22 Jul History of the Persian Rugs
Antique Persian rugs are the height of cultural and artistic excellence. The Persians were the top rug weavers of the early civilizations who built the foundations of what is known as the best rugs industry in the world today.
The earliest existing Persian rug was discovered in 1949 by a Russian professor Rudenko during the burial mounds excavations in Siberia. It dates back to 5th century B.C. There was another rug found in the area which dates back to 1st century B.C. According to historical records, the amazing Persian rugs decorated the court of Cyrus the Great over 2,500 years ago.
It was during the Sasanian dynasty (224-641 AD) when a great era in the history of Persian rugs came. By the 6th century, Persian rugs had won a global fame and were being largely exported to various distant lands. Persian rug weaving became a spasmodic industry in various parts of the country after the fall of the Sasanian dynasty. The artistic life of the country, including rug weaving, declined after the Moguls invaded in the 13th century. But the Mogul conqueror Tamerlane spared artists from his bloody havoc and put strong emphasis on Persian rugs. So, the art of rug weaving started to flourish once again.
The Persian rug weaving reached its peak during the reign of the Safavid dynasty (1502-1736). Shah Abbas, a famous king of this era, transformed the rug weaving industry by establishing a royal rug factory in his capital Esfahan. Artists were hired to prepare various designs to be created by expert craftsmen. The art of utilizing silver and gold thread in rug weaving was also developed during this period. Two of the best-known rugs of this period come from the mosque of Ardabil. They date back to 1539 and many experts believe that these rugs represent the height of antique Persian rugs craftmanship in terms of design. The largest of the two rugs is now kept in Victoria and Albert Museum in London while the other smaller one is displayed at the Los Angeles County Museum.
Under the Safavid dynasty, Persia attained its artistic zenith. Court weaving, along with the arts of tile work, miniature painting, and calligraphy thrived to exceptional heights. This era saw the development of sophisticated and highly qualified rug factories in the cities of Herat, Tabriz, Kashan, Isfahan, and Kerman.
The exports of Persian carpets, including the red Persian rug, started in the 16th century. Starting in the 1850s, German, English, and American firms established several new rug weaving factories in Sultanabad (now Arak), Kerman, Tabriz, and Mashed, hence ensuring the continued development of the art form. Under Reza Shah Pahlavi, the shah of Iran, many royal factories were established to use the finest methods and materials of manufacture.
Today, production of most Persian style rugs, e.g. red Persian rug, has largely shifted from traditional hand weaving techniques to mechanized production. Although you can still find hand woven Persian rugs on the market, you must pay far higher prices for them. Currently, antique Persian rugs are the largest non-oil export of Iran.