My Obsession with Oriental Rugs
If I’m being totally honest, my obsession with Oriental rugs did not start in the usual way. I don’t know what one would consider “in the usual way,” but my journey into the world of Oriental rugs has been unusual, to say the least.
It started out like any normal Saturday night until I stumbled upon my old VHS copy of Aladdin. Remembering how fond of the movie I had been when it first came out and all the good memories I associated with the film, I sat down to enjoy it once more for old time’s sake. I smiled, I laughed, I cried, but one thought plagued me the entire duration of the film.
Where can I get my own flying magic carpet?
That’s right, all I could focus on throughout this animated children’s movie was the magic carpet and where I could find one. Sure, a monkey sidekick would be cool, marrying a princess has its benefits, and inheriting a kingdom could help me out financially. However I’m a realistic guy and I know the odds of any one of those events occurring are next to none. So I set my sights on tracking down said flying magic carpet. After many hours of intense digging on eBay, Amazon, and Craigslist I have found the solution to my carpet problem.
Now, before we go any further, I have to disclose a disturbing fact: there is no such thing as a flying magic carpet. Don’t let that discourage you from the possibility of welcoming an Oriental rug into your life though. These rugs represent several nations’ artwork and the history of these rugs is rich enough to satisfy any art-history-lover’s sweet tooth. And though these rugs can’t fly, I would argue that they have just as much appeal.
Now that you know about my humble beginnings with Oriental rugs, it’s only natural that we should dive into their humble beginnings as well.
Oriental Rugs: A Brief History
Some scientists think that the first rugs were used as protection from the elements as well as decorated a person’s domestic environment. Their evidence for this is a Pazyryic carpet found in the frozen tombs of Bashadar and Pazyryk in the High Altai region. While this was the oldest, mostly intact specimen they could find, scientists don’t believe that race was the first to design and create these rugs. Based on the patterns displayed on the rug, which depict some non-Persian elements, they believe it would be more possible that the Persians were inspired by Nomadic “Scythian” art. Since much of the world was nomadic in that time period, there is not enough solid proof to make claims about where the first rug came from. However, the first documented evidence on the existence of these lavish rugs came from Chinese texts dating back to the Sassanid period, which was 224-641 CE. Time period has been determined, but country of origin remains a tad murky.
While these nomadic tribes braved the elements with rugs on their backs, royalty saw rugs as a declaration of their wealth and rank. Reports state that the Achaemenian court of Cyrus the Great at Pasargade was decorated with carpets. It was said that Alexander II of Macedonia was dazzled by these majestic carpets.
This history started with nomadic tribes just trying to survive, and it has thrived through many years of various dynasties, emerging empires, and revivals. For the most part, it has remained untouched and only enriched by the history that happened around it.
To most, for a rug to be considered “Oriental,” it has to hail from Asia. Makes sense. However, rugs that come from Iran are called Persian rugs, like the ones I mentioned above. The main reason for this is because Iran is formerly known as Persia. That’s not too confusing, right? Certain modern-day markets and vendors tend to group these rugs based on the specific towns and cities where they are constructed, instead of using general terms like Persian or Oriental. If you’re new to buying Oriental rugs, like I was when I started, it can all seem a bit overwhelming. Take this list, for example. It includes some of the most famous varieties of antique Oriental carpets.
- North Indian
- North West Persian
None of those really jumped out at you or even seemed remotely familiar, right? Don’t let this list fool you or discourage you from buying a rug. I like to compare this experience to the first time I bought a car on my own. There are so many choices to make. First, you have to decide if you want new or used, then you browse through various makes, then you look at all the different models, and then you have to consider various packages and add-ons for your vehicle. There are so many steps involved and if you’re an indecisive person, it’s most likely going to be a stressful experience. Rug buying doesn’t have to be and I’ll tell you why.
Make and model doesn’t matter so much here. Chances are if you’re researching and reading into the history of Oriental rugs, you’ve already decided you want an authentic antique one. Step one done. Consider where you plan on putting this rug, in what room, whether or not it will be a centerpiece or more of a background piece. Step two done. Because the designs are so specific to each region, whatever design speaks to you will determine what location you’re buying from. So forget about location, location, location, and simply observe the design. Do you like the colors, the patterns, the symbols, or the aura? At the end of the day, you’re the one who’s going to have walk on, look at, and live with this piece of art. It should make you happy, inspire you, and feel like a worthy investment (because it is!).
If you’re still with me, next article I’ll be discussing the significance and meaning behind the various colors, patterns, and symbols. Stay tuned!