Oriental rug on a wood floor

by Dr. Lori Verderame

In the late Victorian era, Oriental rugs were all the rage. Collecting rugs from exotic locales like Persia and Indian was popular.

Persian Rugs

Persian rugs were highlighted in rug production workshops of the royal court. Artisans were inspired by book illustrations. Many rugs were based on the figural medallion motifs found alongside of paintings and drawings of animals, figures, and landscapes. Persians rugs are known by their curvilinear flower forms in a blue and red color palette.

Herat rugs are the most well-known and feature a central medallion on a wine-red field and a green border.

Anatolian Rugs

Anatolians borrowed motifs from Persian rugs and created bolder designs featuring floral and geometric motifs such as polygons stars in red, blue, and yellow. Anatolian rugs were depicted in the paintings of Hans Holbein the Younger and Renaissance master, Lorenzo Lotto and later named after the masters.

During the Mughal era (1526-1858) Emperors brought Persian artists to court and imported works of art and rugs which influenced the production in India. Indian rugs of this period featured floral and plant motifs including lattice designs, millefleur patterns of tiny clustered flowers, and vines. Some of these rugs were made of Pashmina, Persian for wool, or wool from goat hair and are treasures today.

Identification of Rugs

Rugs are woven on a loom on with a warp of yarns placed lengthwise on a loom top and a weft of yarns placed widthwise. Several different types of looms were used, but the most popular was the upright loom. The foundation can be made of cotton, wool, or silk. One method of rug making known as the knotted rug involves knotting yarns onto the warp yarns. These knots are kept in place by the weft yarns. Several types of knots are used depending on the maker of the rug and the number of knots can range from 5 to 2,000 knots per square inch. Piles can be made of silk, or wool from sheep, goats, or camels.

Vegetal and animal dyes were used for antique rugs as well as contemporary rugs. Dyes were made of madder root, indigo, milkweed, and other plants as well as cochineal and lac insects. Aniline and chrome dyes are synthetic dyes that were introduced in the 1860s. If you want to find out if a rug is dyed with anilines take a damp cloth an run it across the surface. If it has color appears it is an indication of synthetic dyes, vegetal dyes do not leave a color residue on their surface. Rugs are usually washed after to remove excess and to set the dye.

Request an online appraisal of your rug or carpet from Dr. Lori.