Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

designs of ingenious blossom and leafy scrolls, conventional arabesques, botanical and animal forms, and cartouches enclosing Kufic inscriptions (see the splendid example known as the Ardebil carpet, Plate III. fig. 7, and another in Plate IV. fig. 9). Types of the more austere design occur in carpets from Afghanistan, Turkestan, Bokhara and Asia Minor, N.W. India and even Morocco, the other types of freer design being almost special to Persian rugs and carpets.

Next in historic importance to Persia, Turkestan and Asia Minor is India, where the making of cut pile carpets—known as Kalin and Kalicha—was presumably introduced by the Mahommedans during the latter part of the Indian Carpets. 14th century. But the industry did not apparently attain importance until after the founding of the Mogul dynasty by Baber early in the 16th century. The designs mainly derived from those of Persian carpets of that period do not as a rule rise to the excellence of their prototypes. Historical centres of Indian carpet making are in Kashmir, the Punjab and Sind, and at Agra, Mirzapur, Jubbulpore, Warangal in the Deccan, Malabar and Masulipatam. Velvets are richly embroidered in gold and silver thread at Benares and Murshidabad and used as ceremonial carpets, and silk pile carpets are made at Tanjore and Salem. For the most part the best of the Indian woollen pile carpets have been produced by workers of repute engaged by princes, great nobles and wealthy persons to carry on the craft in their dwellings and palaces. These groups of highly skilled workers as part of the household staff were paid fixed salaries, but they were also allowed to execute private orders. During the 19th century the carpet industry was developed in government gaols. Produced in great quantities the prison-made carpets as a rule are less well turned out, and the competition, set up between them and the rugs and carpets of private factories has had a somewhat detrimental effect upon the industry generally. Older in origin than the cut pile carpets are those of thinner and flat surface texture, which from almost immemorial times have been woven in cotton with blue and white or blue and red stripes in the simplest way. These are called daris and satranjis, and are made chiefly in Benares and northern India. They are also made in the south and by such aborigines retaining primitive habits as the Todas of the Nilgiri Hills, a fact which points to the age of this particular method of making ground or floor coverings.

A condition that has always controlled the designs of Oriental carpets is their rectangular shape, more often oblong than square. As a rule, there is a well-schemed border, enclosing the main portion or field over which the Condition controlling designs of Oriental Carpets. details of the pattern are symmetrically distributed. Simpler patterns in the field of a carpet or rug consist of repetitions of the same device or of a small number of different devices (see Plate II. fig. 4). Richer patterns display more organic pattern in the construction, of which the leading and continuous features are expressed as diversified bands, scrolls and curved stems; amongst these latter are very varied devices which play either predominant or subordinate parts in the whole effect of the design (Plate III. fig. 7). Angular and simplified treatments of these elaborate designs are rendered in many Asia Minor or Turkey carpets (Plate I. fig. 3); but the typical flowing and more graceful versions are of Persian origin (see Plate III. fig. 7, and Plate IV. fig. 9), usually of the 16th century. Mingled in such intricate stem designs or “arabesques” are details many of which have been derived on the one hand from Sassanian and even from far earlier Mesopotamian emblematical ornament based on cheetahs seizing gazelles, on floral forms, blossoms and buds so well conventionalized in Assyrian decoration, and on the other hand from Tatar and Chinese sources. The style, strong in suggestion of successive historical periods, seems to have been matured in Mosil engraved and damascened metal work of the 12th and 13th centuries before its occurrence in Persian carpet designs, the finest of which were produced about the reign of Shah Abbas. A good deal earlier than this period are carpets designed chiefly according to the simpler taste of the Sunnites, and such as these appear to be mentioned by Marco Polo (1256–1323) when writing that “in Turcomania they weave the handsomest carpets in the world.” He quotes Conia (Konieh in Anatolia), Savast (Sivas in Asia Minor), some 300 m. north-east of Konieh, and Cassaria (Kaisaria or Caesaraea in Anatolia) as the chief weaving centres. It is the carpets from such places rather than from Persia that appear to have been the first Oriental ones known in European countries.

Entries of Oriental carpets are frequent in the inventories of European cathedral treasures. In England, for instance, carpets are said to have been first employed by Queen Eleanor of Castile and her suite during the latter part of the Carpets in Europe. 13th century, who had them from Spain, where their manufacture was apparently carried on by Saracens or Moors in the southern part of the country. On the other hand, Pierre Dupont, a master carpet-maker of the Savonnerie (see below), gives his opinion in 1632 that the introduction of carpet-making into France was due to the Saracens after their defeat by Charles Martel in A.D. 726. But more historically precise is the record in the book of crafts (Livre des métiers) by Etienne Boileau, provost of the merchants in Paris (1258–1268), of “the tapicers or makers of tapis sarrasinois,[1] who say that their craft is for the service only of churches or great men like kings and nobles.” In the 13th and 14th centuries Saracen weavers of rich and ornamental stuffs were also employed at Venice, which was a chief centre for importing Oriental goods, including carpets, and distributing them through western Europe. Dr Bode, in his Vorderasiatische Knüpfteppiche, instances Oriental carpets with patterns mainly of geometric and angular forms represented in frescoes and other paintings by Domenico di Bartolo (1440), Niccolo di Buonaccorso (1450), Lippo Memmi (1480) and others.

Of greater interest perhaps, and especially as throwing light upon the trade, in, if not the making of, carpets in England somewhat in the method of contemporary Turkey carpets, is the specimen represented in Plate III. fig. 6. This may have been made in England, where foreign workmen, especially Flemings, were from early times often encouraged to settle in order to develop industries, amongst which pile carpet-making probably and tapestry-weaving certainly were included. The earliest record of tapestry-weaving works in England is that of William Sheldon’s at Barcheston, Warwickshire, in 1509, and, besides wall hangings, carpets of tapestry-weaving were also possibly made there.[2] The cut pile carpet belonging to Lord Verulam (Plate III. fig. 6) was perhaps made at Norwich. It has a repeating and simply contrived continuous pattern of carnations and intertwining stems with a large lozenge in the centre bearing the royal arms of England with the letters E.R. (Elizabeth Regina) and the date 1570. It also has the arms of the borough of Ipswich and those of the family of Harbottle. The sequence or continuity of its border pattern fails in the corners at one end of the rug or carpet in a way very common to many Asia Minor and Spanish carpets (see Plate I. fig. 3, Plate II. fig. 4, and Plate IV. fig. 10); not, however, to the majority of Persian carpets (see Plate III. fig. 7, and Plate IV. fig. 8). A large cut pile carpet in the Victoria and Albert Museum has a repeating pattern of star devices, rather Moorish in style, with the inscription on one end of the border, “Feare God and Keep His Commandments, made in the yeare 1603,” and in the field the shield of arms of Sir Edward Apsley of Thakeham, Sussex, impaling those of his wife, Elizabeth Elmes of Lifford, Northamptonshire. This may have been made in England. A carpet of very similar design, especially in its border, is to be seen in a painting by Marc Gheeraedts of the conference at old Somerset House of English and Spanish plenipotentiaries (1604), now in the National Portrait Gallery, London. A more important and

  1. The tapissiers sarrasinois were apparently the makers of piled or velvety carpets, and have always been written about in contradistinction to the tapissiers de haute lisse or tapissiers nostrez, who it appears did not weave piled or velvety material, but made tapestry-woven hangings and coverings for furniture.
  2. In Hakluyt’s Voyages mention is made of directions having been given to Morgan Hubblethorne, a dyer, to proceed (about 1579) to Persia to learn the arts of dyeing and of making carpets.