Antique rugs are decorative heavy textiles that were created at least 80 years ago. This general category includes carpets from all over the world, Orient and Occident alike. Apart from the purely utilitarian function, they constitute the record of our ancestors’ skills, beliefs, and artistic sensitivity.
What distinguishes antique from contemporary creations is traditional craftsmanship. Hand-made of natural materials (wool, cotton, silk, sometimes silver or gold threads), authentic antique rugs are qualitative, ready to serve for centuries, provided proper maintenance. This is one of the main reasons behind their high value and renown.
In the past, the connection between craft and art was much closer than it is today. Thus, each antique rug is, in fact, a well-thought-out story, told through colors, patterns, and motifs. No matter if simple or complex, tribal or urban – antique rugs deserve to be perceived as timeless artworks rather than mere floor coverings.
The Importance of Antique Carpets
The art of carpet weaving was born and developed in the East, where antique rugs soon became basic pieces of furniture, totally indispensable in everyday life. In the West, a rug – a fascinating product of human hands – is merely a décor element, serving to cover floors, partially hidden under furniture. In the East, a rug has always been a symbol of a family home, a place where you eat, sleep, and find shelter. In the culture of Islam, there is even a special kind of rugs used during prayers – prayer rugs. It is through this context of everyday life that one should look at antique rugs to appreciate their cultural role and to get a proper perspective in order to correctly “read” their hidden messages.
How to Look at an Antique Rug?
How a westerner can approach a product of such a remote cultural circle and, lacking basic criteria of aesthetic categories, on what grounds can he formulate opinions on antique rugs? When we evaluate a piece of western art, let’s say a painting, we look at it through the adopted in the west prism of space, perspective, proportions, etc. Moreover, in most cases, we know the name of the author, his or her artistic background and the cultural context of the work.
Antique rugs do not fit into these criteria and are usually anonymous, with only a few exceptions. That’s why, from the very beginning, a rug has been look upon as a utilitarian object, not meant for display in art galleries. If we want to evaluate an antique rug, we must know that its artistic value comes from the juxtaposition of two specific elements – pattern and color. A design may be less or more complex, the color palette – neutral or contrasting – but it is the relation between the two factors that determine the style of a particular rug.
The composition schemes and decorative motifs have remained practically unchanged for centuries. It is the way of their interpretation and arrangement of motifs as well as the choice of colors that define various styles which constantly evolve over time in miscellaneous geographic regions.
Four Major Styles of Antique Rugs
We distinguish four general major styles of antique rugs, associated with four environments in which they were made – tribal, village, urban and palatial. The shaping of each style was influenced by many factors: artistic tradition, destination, type of loom, material, knot and the matter of whether an antique carpet was meant for domestic use or for sale.
And so, tribal rugs would be the simplest, based on a few contrasting uncomplicated colors. Village rugs are more sophisticated, with varied color palettes and botanical or geometric motifs. Rugs from specialized urban weaving workshops can be very complex with aptly matched colors, often muted for the balance of the design. Finally, antique rugs from royal manufactories are distinguished by the most refined workmanship – they are opulent and rich, with very intricate designs, both figurative and abstract, and a wide array of harmoniously arranged colors.
Therefore, the style of each rug depends on the environment from which it derives. The tradition of these environments has altered only slightly over the span of centuries. To properly assess the artistic value of an antique rug, next to the appearance, one must take into account also its purpose and making a technique.
Types of antique rugs
What is an Antique Rug and How are Antique Carpets Made?
The term ‘ antique rug’ is usually applied in reference to a decorative fabric, hand-made of natural materials on looms, that is at least 80 years old. The supporting structure (or the very body in case of flat-weaves) is made of intertwined threads that go vertically (warp) and horizontally (weft). Knotted rugs are created by making horizontal rows of knots –one or more weft threads go under and over (usually) two warp threads creating a knot. The remaining thread is then cut to a certain length creating a pile.
To execute a design, weavers use yarn of different colors, treating each knot as an element of a bigger ‘mosaic.’ There are different ways of knotting and weaving yet raw materials remain the same – it is mostly wool, cotton. Silk and metal threads appear in the rarest and most exclusive antique rugs.
Where Do Antique Rugs Come From?
The exact origin of the craft of weaving is not entirely clear. First hand-woven textiles were most probably born in the Middle East on primitive looms in the tents of nomadic tribes and under the roofs of early settlers more than 2 thousand years ago. Families needed them for a series of reasons, floor covering being one of the latter. Originally, antique rugs served as bedding, mantle, shelter or dowry – they played an important role in the everyday life of people back then. Persia is considered the cradle of antique rug production. However, weaving emerged in many different and disparate cultures at near-simultaneous times.
Translating the genesis of weaving to present-day geography, one may assume that carpets come from Iran, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Tibet, China and everywhere near or in between those countries. Middle East, North Africa, and Asia are the forerunners of hand-woven textiles. Nonetheless, Europe also had its role in shaping of antique carpets, not to mention the later yet valuable input of North America.
What is the Difference Between an Antique Rug and a Vintage Rug?
There is also a different, more restricted division. It says that antique rugs are those made before the 1930s. Why? Around then happened a great transformation of the entire rug industry. The machine-spun wool substituted the hand-spun wool, and artificial dyes came in place of vegetable or natural ones. It had a huge impact on the general shape of woven textiles. Yet, it wasn’t long before craftsmen returned to the previous, more traditional methods of production. Moreover, the dawn of the 20th century met with rapid and decisive changes in the socio-political field. The changes influenced the art world and the perception of beauty both in Europe and Asia. This, in turn, found reflection in the designs of rugs from the mid-20th century (now considered as vintage).
Nonetheless, it is unwise to apply this kind of division for vintage and antique rugs. Let us explain why. As Western influence expanded across the Middle East, the native peoples began to lose their autonomy and authenticity. Their ability to maintain traditional patterns diminished along with the weaving techniques. But that is not all. Many rugs created in the modern era after 1925 match the indisputable excellence of ancient Persian carpets. Those at least 80 years old, made according to the ancient craft, deserve the name of 'antique.' Inevitably, in time, what used to be modern or vintage is becoming antique. It is rather a question of beauty and ability to withstand years of usage without a sign of wear than the fact of originating before the 20th century that classifies an antique rug.
Antique Rugs Across the Globe
Hearing about antique rugs, the first thing that comes to mind is the broadly construed 'Orient'. The connotation is not accidental – regions which have always been the most involved in carpet production belong to the so-called “Rug Belt,” stretching from Morocco across North Africa, the Middle East, into Central Asia and northern India. This includes countries such as northern China, Tibet, Turkey, Iran, the Maghreb in the west, the Caucasus in the north, and India and Pakistan in the south. Some of these places have been making rugs for more than 2500 years.
Although Persia (present-day Iran), is probably the most renowned of all these destinations, each of them has something to boast about. Even within one cultural circle, individual weaving centers bring in their own characteristic techniques and patterns.
Nonetheless, antique rugs, even of various origins, have a lot in common. The natural human curiosity and drive towards sharing and gaining knowledge set the lore of carpet in motion through trade routes. The influences mixed endlessly and now, one can find the most iconic Persian designs in India, Turkey or China, and the other way round.
The know-how on rug-weaving wandered into the Occident too. In the western hemisphere, weaving had obviously been known long before the arrival of the first carpet from the east in the early Middle Ages. However, the craft of making fine rugs was definitely inspired by the works of oriental artisans. Eventually, Europe has begun producing carpets anywhere from Scandinavia through France to Bessarabia.
Why Do We Love Antique Rugs?
Antique rugs are in a class of their own. Exclusive and exotic, they are objects of desire of collectors around the world. What lies behind such prominence of antique rugs? They may vary in color, size, design and material. Nonetheless, two things are common to them all – quality and never-fading beauty.
Made according to traditional techniques by skilled artisans, antique rugs sport meticulous designs. These patterns inspire awe even in the finest of contemporary craftsmen. Due to diligent workmanship, today we may marvel at ingenious carpets that were born ages ago. If we continue to seek out and care for these artworks, they will last to please further generations.
Although the fashion circle goes on constantly changing the trends, antique rugs are always in vogue. The timeless character of antique oriental rugs never ceases to fascinate. Each antique rug has the potential to anchor a room and create an inviting ambience. After all, a rug is a foundation of every marvelous interior. Edgar Allen Poe once wrote that “the soul of the apartment is the carpet.” We could not agree with the master more.
Yet, the greatest power of antique rugs lies in their cultural significance. Steeped in history and permeated with symbolism, they teach us about the past while helping to understand the present. Individual motifs and colors of antique oriental rugs combine in intricate patterns. These, like the legendary Scheherazade, tell stories, express emotions and document the life of our ancestors. Practically every culture in the world ensures the longevity of their iconography through rugs. This shows how important it was for our predecessors to merge craft with meaning and art. To imbue utilitarian objects with soul. Let’s not squander this splendid, centuries-old legacy.
Where to Find the Best Antique Rugs in New York City?
Are you a New Yorker wondering “where can I find antique rugs near me”? Doris Leslie Blau prides itself on being the most trusted purveyor of antique rugs in NYC. Our company’s policy is focusing on the quality and authenticity of our products above all. We invite you to come and visit our showroom located at: 306 East 61st Street, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10065. This is your chance to commune with great artworks of the weaving craft before making a purchase.
Our vast collection features rare antique carpets created in both well-known weaving centers as well as in remote villages and nomadic tribes. The place of origin influences the style of the rug, its symbolism and the aura which it will eventually bring to your interior design. No matter whether you are looking for an oriental, opulent Persian rug or a simple, tribal creation from Morocco, you may rest assured that you will find “the one” in our New York rug gallery.
Antique Rugs for Sale Online at DLB
We offer our antique and vintage rugs for sale in the online store. The DLB website contains all the information you need to choose the perfect rug for your project, including a detailed specification and thorough description explaining the meaning behind each design. If in doubt, you can freely contact us by calling 212 586 5511 – we are always at your disposal.
We have old rugs in every size imaginable in stock, from small tribal pieces to large area carpets. 8×10 antique rugs are perhaps the most commonly chosen by our customers for the living room. However, this is just a suggestion – the way in which you want incorporate the antique rug of your dreams into your interior is entirely up to you.
Antique rugs are usually not cheap, but their price is fairly justified. Laborious hand-crafting using natural materials and dyes which are not easily obtained paired with deeply symbolic patterns makes them exceptional décor elements that introduce not only great style but also soul into any space. Let yourself be carried away by their irresistible charm.
Antique Rugs for Sale in the Collection of Doris Leslie Blau
Doris Leslie Blau has been dedicated to bringing the glamor of antique carpets closer to people for more than 65 years. We are confident in our ability to deliver top-shelf products and customer service at the highest level. To us, antique rugs aren’t just objects. They are true artworks with important messages behind designs and gripping stories concealed within the intertwining warp and weft. They are poetry written with threads.
We treat every antique carpet with the upmost respect. Our expertise results from sheer passion – it makes unkeen on sharing it with others. We assist our clients every step of the way and try to ensure they leave not only satisfied but absolutely infatuated with their new purchase.
Antique rugs for sale from our collection are recherché treasures that will make a stunning statement in any décor. We invite you to browse our website in search for the perfect design or to our gallery to feel the magic under your fingers.