrical forms, are all often seen. The Herati design is a usual one. When stripes occur in the field they are beautifully decorated with small floral designs or with the palm, and occasionally with that migratory insect, the locust. The rugs are unevenly clipped, which gives a soft, lustrous effect. Meshhed, the capital city of Khorassan, weaves rugs of fine colors; the palm leaf when represented on this rug is very large and impressive, often on a deep blue field. Animals and birds are frequently seen on the Meshhed rug.

Kirman rugs, made in the province of Irak-Ajemi, frequently have a medallion in the centre, entwined with flowers. Sometimes the Tree of Life is represented, its branches bearing different fruits, and often there are symbolical little birds in the border. Sometimes a vase of flowers is the principal ornament, or several small trees either with or without foliage. Silk has often been introduced into the old rugs with charming effect. The Kirman rug is one of the most easily recognizable. It is of very fine quality, and is highly decorative. Antique rugs of this kind have the finest of wool, and, with the artistic arrangement of beautiful flowers, cypress trees, and palm effects, are most pleasing. One of the finest in this country is reproduced in this volume with a description accompanying it.

Kurdistan (the Persian portion) is a large region inhabited by the nomadic tribes called Kurds; and the sheep and goats belonging to these tribes furnish the fine wool that is woven into Kurdish rugs. The color effects are generally good. Often dark blues and reds form the groundwork, in the centre of which is a lozenge or large diamond form ornamented with small designs of the palm leaf. Then, again, a repeated design is laid out over the field. Designs of the tree, palm, and rosette, and various floral forms appear. By examining the web at one end, a design in colored wool is generally found. In one of these rugs in my own collection the centre contains twelve different symbolical designs, including the turtle, comb, star, and cross, while the corner areas and borders hold at least thirty-five others. All of them are so carefully woven that much thought must have been bestowed upon this very strong, splendid rug.

Laristan (see Niris) rugs.

Meshhed (see Khorassan) rugs.

Mir-Saraband (see Saraband) rugs.

Muskabad (see Sultanabad) rugs.

Niris rugs are made a little to the southeast of Shiraz, in the province of Laristan, and the latter name is that used in the Western markets. All around Lake Niris are pastured sheep with fine lustrous wool which is used in the manufacture of rugs. In the modern ones floral and geometric stripes often alternate through the field, or there is a medallion in the centre of a plain field, with corner areas. The border carries several designs. There is a checked effect in the webbing at the ends. The rugs are very strong and excellent for hard use. In the older ones blue was used in the field, with rather large forms of the palm leaf.

Oustri-Nan rugs have the palm-leaf design over the field, and a good deal of white in the borders. They are firm and durable.

Saraband (Serebend) rugs are woven in the district of Sarawan. They always have a distinct feature in the small palm leaves that fill the field. These leaves have the hook turned at the top from left to right in one row, and right to left in the next. Usually the field that these palm leaves adorn is soft red or rose in color. Again it may be deep blue, or occasionally ivory, in which case the palm design is in red or blue. The border is always harmonious, and there are many narrow stripes which form it. The widest one is generally in an ivory tone, while the undulating vine and small flower forms appear in some of the borders. Then, too, one finds the Caucasian influence in some of the borders, and the reciprocal trefoil is often seen. Occasionally a human figure is carefully outlined in the border, and this brings a personal element into the rug. Then again, the date is woven in. Mir is the name of the village in this district where the design had its source, and in the trade to-day the finest of these rugs is often called Mir-Saraband.

Sarakhs (see Bijar) rugs.

Saruk rugs are very closely woven in the hamlet bearing this name. The floral designs scattered over the field of rose, dark red, or blue show a spontaneity of workmanship that is not governed by Western enterprise, though, curiously enough, aniline dyes prevail. The wool is very fine. The border is composed of a wide middle stripe, with a narrow one on either side.

Savalan (see Sultanabad) rugs.

Serapi (see Sirab) rugs.

Shiraz, the capital city of Pars, has exported some of the most interesting and exquisite rugs in existence. In the sixteenth century Shiraz was at the height of its prosperity, and all the neighboring country was noted for its flocks of sheep, which produced the finest of wool. Rugs were made at Shiraz for the reigning Shahs, who had palaces there, and the workmanship displayed in them was most beautiful. The city was visited by an earthquake in 1853, and since that catastrophe the manufacture of rugs has not regained its former prosperity; yet great improvement has been shown in recent years, and the same vegetable dyes are still in use. The Shiraz is often called the Mecca rug, as it is the one frequently selected by pilgrims to that city. Deep rich blues are often seen in a Shiraz rug, and frequently stripes extend throughout the centre, as well as in the border, where diamond forms and crosses are also frequently seen. The medallion and the palm leaf are also found. Many Persian poets have sung of the wonderful rose gardens of Shiraz, and the rug weaver there has faithfully reproduced in glorious hues these beautiful flowers. Other flowers, too, decorate this rug. The webbing at the ends is embroidered in colored yarns.

Sinna rugs are made in the province of Irak-Ajemi. They have a very fine texture, and are greatly prized by rug-lovers. The pile is of the best wool, and very closely cut. The Herati design, minutely woven, often occupies the entire field. Again, a lozenge-shaped figure is in the centre, and covered with the most delicate tracery. The field of the rug is often in white or ivory, or in soft blue, red, yellow, or even peach-blow tint. Yellow is used frequently in the border and corner areas. Often the finest of these rugs will be puckered near the edges; that is because the yarn is so tightly twisted in the weaving. Owing in part to this firm twisting and also to the fine, close knotting, there is much durability in the best specimens.

Sirab rugs are woven in the village of that name in the district of Azerbaijan. In Western markets the name has been corrupted, and the rugs are there called Serapi. These rugs come in large sizes, and are of excellent colors. A medallion of good proportions occupies the field, and about this floral designs are arranged. Sometimes inscriptions are seen in the rug.

Sultanabad is one of the most important of the modern rug-producing regions of Western Asia. Factories are kept busy supplying the market, and in many cases excellent rugs are manufactured. This is especially true when old patterns are used, for no modern ones sent out by Western firms can be deemed worthy to take the place of original Oriental designs. Large quantities of rugs from this district are exported to the United States, and are then frequently called Savalans. The groundwork is generally light in color, and the designs are many, while the variety of brilliant hues is perhaps the largest in Persia. Muskabad is a trade name for a certain grade of rug from this district.

Tabriz rugs are now supplied in large bales to the trade from factories that are under Western jurisdiction. They are of well selected yarn, closely woven, and very durable. The weaving is faultless. The centre medallion is in a rich color, set in a field of ivory or other solid color, and decorated with floral forms. The sharply defined corner areas and the borders also contain floral designs in attractive colors. Sometimes cartouches with lines from a Persian poet or birds and animal forms are seen in the borders.

Yezd, where the fire-worshippers live, furnishes rugs with a short pile, but these are used chiefly in mosques, and seldom leave Persia.

A fine Persian rug is valuable, even at the seat of manufacture. A small one, measuring three by four and a half feet, quite modern, but very fine and with splendid colors, has been sold at Teheran for eight hundred dollars.


The term Turkish Rugs includes all those rugs that are manufactured within the Turkish Empire, whether the manufacturers be Kurds or Circassians or Christians; the last of these names comprises the Armenians, the Greeks, and the Syrians. Turkish rugs are not so finely woven as Persian; they have a longer pile and looser texture. As they are usually very soft and thick, the foot when walking upon them feels as if it were treading upon a bed of moss.

The principal rug-manufacturing district of Turkey is Karajah Dagh. Much weaving is done also at Caesarea. The rugs found at Adana are generally from the latter region, while those sold at Urfa are either from the Kurdish territory or from Persia. In Constantinople are seen rugs from almost every part of Asia, but the greatest number are from within the Turkish territory of Transcaucasia.

Each rug-weaving district of Turkey seems to have a distinct and individual class of rugs; and this is not surprising, for there are a number of different tribes, each of which impresses its individuality upon the work. The surface configuration and the climate of a place have much to do with the quality of the rugs manufactured within it. Naturally, in the rocky, mountainous regions the flocks consist of goats instead of sheep. The sheep would be injured among the steep, sharp crags, and much of their wool would be lost, as it would adhere to the rocks. The goats, however, being hardy, easily jump from crag to crag, sustaining no injury to their hair.

The hair of the goat is woven into the mohair and so-called Smyrna rugs, and also into what is known as Paul's Tent Cloth. This last is woven quite differently from other rugs; it is the coarsest of all, and the women weave it on the ground. To make it firm enough to keep out every drop of rain requires laborious work with the fingers, but when the cloth is woven with care it is a most excellent shelter from the storm. A large Paul's Tent, such as a rich man owns, costs about four hundred dollars. It shelters the women of the household, as well as the cattle; and one part is partitioned off for a guest-room.

In Turkey the floor is always covered with matting, and the matting, in its turn, is so closely covered with rugs as to be quite concealed. In large cities rugs are used in the Summer for divan and couch covers; in the Winter the same rugs serve as beds.

Constantinople is the greatest rug market in the world. Every known nation is represented in that wonderful city, where the ancient industrial skill of Asia meets the steadily increasing demands of the West. Nothing can be more interesting to the rug-lover than to wander through the streets and byways, observing the different phases of his favorite industry. The Custom House, where enormous bales of rugs await transportation; the great warehouses, which handle only at wholesale; the bazaars, and even the street vendors, possess each an absorbing interest. The travelling merchants from Persia, who yearly journey to Constantinople, establish themselves in that busy section of the city known as Stamboul. Here they erect their khans, covering the walls and floors with rugs, many of which are really splendid in tone and quality. The large retail houses at Constantinople usually have collections of very choice rugs.


Akhissar rugs have a thick pile, and are loosely woven. Their colors are usually red and green. Rugs of mohair are made at Akhissar.

Anatolia, or Asia Minor, produces both rugs and mats of good quality. The Anatolian rug is large and very heavy. The Anatolian mats are made in large numbers, and are very thick and soft. They are used by the natives for pillows. Some are very beautiful; and although many are turned out with aniline dyes, many others are splendidly colored with vegetable dyes. The designs are many and varied.

Bergamo (ancient Pergamos) rugs have a long, silky pile, and are almost square. They are quite thick, and have geometrical figures in the centre, while the borders are floral in effect. The colors are rich, generally yellow, green, red, and blue. A red webbing at each end carries a blue or yellow embroidered stripe. Antique Bergamos are very beautiful.

Brusa (Broussa) had a fresh impetus in the rug industry a few years ago. Very fine and beautiful silk rugs are woven there now by Turkish women and girls. The Great Mosque and the Mosque of the Thunderbolt at Brusa both contain rare old rugs.

Caesarean rugs have a thicker pile than any of the rugs woven in Anatolia. They are garish in color and are stained with chemical dyes. Large numbers are turned out by the factories, but they in no way resemble the good rugs of former years, except in their durability.

Cassaba (see Sparta) rugs.

Demirdji rugs are a product of modern growth, unknown thirty-five years ago. To-day the town is a large manufacturing centre. The rugs bear strong Turkish elements. They are heavy and durable, and woven of excellent wool when of the first quality. There are, however, three different qualities. The weavers of these rugs have a small pattern which they reproduce in the large sizes.

Ghiordes rugs of antiquity are not in the market. Once in a decade it is possible such a rug changes hands, but this is either the result of lack of knowledge on the part of the owner, or because he is in pecuniary straits. The rug derives its name from the ancient town of Ghiordium, and its form is that of a prayer rug. The weavers were most painstaking, and used the finest of dyes and designs. The hanging mosque lamp, or a tree form, is suspended from the high point of the niche, and a column appears on either side of the field, extending to the spandrels. Above is a horizontal panel, and there is generally one below the field. In colors there is a discriminating use of the old porcelain blue, rare green, red, yellow, ivory, and white. When white was chosen, the weavers often substituted cotton for wool, thinking it would keep its purity of tone longer. The field is generally in one of these solid colors. The borders are most interesting and beautiful. The main stripe is usually ornamented with well-defined designs of small flowers and leaves, arranged with a square effect. The other borders are generally floral, while the zigzag water motif encloses the field. The apex of the mihrab or niche runs high in the Ghiordes rug. A silk fringe often finishes the top. One collector in Constantinople has many very fine and rare specimens. He began to collect Ghiordes rugs years ago, before the value of the rug became generally known. The modern rugs are very coarse, and have no resemblance to the old ones.

Hereke rugs receive their name from the village about forty miles from Constantinople, on the Gulf of Ismid, where the Sultan has established the imperial factories and a school of art. About four hundred young women, mostly Greeks, are here actively employed in weaving rugs in silk and wool. His Imperial Majesty is anxious to give employment to the village girls, and takes much interest in this industry, which was started about fifteen years ago. The rugs are reproductions, for the most part, of famous antiques belonging to the Sultan. In 1898 Emperor William of Germany visited this factory. After his return home the Sultan sent him a large number of Hereke rugs. In 1902, during one of my sojourns in Berlin, I was permitted by the courtesy extended to me by the court official in charge of these rugs to see the entire collection arranged in one section of the Palace. Beside the magnificent antique Persian rugs belonging to the Imperial House of Germany these modern Turkish rugs were startling in color; but the texture was fine, and time will, of course, subdue the glowing colors, which are now often softened in the Western markets by a washing process known to certain firms. Old mohair rugs are also being reproduced at the Hereke factory with good results. Great attention is paid in all these rugs to exactness of detail in reproduction.

Kara-Geuz rugs are mostly of the runner order, with mixed designs and fugitive colors.

Karaman has a considerable trade with Smyrna. Its rugs are coarse, loosely woven, and not at all attractive.

Kir-Shehr rugs are made in the province of Angora. Because of their durability and thickness they are both useful and desirable. Their colorings are rather strong, but fine; green is the most usual color, although red and blue are frequent. The designs are mostly of Arabic origin, and quite highly decorative.

Konieh rugs are of great weight and resemble Ouchaks. They usually have a plain centre, and when there are panels these are also of one shade. Being firm and strong they are very durable.

Kulah prayer rugs of ancient make are most interesting and valuable. They are about the size of the old Ghiordes prayer rug, and have other points in common, which might be expected from the proximity of the towns. The Kulah rug, however, instead of the solid centre of its neighbor, is apt to have its field ornamented with small floral designs. The colors most prominent are a yellowish-brown, a blue, or a soft red. Green and white are seen at times. There are many narrow stripes as borders, often alternating in dark and light colors, and these are beautifully ornamented with floral effects in minute designs. The niche of the prayer rug is of medium height, often with serrated sides.

Kurdistan (the Turkish portion) rugs are woven by the women in odd moments, and one of the ways a girl gains distinction among her associates is by the skill she displays in rug-weaving. As the wool is taken from the flocks that are kept near home, and is spun and dyed there, and as the time consumed in the weaving is not counted, each rug is considered clear gain. In fact, the Kurdish women do not make their rugs entirely for the market, but for their own entertainment and use. Kurdish rugs are very durable, and they are much prized in Turkey; but they do not sell readily in America because of the lack of that harmony of color which our taste demands. Their coloring is often too bright and varied to attract us. An Armenian clergyman said to me recently: "I find Americans more devoted to harmony than to anything else. I have in my house one of the finest of Kurdish rugs, but I could never sell it in this country, should I wish. An American looks at it and says, 'What hideous colors!' and I doubt if I could even give it away, although it would be considered a superior rug in Turkey."

Kutahia sends out Anatolian rugs of goat's hair and wool. Some improvement has been noticed in the rugs recently.

Ladik prayer rugs were made in the ancient city of Laodicea. They are among the finest rugs of old workmanship. The field is of a solid color, often a rich wine-red. The niche is serrated on the inside to the apex, which is enclosed by straight lines. On the outside of the niche one often sees the hook design, extending into the upper field, which in its turn is frequently ornamented with lancet-shaped leaves and floral forms. The Rhodian lily sometimes plays a part in the border design. White, red, blue, a light tan, and green, with an occasional touch of violet, are used. The webbing is red, and extends about an inch and a half, when a narrow fringe finishes the ends.

Meles (Melhaz) rugs of modern make are of coarse texture, and brilliant in fugitive dyes of red, yellow, blue, and green. They find a market at Milassa. The modern prayer rug does not compare favorably in any way with the antique. The texture of the ancient rug is thin, but with a wealth of coloring and blending of hues, as beautiful as rare. Sometimes, too, the Ghiordes panel is seen above the niche. A good deal of black was used in the old rugs, but, as is usual in antiques, it has gradually disappeared with age. Violet, too, is a color that was sometimes used with great effect in old rugs.

Mohair rugs are made of the soft, silky hair of the Angora goat; but though beautiful, they are not durable, as experiments tried at Akhissar and Kulah have shown.

Mosul rugs are strong and rich in colorings of blue, yellow, green, and red. The designs are rather striking, and with their silky softness these rugs are generally desirable. The best are made of camel's hair, including the outer border, but occasionally they are made partly of goat's hair. They are now made in several Turkish provinces, and are often wrongly called Persian rugs.

At Ouchak, with its large population, there are steadily at work about two thousand looms, giving employment to fully four thousand weavers, and as many as one hundred and fifty dyers. Ouchak is the principal city of Asiatic Turkey for the dyeing of the wool of which the rugs are woven, and that industry is carried on in many factories. Ouchak rugs have a thick pile; and though green is forbidden by Mohammedan law, the modern rugs frequently have green for their dominant color. The reason for this innovation is that the influence of their religious faith has waned, and consequently the law regarding that color is not now strictly enforced. The weavers of these rugs are mostly Moslem women and girls. The wool is generally bought in the interior from nomad tribes, and the weaving is carried on in private houses in a manner similar to that of other rugs, except that the yarn is spun more loosely. In the early history of rug-weaving these rugs were known in the Western market as the Yapraks, and the colors were, almost invariably, red with either green or blue. Until recently, even the best Ouchak rugs were apt to have inferior wool for their foundation, and hemp was frequently employed. The wool was loosely woven, and the dyes were fugitive. There are now, however, certain provinces in Turkey, including Ouchak, where the products are controlled by European and American firms, and where excellent wool and natural dyes are used. The rugs made under such control are very durable and in every way satisfactory. In size Ouchaks vary greatly, ranging from a few feet to fifty by twenty-five feet.

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