Millennia-old Cultural Tradition
The art of carpet knotting has a long history and has been closely ingrained in human cultural evolution since time immemorial. The oldest specimens were dated back to around 500 B.C., when they served as versatile items of furniture to early nomadic communities in the Near East and Mongolia, at which point they already embodied the key characteristics of Oriental carpets. Alexander the Great’s military campaign through Asia resulted in such carpets arriving in the Occident for the first time around 330 B.C.. These carpets would fully establish themselves from 700 AD onwards when North African moors built a dynasty in Córdoba and Granada, as well as a comprehensive carpet industry.
For centuries, such handmade carpets, which are almost unmatched in their wealth of shapes, colors and individuality, have been considered to be stand-alone works of art by collectors and enthusiasts. Experts all over the world are fascinated by the perfected craftsmanship, time-consuming process and long tradition which every single carpet embodies.
Knotted or tufted?
What makes hand-knotted carpets special is that every single one is simply unique. Every carpet differs through the choice and arrangement of the pattern, its color and its respective shape. Fine quality carpets are either knotted or tufted. The most common knots originally hail from Turkey, such as the rough symmetrical knots known as Ghiordes knots, while finer asymmetrical knots are traditionally found in Persian, Indian and Chinese carpets.
Handmade carpets are traditionally produced by skilled weavers who manage up to 12,000 individual knots per day. For this, all they use are a hook knife, scissors and a comb. With these tools, they press the rows of knots and weft threads tightly together. The tightness of the knots is the most important feature that determines the lifespan, the value and particularly the quality of the carpet. A further important aspect is the coloration of the carpet, which in truly top quality specimens is carried out with purely natural dyes. For this, one commonly uses suds created from crushed walnut or pomegranate husks and employs the various color gradients within one color, the so-called abrash.
Provenance is key
A hand-knotted carpet takes its name from its original point of manufacture. The design in terms of shape and color is determined by an oftentimes centuries old tradition. Among the various styles, which include Persian, Afghan, Pakistani, Baluch, Turkmenian, Caucasian, Indian, Tibetan, Turkish or Chinese, it is the Persian carpets that play a dominant role. Among experts, they are considered to be the apex of carpet knotting, whose manufacture relies on the experience of countless generations.
Afghan carpets also enjoy an excellent reputation. The Khal-Mohammadi and Afghan-Aqche carpets from the North of the country are usually dark red in color, feature stars and stylized flowers and are fashioned from wool, goat hair or horse hair. Anatolian carpets from the Konja stronghold lack nothing of their Persian counterparts. They are knotted with Turkish knots and consist of silk, wool or cotton. Chinese and Tibetan carpets can also draw on extensive traditions. They often feature motifs originating from Buddhism and Taoism. The carpets are often fashioned from the finest silk and were created in the Chinese regions of Ningxia, Tianjin or Paotow or in the Tibetan city of Lhasa.
The Oriental Carpet
In contrast to European carpets, which were often made using mechanical weaving looms, Oriental carpets stand out due to their protracted and extremely laborious handicraft. Among the most sought-after and finest Oriental carpets in existence are those that were knotted in the Persian carpet strongholds of Isfahan, Ghom and Nain. However, carpets from Anatolia, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan or the Caucasus Region are also well known for their excellent quality and masterful craftsmanship.
Alongside a knot density of over 1,000,000 per square meter, Oriental carpets also stand out due to their characteristic patterns. Experts distinguish these patters as floral, figural and purely formal geometric patterns, whose origins can be traced back to the ornamental façade mosaics of the old oriental master builders. The value of an oriental carpet is determined significantly by its provenance, which simultaneously acts as a quality indicator.
Swedish Kelim From ca. 1960
Kelims are intricately woven carpets or wall hangings whose weft thread on both sides forms the respective pattern. Carpets with this peculiarity are particularly popular in Iran, Afghanistan and the Caucasus and can look back on a long tradition. The earliest Kelim carpets are estimated to originate from around the 13th century. That such excellent carpets of this type were also fashioned in Europe is demonstrated by this beautiful Kelim from Sweden from ca. 1960.
Persian Farahan From ca. 1900
Farahan carpets are hand knotted carpets of the finest quality from the eponymous province in western Iran. The carpets are highly robust and usually feature intricate rosettes and floral pattern in plant colors. This carpet consists of fine wool and boasts a knot density of ca. 450,000 knots per square meter. Due to its old age of around 90-110 years and rare size, this carpet represents a highly sought-after collector’s item.