The Culture Of Elevating Carpets Weaving To An Art Form
Considering the volume written on Persian carpets, it would be pointless to hope to capture even a snapshot of the subject as a whole. This is meant to be a synopsis or introduction intended only to acquaint the novice with certain aspects of the genre.
The Persians were the most successful at elevating carpets weaving to an art form. Their carpets are recognizable by intricate and refined patterns. They are often said to be poetic and naturalistic in styling. Dominant in Persia, the Shiite branch of Islam allows for freedom of expression in design that is unequaled in other Islamic countries. For example, the Sunnites in Anatolia are restricted from representing the human form. The calligraphic styling of many Persian carpets is accomplished by using the Senneh knot, or asymmetrical knot, which assists in the formation of curvilinear designs, although in the west and northwest weavers used the symmetrical knot almost as often. Many colors are commonly found in Persian carpets, they are always arranged with imagination, careful planning, and balance.
The Safavid dynasty (1502-1722) definbed carpet weaving as an industry and decorative art form. The art form reached its apex during the reign of Shah Abbas the Great (1587-1629). During this period of Persian history, carpet weaving experienced innovations which revolutionized production. In terms of materials, the Persian began using silk in foundation and pile. This permitted more detailed and minute decoration. The second major innovation was the establishment of court workshops in the most important cities: Tabriz, Isphahan, Kashan, Kerman, and Herat. These workshops employed highly trained artisans to create finely knotted carpets for the nobility. This weaving venue also led to the most dramatic divergence between town and court manufacture, and village and nomadic production. This divergence is due to the third major innovation, the separation of design and weaving functions.
Rugs became a social emblem of status and privilege, whereas they were formerly closely associated with worship and daily life. Their primary function from this point forward became decorative. Functionality became secondary to the sign. The most exquisite pieces were given as gifts to awe the rulers of the great European nations.