The Evolution of Vintage Turkish Rugs

The modern day nation state of Turkey spans both continents of the world and has been at the heart of several sweeping empires over the centuries. This unique location on the edge of Europe and Asia has acted as a natural bridge between the great civilizations of the east and west. In this role, the Turkish people and their rug weaving brethren have embraced new styles, patterns and techniques in a continuous evolution of rug making that continues today.

It was the Turks that introduced Oriental antique rugs to Europe and their designs are still prized by contemporary designers for their decorative appeal. The iconic gul or prayer rugs, small repeating pattern motifs and the Safavid-style arabesques of vintage Turkish rugs are among the earliest Oriental carpets to be widely exported into Europe. Many of the most celebrated European painters such as Memling, Lotto and Hans Holbein were influenced by these Persian-influenced designs and often featured them in their works.

As the Seljuks faded from power in the thirteenth century, the vast territory of eastern Asia Minor (modern Turkey) was absorbed into the growing and expansive Timurid Empire. Fortunately for the ancient craft of rug production, the Timurid rulers were as passionate about carpet design as their predecessors and further advanced the art form. Their innovations included the emergence of the central medallion format and the addition of animal designs to the popular Safavid Persian motifs and patterns that had previously dominated the landscape.

By the sixteenth century, the Ottomans had quite literally seized control of most of the lands that were once ruled by the Seljuk and Timurid dynasties and oversaw one of the biggest transitions in the history of artisanal rug making. Their influence was felt in the form of niched prayer rugs and a shift toward more intricately designed field patterns with winding detail elements that would soon be associated with the Ghirlandaio and Crivelli Star styles.

The rug weaving centers of the Ottoman era – Oushak, Konya, Milas, Sivas and Ghiordes – produced some of the most refined Turkish rugs to be seen anywhere in the world. Their refined curvilinear and geometric patterns are a favorite of contemporary interior designers for their gracefulness and sophistication. Whether the designer is aiming for a rustic space or a palatial drawing room, vintage turkish rugs are essential elements of the design. Their oxidized colors, posh pastels and whimsical botanical themes offer a plethora of aesthetic choices to enhance any design theme.

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