Antique Rugs

Antique Rugs and Antique Carpets – The History

Khorassan Antique Rug

The origin of antique rug weaving is often disputed. Experts have uncovered splendid carpets in the palace of Cyrus the Great, who ruled the ancient Persian Empire in the 6th Century B.C. People crafted these antique carpets in very small villages and sold them for placement in residences. Many of the rugs featured designs and weavings unique to the particular community or tribe in which they were created.

The artistic high point for antique carpets occurred during the 15th to 18th centuries, under the reign of the Safavid Dynasty. During that period, the Shahs supported the weaving industry by ramping up commercial production and organizing weaving workshops that employed highly skilled artisans. 

These royal workshops had a purpose: to give designers and workers the tools and space they needed to create the best, most intricately designed antique rugs. Many carpets featured thread made of gold, silver or silk – an example of the astounding quality of these textiles. Highly skilled artists would sketch the rug patterns, and the most talented weavers would implement the designs. The Shah’s full support made sure the quality of the product was unparalleled during these times. After establishing trade with Europe, Persian rugs stimulated the Persian economy and heralded the dawn of a prosperous era. The most highly sought-after antique carpets come from this period, including two of the most prized rugs ever woven – the Ardabil Carpets – which hail from the 16th century. 

The fundamentals of weaving antique rugs have not changed for centuries. Many of the earliest known techniques and materials are still in use in the major rug producing regions of the world today such as Turkey, China, Persia, India, Morocco, and Europe. Every antique rug tells a story. This story gives us an incredible insight to the time period in which they were created, and the lives of the weavers.

The Importance of Antique Rugs

Sultanabad Antique Rug

Antique rugs, when it comes to cultural significance and historical importance are in class of their own. Each culture, especially the ones deriving from ancient civilizations or of purely tribal provenance, ensures the longevity of their design iconography through the making of rugs. Most high-end antique carpets, particularly those from Persia or India, have traditionally been made in sophisticated urban settings where exceptionally high value was placed on such fine artistry. More tribal and casual carpets were woven by nomadic tribesmen and women as they had access to coarser materials and didn't have the advantage of an established rug loom. These men and women were inspired by cultural trends and historical events.

The golden age of rug weaving in India, Persia and Turkey occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries due to the Industrial Revolution in Europe. For the newly emerged merchant class at the time, oriental rugs primarily functioned as beautiful status symbols of wealth and good taste. Most of area antique rugs in the vast Doris Leslie Blau’s collection were produced during this period.

Antique rugs can vary in color, size, design, and material. Trends in utilizing antique decorative rugs are constantly changing. One of the current popular trends in buying antique carpets is towards neutral colors which can be used in any environment. Although antique decorative carpets come in a myriad of colors, every one of them has the potential to anchor a room and to create an inviting ambiance; after all, a rug is the foundation of any great room. Edgar Allen Poe once wrote that "the soul of the apartment is in the carpet.", and we could not agree more with the great writer.

The Origins of Antique Rugs and the Continuity of Their Artistic Significance into the Present Day

What is the Difference Between an Antique Rug and a Vintage Rug?

Antique Rug with Floral Motifs

While a precious, finely woven carpet may be classified as oriental or Persian on the basis of its design, only rugs that are at least 80 years old or more can be considered or classified as being antique. The younger ones, from 30 to 50 years old, should be called vintage.

There is also a different, more restricted division, saying that antique rugs are solely those made before the 1930s as around then happened a great transformation of the entire rug industry. During that time, machine-spun wool substituted the hand-spun wool, and artificial dyes came in place of vegetable and natural ones which had a huge impact on the general shape of woven textiles, although 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 that heavily influenced the art world and the perception of beauty, mainly in Europe but also in Asia, which, in turn, was reflected in the designs of rugs from the mid-20th century (now considered mainly as vintage).

Nonetheless, it is unwise to apply this kind of division for vintage and antique rugs. First, as Western influence expanded across the Middle East, the native peoples began to lose their autonomy and authenticity, and their ability to maintain traditional patterns diminished along with their ability to preserve traditional craft techniques. Secondly, many rugs created in the modern era after the 1925, if made according to old and refined methods, match the indisputable excellence of ancient Persian carpets. 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 sing of wear than the mere fact of being made before the 20th century that classifies an antique rug.

What are the Origins of Antique Carpets?

The exact origin of weaving, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, is not entirely clear. Nonetheless, the first hand-woven textiles were most certainly born on primitive looms in the tents of nomadic tribes and under the roofs of early settlers who needed them for a series of reasons, floor covering being one of the latter. In their humble beginnings, antique rugs served as bedding, mantle, shelter or dowry, and played an important role in the lives of people not only on their floors and walls. Although Persia is considered the cradle of carpet production, artistic weaving techniques for the creation of precious antique decorative rugs came into being in different and disparate cultures at near-simultaneous times.

Translating the genesis of oriental rugs to present-day geography, one may safely assume that carpets come from Iran, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Tibet, China and everywhere near or in between those countries. Middle East and Asia are the forerunners of hand-woven textiles, however Europe also had its role in the shaping of antique carpets, not to mention the later yet extremely valuable input of North America.

What are Techniques and Designs of Antique Rugs?

Antique Indian Rugs

Even now, the fundamentals of weaving fine floor coverings are the same for most weaving centers, though it does not mean that the antique rug world is dull and homogenous. Each region has developed its own weaving style and utilized various materials, from wool, cotton, silk and jute, to metal threads, banana silk or even horse hair. Natural dyes, obtained from plants and minerals were both visually striking and capable of standing the test of time. Bona fide carpets, which are recognizable to experts and collectors alike as fingerprints would be to a forensic scientist, age beautifully even as they fade. Ethnically identifiable artwork, symbols and colors, which evoked the culture and norms of the weaver, are usually incorporated in the designs and artistic layouts. The fabrics used in antique rug creation and even the weaving process utilized are usually named after the country, region or culture that they were developed and perfected in.

If we are to look at the history of antique decorative rugs, ancient Persia, with its venerable tradition and special connection to carpets, would probably be the best place to start.

The History of Antique Rugs From Persia

The first official mention of the existence of an oriental rug – a Persian carpet, to be exact – occurred within an ancient Chinese text during the Sassanid Period of the Persian empire. The Sassanid period lasted sometime between the 3rd to the 7th centuries , encompassing the era of the Persian history before the ascent of Islam.

Until 1935, the Islamic Republic of Iran was referred to as Persia, which is why woven rugs from that culture still carry that moniker to this day.

Persian antique rugs and carpets are notable for their intricate and elaborately detailed designs containing, inter alia, outdoors and wildlife motifs. The color palette for traditional antique carpets from Persia heavily relies on the great coloristic trio – the royal red, the vibrant blue and the serene beige/gold, however all kinds of dyes and hues can be found within the rich repertoire of Persian rugs. They are also known for the expert use of regional, political and culture-specific symbols, designs and weaving processes to tell complex and involved stories concerning the magnificent history of the Persian Empire, next to representing important religious concepts and the sheer beauty of nature. Multiple regions and creative centers of weaving warranted the naming of particular kinds of rugs and weaving techniques to be named after the place they were produced in.

Persian Antique Rug Designs and Appearance

Blue Antique Rug with Floral Motifs

Persian antique rugs are known and identifiable for the use of high quality wool in the weaving process, as well as highly advanced techniques, incorporating the asymmetric knot known as Senneh. They can also be recognized by the wide ranging palette of colors used in designs, with the prevalence of three major shades – red, blue and beige/gold. While ageing, antique Persian rugs acquire color striations resulting from abashment – a natural fading side effect from using natural dies, evident is some of the rarer and beautiful pieces. Antique rugs from Persia were woven by nomadic tribespeople, village artisans, or manufactured in large commercial centers. The vast majority of Persian carpets is pile-woven, however there are instances of flat-woven specimens, usually those of tribal or rural provenance.

Antique Carpets From Sultanabad

Antique Carpet from Sultanabad

Sultanabad rugs are identifiable via the creative and artistic use of overall palmette, vine-scroll and floral-themed curvilinear designs. Their designs are large-scale, detailed and grandiose, absolutely correspondent to equally magnificent size of antique rugs from Sultanabad. The color tones are very often of eye- popping vibrancy yet that’s not the rule – sometimes the palettes are chromatic and striking, some other times subtly faded and subdued. Sultanabad is now current called Arak, and it is located in Iran, the former Persia. The weaving region was founded in the early 1800’s, and was purposely developed to mass-produce artisanal-level decorative carpets designed for the western market.

Antique Rugs From Kirman

Antique carpets from Kirman are notable for the extremely high-quality wool, known as Carmania wool, used in their production, which, next to masterful craftsmanship and irresistible appearance, elevates them to the position of one of the finest Persian floor coverings. Awe-inspiring Kirman rugs frequently use a latticework field design technique that holds together all-over floral patterns, palmettes, and vases. Antique decorative rugs of Kirman can also be identified by the frequent use of non-traditionalist and broken guard or main borders, though it is not a rule. Kirman, also alternatively spelled as Kerman, is an ancient city and, at the same time, a region in Iran that has been producing these expertly made carpets since at least the 15th century.

Antique Rugs From Tabriz

Antique Rugs from Tabriz

Tabriz is an ancient city in Iran, and is the titleholder of being the place with the oldest confirmed link to the art of weaving. Tabriz rugs demand attention due to the use of muted, pastel color tones, either purposefully or as a result of natural abrasion. They are known for the application of Herati or fish-themed, curvilinear and majestic emblem designs and patterns, however, due to the long existence of the weaving center, almost all oriental motifs can be found within the magnificent borders of antique carpets from Tabriz. Antique rugs of Tabriz are also known for medallion dominant designs, full of intertwined floral, bush, branch and tree motifs known as the “tree of life.” The tree of life belongs to the most classic and significant oriental patterns, and represents hope for eternal life.

Antique Carpets From Meshad

Antique Carpets from Meshad

Meshad, also known as Mashad, is a famous weaving center located Iran that has been manufacturing top-notch carpets for centuries. Meshad rugs are usually a little larger in size than most traditional antique rugs. They also tend to have unique center medallion designs and creatively intricate curvilinear, floral and outdoor-themed emblems and motifs. These antique carpets are usually made in the finest soft wool. In fact, Meshad carpets are notable for their softness in comparison to other woven carpets.

Antique Rugs From Khorassan

The ancient Iranian region known as Khorassan has been producing room-sized antique decorative rugs on a commercial scale since the 19th century, though its history with the art form extends back even further. Khorassan carpet designs incorporate expertly planned out and hand-woven arabesque patterns, curvilinear lines, floral themes, woodland animals, people and tree-of-life emblems. Many antique carpets of Khorassan feature lush, earth-toned, green backgrounds, and, in general, striking and arresting monochromatic background color tones. They are widely known for their dependability, durability and high quality of material, usually wool.

Antique Carpets From Bidjar

Antique Bidjar Rug

Bidjar rugs were sometimes colloquially and locally referred to as the “Iron Rugs” of Persia because of the coarseness, toughness, heaviness and durability. Antique rugs and carpets from Bidjar feature a tightly packed pile weaving, produced through a highly elaborate artisanal process called ‘wet-weaving’. The fabric is kept wet during the weaving process, and also it is hammered throughout the weaving and fabric tightening procedure. This technique results in a dense, stiff and very durable rug. The colors used in production are chromatic, vibrant, deep and saturated. Antique carpets of Bidjar are more identifiable by weaving technique than artistic design as they notoriously difficult to fold or roll.

Antique Rugs From India

Antique North Green Rug

Indian rugs feature an intense color palette, but are also clearly inspired by the Persian style of weaving. The art of rug weaving was probably introduced to India in the 16th century via Emperor Akbar. Antique rugs from India are most noticeable for their use of asymmetrical design and application of vibrant, chromatic, soft earth tones, as well as muted color backgrounds. A lot of Indian rug patterns are intricate and expertly woven yet many represent minimalist style in overall design. Though Indian rug weaving began through the inspiration and borrowing of Persian influence, over the centuries, Indian weaving artisans have managed to develop a style that is all their own.

Antique Rugs From Amritsar

Amritsar carpets are the result of the combined efforts of Indian weaving talents and the eminent colonial influence. These antique rugs were designed to cater to the international and ,especially, Western markets. Millefleur floral arrangements dominating the field, subtle and muted color tone palettes, along with curvilinear lines are, among others, the hallmarks of the unique Amritsar style. The commercialization of the weaving craft in India did not get fully started until the late 19th, with the advent of English rule and colonialism.

Antique Rugs From Agra

Antique Rugs from Agra

Antique rugs from Agra are recognizable for the artistic use of smaller sized central medallions and the employment of open field arrangements, resembling of more traditional designs. All-over patterns, together with curvilinear and tiled emblems make expert use of this artistic weaving format. Antique carpets of Agra are the perfect mergers of Persian and Indian crafts. They feature strikingly vibrant, chromatic and tasteful color tones. These weaving wonders are one of the most frequently purchased Indian rugs by collectors and tastemakers alike.

Antique Carpets From North India

Antique Carpets from North India

The quality and caliber of North Indian carpet making has been nurtured and protected by the families and companies of artisanal weavers who long ago originated the style. These antique rugs feature minimalist but creatively intricate and dense designs, as well as patterns that are a testament to the weaving techniques developed in the region. Antique decorative rugs from North India are notable for tiled, all-over designs featuring open fields with muted color tones and abrashed dye striations.

Antique Rugs of Dhurrie Type

Dhurrie Antique Rugs

Dhurries are distinguished by a flat-woven construction, as opposed to the pile-woven carpets, which largely contributes to their durability. They are very flexible, can be reversible, and are relative easier to care for than most traditional artisanal rugs. Antique rugs of dhurrie type are resistant to silverfish and other insects responsible for destroying woven fabrics. Dhurries were prized for their beautifully composed colors and pattern arrangement. Throughout history, dhurries were used as bed coverings, threshold covering, mantle or mediation mats, among other functions. Dhurries can be larger in size than other rugs and are more frequently made of cotton than wool. They were of ideal use in political demonstrations and social gatherings as they are relatively lighter and foldable due to their design.

Antique Rugs From Turkey

Antique Rugs from Turkey

Antique decorative rugs from Turkey are usually hand-knotted and pile-woven. They are also alternately referred to as Anatolian rugs as the region of Anatolia is the most renowned, and actually the main, center of rug making in Turkey. Rug making is a traditional and deeply-rooted art form in Turkey which reaches back to the time before the ascent Islam in the country. History, tradition, cultural pride and societal identity can be traced with the right discerning eye in the myriad of designs, colors and patterns found within an antique Turkish rug. Turkish carpet making is also notable for being the artistic bottleneck that introduced the arts of Oriental weaving to the continent of Europe. Antique carpets from Turkey are notable for their pillar designs, intricately stylized center medallions, regal arabesque patterns and striking, muted colors.

Antique Rugs From Oushak

Antique Turkish Oushak Rugs

Also known as Ushak rugs, antique rugs from Oushak are identifiable by the lush, silky and fine wool used to create them. This variety of rugs applies designs with centralized medallions and minimalist fields, tiled patterns as well as floral emblems and motifs. A traditional Turkish motif known as Gul, representing an elephant footprint is perhaps the most characteristic of antique decorative rugs from Oushak, especially in an allover, repetitive arrangement in the main field. Oushak antique carpets utilize luminous and muted color tones, scattered vine scroll spray designs, rectilinear designs and the strategic use of palmettes. They are famed for their mood enlightening colors and light visual appeal.

Antique Rugs From Sivas

Antique Rugs from Sivas

Turkish Sivas antique rugs are widely known to employ Persian artistic designs. To a large extent, their creative style copies earlier Persian symbols and patterns, however, it is nothing unusual for weaving creations originating from the territory of the former Rug Belt as the vast majority of classic Persian motifs was shared by various countries and cultures dealing with rug weaving on a grand scale. You can spot an antique rug from Sivas by looking for curvilinear, millefleur and non-medallion open field designs. Sivas carpets also feature artistic, repetitive tiled patterns, as well as monochromatic, pastel-light or gleaming color backgrounds.

Antique Carpets From Tulu

Tulu Antique Carpets

Tulu carpets are expertly hand-woven in the long pile and large knot technique. These antique rugs are made with coarse fabric and were originally used as sleeping mattress covers. Tulu rugs feature decidedly non-traditionalist, experimental, minimalist and abstract medallion and all-over designs.

Antique Rugs From Hereke

Turkish Hereke Antique Rug

Antique decorative rugs from Hereke are lush oriental rugs named after the city and town where they were produced. Hereke carpets are executed with silk, wool, cotton and sometimes gold or silver thread incorporated into the fabric. In 1841 a Turkish sultan commissioned the creation of a Hereke manufacturing center and brought the best weavers and artists to the region to start creating. Hereke antique carpets are larger than most traditional rugs. Some were even adjusted to palace and mansion dimensions. Hereke carpets are hand woven with a Turkish double symmetric knot, known as Ghiordes, making them very durable.

Antique Rugs From Ghiordes

Ghiordes Knot Antique Rug

Ghiordes antique carpets are known for their centralized medallions, all-over field designs and minimalist styles. Some of them are very non-traditionalist and abstract, and do not feature medallions or conventional field arrangements. Instead they expose repetitive tiled patterns of ancient symbols and motifs. Ghiordes antique decorative rugs are notable for their use of bold yet monochromatic backgrounds. Some have wide borders or nor borders at all. Ghiordes carpets were widely coveted by the Europeans of the 17th century.

Antique Carpets From Borlou

Antique Rug from Borlou

Borlou carpets have been produced in Turkey since the 13th century. These antique decorative rugs are identifiable by their centralized medallion faces, curvilinear designs, all-over open field patterns and the use of pastel and sepia toned, muted background colors. Borlou rugs project a majestic, regal and slightly antiquated beauty.

Large Antique Rugs

Large Antique Rugs

The best destinations for acquiring large antique area rugs are undoubtedly Turkey, India and Persia, each of which has its own weaving traditions and customs. Nonetheless, you do not have to travel long distances to find yourself face to face with the weaving wonders of antiquity. At Doris Leslie Blau we offer genuine antique rugs for sale in all dimensions. A large floor covering will constitute a magnificent addition to a wide array of interior arrangements, especially those spacious and ample enough to contain the grandiose beauty of oriental wonders. Big antique carpets are made of the finest silk, cotton or wool, although some weavers began to use plant-based fibers such as hemp or jute. Each large antique rug in the stocks of Doris Leslie Blau is a unique piece of art which we proudly offer to our considerable clientele.

Medium Antique Carpets

Medium Antique Rugs

Antique decorative rugs in a medium size can be encountered probably in every possible style as this dimension has always been the most commonly applied. This fact contributes to the extreme variety of medium antique carpets which, in turn, will allow you to find an antique rug of your dreams suitable just for your interior arrangement. Whether it is a Persian rug, a Turkish rug, and Indian, Chinese, Moroccan or European weaving creation, most certainly we have a medium antique carpet in out stocks to match you expectations. Moreover, such a floor covering will easily fit into the size of any contemporary apartment without overwhelming the space but, instead, bringing in the dazzling beauty of ancient oriental decorative art. At Doris Leslie Blau we take great pride in providing all kinds of antique rugs for sale in NYC and other parts of the world.

Small Antique Decorative Rugs

Small Caucasian Antique Carpet

Small antique decorative rugs are usually connected to the subject of religion. The largest group of small carpets deriving from antiquity are probably Persian and Turkish prayer rugs that, next to being beautiful objects of admiration, serve a practical function for the followers of Islam. Born out of necessity to make the daily Muslim worshipping routine more comfortable, prayer rugs were shaped to provide insulation from the ground and a safe platform for the believer during the 5 times of prayer each day, wherever one may find himself. However, today, prayer rugs are slowly starting to be perceived as collectible items rather than religious ones. Nonetheless, prayer rugs are not the only existing carpets in a small size. At Doris Leslie Blau we are in possession of an outstanding collection of small antique rugs for sale, ready to complement your house décor. A small rug will be a perfect addition to many rooms in the house, including a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom or even a vestibule, bringing in touches of color and patterns, saturated with meaning and cultural significance.

We cordially invite you to view the largest collection of antique rugs and carpets at the crossroads of the world – New York City.

Please visit our gallery at 306 East 61st Street, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10065 to see our Antique Rugs Collection.

An Exceptional Collection of Antique Rugs for Sale

Antique Persian Mohtashem Kashan Rug Antique Rug from Tabriz Turkish Oushak Antique Rug Antique Rug from Tabriz Large Indian Antique Carpet Indian Amritsar Antique Rug Oushak Antique Rug