Early Turkish Carpets

Early Turkish Carpets

Scholarly Study Begins

When compared with the carpets themselves the systematic study of them is a newcomer on the historical scene. Attention was firstgiven only in 1891 and then with the publication of the socalled Vienna Book, a most elaborate edition authored by A. Rieg. It was in three folio volumes and contained reproductions, some in colorf of one hundred of the most important carpets in the Vienna exhibition. İn these volumes some of the pieces were given a rather fanciful metaphysical meaning. An additional volume in this series followed in 1907.

Prior to this, in 1882, Wilhelm von Bode had published an article on carpets but it was not until 1901 that it appeared in book form. Later it was revised and republished by Ernst Kühnel in 1914. Also during the early 1900s, F. R. Martin in 1908 produced a monumental work on the art of carpets. This was followed by a large publication on the Munich Exhibition. The grand style and nature of Martin’s book made a great impact on scholars involved in this art and stimulated interest which resulted in an ever increasing flow of serious  works.

With the emergence of these numerous articles in magazines and periodicals, it was obvious that the scholarly consideration of carpets was gaining scientific respectability, particularly in Germany. A few noteworthy examples attest to this: the publications of Kendrick-Tattersal in 1922-24, the complete revision of Bode’s work by Kühnel in 1922 and in 1955, and the work of Kurt Erdmann including his life-long study as well as his numerous articles and shorter books. These works became the foundation stones for the academic approach to carpets.

The history of oriental carpet-making is intertwined with the lives of people, Turkic people who ha ve migrated through the cen-turies from Central Asia westwards. So intrinsic an artistle expression of their understanding and way of life found itself a stabilizing but at the same time a creative force as they encountered new situations and foreign influences. This dynamic is the essence of this history and continues to operate. The history thus becomes a flow of development the development of people in the creation of works of art which speaks of their everyday encounter with realities.

This book begins with a look at early carpet fragments — those prior to the first Turkic migrations. Then the study proceeds to follow the developments as these people moved west first into Müslim lands and then into the non Muslim world. Here we see the encounter with the Abbasids (Samarra) and then the developments which climaxed in the art of the Anatolian Selçuk peri od which covered the 13th to the 14th century. Finally we w ill examine how this process mani feste d itself during the Emirate Period and Ottoman times and up to the present day. The influence has not been localizedf for the worlds of the East and the West have been involved. Paintings and miniatures abound with depictions of carpets produced during the centuries in this history.

Carpets from the Pazirik Grave

İn addition to publications, scholarly field work was also being carried on and majör finds were the results. The oldest carpet in existence was discovered in northern Si be ha in the course of excavations carried o ut between 1948 and 1949 by the Russian archeologist S. I. Rudenko. This carpet which stili baffles the scholars on many counts, was unearthed together with mumymified bodies, a horse, a chariot and other d o m estic objects from an icebound grave (kurgan) in the Pazirik region on the slopes of the Altai Mountains. This find was first published in 1953 and aroused great interest İt was subseguently described and discussed in detail in later publications. The earliest studies conjectured that the Pazirik carpet was woven with an astonishing fineness of 3.600 Gördes (Ghiordes or Turkish) knots per 10 cm2. But later it was proved that though the knots were extremly tight and appeared unusually numerous, the actual knot count was much less. Despite this reassessment the carpet is a masterpiece of unequaled excellence even today. İt is now in the Hermitage Museum, Leningrad.

The Pazirik carpet, measuring 1.89×2 m is made of very fine wool. The designs are ele-gant and the colors are predominantly soft shades. The central field is divided into twentyfour small checkerboard type sguares and each of the identical squares is filled with a cruciform palmette and lotus motif. White, yellow and blue predominate on a red ground. Of the two wide bordersf the inner one shows a frieze of grazing elk, while the outer one shows a frieze of horse men. On the two guard borders are depicted griffins.

Rudenko dates the carpet to the 5th cem tury BC and attributes it and the other objects unearthed in the burial chamber to the Scythians. M. Ghirsman and M. Bussagli in later publications assigned a date of the 4th or 3rd century BC and finally A. C. Mongait, relying on the research of various historians, prefers a date between 300 BC and the birth of Christ. Speculation as to the date and origin of the carpet was carried further by Johanna Zick Nissen who proposed that the design fits the artistic tradition of northwest Persia and could have been woven in any one of the great centers ranging from Phrygia in Asia Minor to Susa in present day Iraq. When one takes into consideration the history of the Altai region, the artifacts recovered in neighboring burial mounds, the physical types of the mummified bodies and the funeral rites connected with these burials, the facts point to the conclusion that the Pazirik carpet was produced by Asian Huns in the 3rd or 2nd century BC.

Further evidence verifying its broad heritage is the variety of stylistic influences visible in the carpet. The cruciform lotus flowers are reminiscent of those carved in stone on the interior walls of the Assyrian Palace of Sennacherib (705 BC – 681 BC) in Nineveh. The griffins and elks — nonexistent in this geographic area — and the garments of the horsemen are very similar to those appearing on the Achaemonid reliefs in Persepolis. It is the Asian Huns, the dominating group in the Altai Mountains, who were most successful in incorporating in their art, and particularly on their metal work, motifs originally associated with the Scythinans and the Achaemodnids.

In summary one must conclude that the Pazirik carpet, a masterpiece of integrated technique and artistic representation, could only have been produced some place within the extensive Hunnic Empire Most probably it was woven for a Hun nobleman. This historically and artistically important piece is the unique find from this period.

Carpet Fragments Found in East Turkestan

Some forty years before the discovery of the Pazirik carpet (1906, 1908) Sir Marc Aurel Stein and Alfred von Le Coq found some knotted-carpet fragments during their excavations in a grave shaft in Lou-lan and in a Buddhist stupa shrine at Lopnor in East Turkestan. These pieces date from the 3rd to the 6th century AD and are another link in the history of carpet development.Tie Lou-lan woolen carpet fragment an approximately square piece which measures 22.2 cm on each side (Pl. 1) is now in the pos-session of the Antiquity Section of the British Museum, London. (The Museum of New Delhi India also has other samples from this source.) This square fragment was woven with naturai tough and hardspun wool with a single warp knot and sometimes five shoots of weft between each row of knots. İn design it consists of diamonds and border bands with strongly stylized flowers of bright and vivid colors in three shades of yellow, dark blue, mat green and brown.

Later, in 1913, Le Coq brought to light other carpet fragments in a domed shrine chamber during the Turfan excavations in the Tarim basin at Qyzil near Kutsha in Chinese Turkestan. These fragments appear to have the same kind of wool and knots but contain additional single warp knots in single-ply wool on alternate warps. One fragment from the 5th or 6th century measures 16×26 cm and contains a motif of a twisted stem or a dragon’s tail in yellow which is outlined in black on a red field. İt is now in the posses-sion of the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin.

The evidence of varying techniques and designs implies that extensive development had taken place between this period and that of the earlier long-pile carpets of the steppes.

A direct link can on/y be established with examples from the first century BC and not with earlier pieces like the Pazirik carpet One must also assume however that the carpets found by Stein must ha ve been imports sent from West Turkestan to East Turkestan since the traditional carpets used in that area were made of felt.

9th Century Carpets from the Abbasid Period

An association between the period of the early development of carpet art during the Abbasi Period in the 9th century and Turkish involvement seems obvious when we recall that the capital city of the empire, Samarra (838-883) was in fact a Turkish city inhabited largely by Turkish guards in the service of the Islamic state and army.

Turks were entrusted with a unique and honoured role in the Islamic governing and administrative structure beginning in the Umayyad reign. They were respected for their military prowess and even attained such high positions as commanders and governors under the Abbasids. Under the Caliph Mutasim they became the most powerful single group within the military staff both in number and authority. They were commanded only by their own noblemen and rulers, not by foreignersf and their uniforms of silk wth siİver girdles made them distinctive. The city of Samarra which was established to accommodate them was constructed under the command of Turkish architects and engineers.

The whole lifesiyle of the city like that of its architecture was Turkish as were their house hold effects, and tents and private belongings which they brought with them. Naturally, carpets were among these. İn fact the Turks introduced the carpet to Egypt in the last quarter of the 7th and in the 8th century. Prior to this the carpet was considered inappropriate for and alien to the hot climate of the desert regions. The legendary “Flying Carpet” of The Thousand and One Nights was introduced by the Turks and highly admired, assuming magical properties in fairy tales

This thus helps verify the fact that the date of the carpet fragments of the Abbasid Period which were found in Fostat the next chronological evidence in our history, coincides with the times following the arrival of the Turks in this region.

The next links in the historical development are the carpets found in Fostat Egypt. The study of them points out the fact that some had been brought to Egypt from Samarra where Turkish guards were in the service of the Islamic state. Of this total find, twenty nine fragments were published by Kari Lamm. Some of these are from the Abbasid Period (9th century); the rest range över seven centuries. Two carpet fragments which he published and gave to the Röhss Museum, Gothenburg and to the National Museum, Stockholm are still in their possession. İn both we see a single warp knot technique, one which is similar to that used in the 3rd to the 6th century fragments from East Turkestan.The first fragment in the National Museum, Stockholm, (Inv. MM 38/1936) measures 29×32 cm and has both a linen warp and weft, and woolen knots, on alternate warps (Pl. 2; D. 1). The brownish red field contains a composition of interlinked hexagons framed with triangles in fawn, dark blue, pure green, olive green and buff. The border composition consists of large lozenge motif s surrounded by smaller ones.
the second fragment, the one in the Röhss Museum, Gothenburg is from the same period. İt measures 30.5×13 cm (Inv, RKM 320/1935) and has a warp and weft of cotton with rows of knots between two shoots of weft. There are 2,145 woolen single warp knots to 10 cm2. The five most frequently used colors are dark fawn, brown ish red, blue, dark brown and the natural color ofthe undyed wool. The compositional seheme within the main fields is a lozenge design.An interesting feature of this fragment, one also found in many of the early carpets from East Turkestan, is the appearance of a pile on the wrong side, probably to prevent the carpet from slipping, or perhaps to make it a better proteetion against the cold.

As mentioned earlier, both of these frag­ments employed a technique resembling those used to weave the fragments found in East Turkestan; they were knotted on the warp and given a short pile on the wrong side. İn addition it should be noted that the geometric composition of lozenge and hexagon devices was extensively used in Turkish carpets.
Three other carpet fragments of the Abbasid Period also found in Fostat further exemplify the reIationship between the East Turkestan finds and their Turkish origins. These were also published by Lamm but are now found in the Arabic Museum, Cairo (probably dated H 202 [817-818]), the Textile Museum, Washington, DC and in the National State Museum, Berlin. (The one in the Textile Museum, Washington, DC has a Kufic border.)
Other fragments of interest from this same fin d and period are now part of the collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (III. I). These present a crenelated decoration against a red field and have triangles, a band of cirecIes in blue, yelIow, green and brown and a border with a Kufic inscription on a deep blue ground. The form of the inscriptions is more highly developed than those on the Abbasid fragments which possibly were attributed to the early Turkish lslamic nations such as the Tulunids and Ikshidids, or to the period of the Fatimids.

Whether any of the Fostat fragments were produced in Egypt or instead imported from the provinces (lraq-Mesopotamia) is a matter of speculation, but in either case there is Littie doubt that Turkic design elements on these fragments from various historical periods reveal their origins.
The history of the development of the art of carpet making from the 3rd century BC through the 9th century AD thus seems to rely heavily on three resources: the Pazirik carpet of the Huns in Asla from the 3rd century BC; the fragments found in East Turkestan, the dates of which span 400 years, from the 3rd to the 6th century AD; and two fragments with geometric designs found in Fostat and of the Abbasid Period, during the second half of the 9th century.

Selcuk Carpets


Carpets and Prayer Rugs of Hereke

Carpets and Prayer Rugs of Hereke

Hereke is a unique weaving center in Turkey located near İstanbul. Because of its wide range of activities and products and because it has had a continuous history from its founding until today, we will give special attention to the story of its development.

İn 1843 the looms ofthis town, which lies on the northern edge of the Bay of İzmit, began the weaving of silk and cotton flannel. Some time later, during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecit, the emphasis was focused on silk weaving. One hundred new silk looms were added and fifty cotton weaving looms were moved o ut and reestablished in Zeytinburnu, west of İstanbul. Textiles in silk were first produced here for palace use and only later did they find their way into the commercial market. Production came to a sudden halt when in 1878, during the reign of Sultan Abdülhamit, the factory burned to the ground. İn 1883, on the site of the present high school, imperial workshops were founded with buildings bearing the monogram of Sultan Abdülhamit. To these workshops were brought one hundred looms and the initial work force, a group of weavers from Sivas, Ladik and Manisa. İt was only a few years later that Hereke carpets, which were first sold in the markets of İstanbul, were in great demand and received European acclaim. İn 1895 Kaiser Wilhelm and his wife Victoria visited Hereke and on this occasion they were presented with some carpets and silk clothes. Continued improvement of the workshops and an increase in the number of looms in 1945 firmly established the existence of this School of Carpet Weaving in Hereke. But this was only a part of the total industry; looms were set up in homes and yarns distributed to villagers who were then given jobs on contract.

İn this way a complete system of carpet and rug production was established in Hereke. İt was notjust a simple workshop but a factory, all of which operated under the patronage of Sultan Abdülmecit. The largest single collection of prayer rugs preserved from the production of this factory is in the Topkapı Palace Museum, İstanbul. These are the samples that remain of the work from the 19th century, pieces produced for the palace as well as for commercial sale. Although these rugs are more or less Persian, Mameluke, Uşak and Anatolian prayer rugs in design composition, they stili have some remarkable characteristics of their own.

Among these unique features are the thread and yarn which were usedf that is, very fine wool yarn, and silk, gold and silver thread. The warp was finely plied cotton or wool yarn while the weft was fine white wool. When silver thread was employed, the yellow colored weft was silk. The knots, typical of these Hereke rugs, are either Turkish or Hekim, a complicated knot resembling the Sine knot. İt was possible to create smooth curves in rumis and hatays and at the same time to achieve a fineness by using a single knot on each row. The knots themselves were made with long fibered Anatolian spring wool. There are about 3,600 knots (60×60) per 10 cm2; the knots are tighter, up to 6,400 in the carpets produced especially for the palace. The number of knots changes between 90×90 to 100×100, that is 8,100 to 10,000 knots in silk carpets. Alizarin is used in the dyeing process. Besides the rugs using silk and silver thread, carpets, with designs in relief those with parts of the pile left longer than others were also produced. İn this technique the impression of relief is achieved by cutting the ends of the wool firstshort then long.

The Hereke prayer rugs were made in many different colors and designs so it is impossible to single out one typical composition. They imitate the Persian designs from the 16th and 17th centuries so successfully that it is difficult to distinguish some of these rugs from the originals. Besides the general modifications in Persian designs, also evident are these features: the inscriptions from the Koran on the borders; the general positioning of the cartouches; the spiral stems of the rumis filling the niche; and, the cloud motifs. These are all imitated with extreme care and appear just as they were on the original rugs. Most of the rugs kept in the Topkapı Palace Museum, İstanbul, can be attributed to this group, though some of the rugs reflect the influence of Caucasian, Uşak and Mameluke compositions. A few also are of the reversed niche style. The colors most frequently used are dark green, orange, blue and medium brown on white.

The thirty-five Hereke rugs in the Topkapı Palace collection have been classified into eight groups. They are the ones with medallion s on the niche field or with Uşak medallion compositions; or they are ones having one of the following features: geometric motifs, fine slender stems, hanging lamps, rumis, vases, or cloud motifs on the niche ground.

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On the borders of some of these prayer rugs appear inscriptions from the Koran in sülüs and talik script. İn some, the inscriptions occupy very liftle space. These examples may be connected to the tradition of Ottoman palace carpets, that is, the tradition started in the Hereke workshops under palace patronage and continued through the 19th century. The technical charaeteristics are the use of the Turkish together with the Hekim knot, and the use of silk in the weft. To enhance the elegance of the rug, the Hekim knot was especially used to implement the Turkish knot in the inscriptions, floral fillings, Chinese clouds and rumis.

A closer look at four of the finest examples of different types in the collection of Hereke rugs illustrates their unique value. One is a rug with a medallion Uşak composition. İt measures 1.38×0.90 m. The dark blue medallion on a field of ivory takes the shape of a salbekli şemse (şemse: rosette, decorative sun or stylized central sun medallion with two similar small end medallions) as found on leather book covers. Four huge clouds, two green ones placed on both sides and two blue ones placed at the top and bottom, are interspersed with white flowers on dark red, slender stems. Dark red contours also outline the medallions.

The palmette at the top is blue, the one at the bottom green. The quarter medallions at the top corners conta in dark blue branches and orange rumis on a field of blue, whereas the ones at the lower corners have a green ground with the same designs and the same colors as the upper ones. The upper horizontal panel exhibits an inscription of the call to prayer in green. The wide border with a dark blue field completes the pleasing composition with its corner arrangements and blue clouds.

Another prayer rug measuring 1.45×1.08 m and having a geometric design is a rare example because of the emphatic use of only two colors throughout. An endless design of yellow lozenges diagonally positioned and filled with reverse lotus motifs appears on a field of deep blue. Eight pointed yellow dahlias with four protruding arms are framed in squares and share the upper corners with other floral motifs. A Kelime-i tevhid (declara-tion of the oneness of Allah) appears on the ayettik. The wide border contains a flowing repetition of stylized angular rumis and palmettes with fourlobed leaves and slender stems.

A third rug featuring silver thread measures 1.64×1.07 m. İts prayer niche of deep blue is filled with rumis formed by twisted branches in red and contoured with silver thread. Red colored verbenas and large orange flowers with delicate green branches fiil the whole ground. The corner fillings are ivory clouds and green spotted rosettes on a field of dark belge. The wide border with a field of ivory is decorated with small flowers in belge. The huge cartouches in dark red are enIivened with dark green flowers and clouds of silver thread. On the upper car touches an Ayet-el-kürsi (a verse proclaiming the dominion of Allah) in sülüs script appears in silver thread contoured in black. This rug has a mate in the collection but in thatrug the field is dark red.

The last example from the Topkapı Palace collection is one with a vase. İt measures 1.70×1.14 m. The prayer niche here is dark red. Pink blossoms and small green leaves on the thin branches in silver thread reach up from the bottom of the niche. Huge flowers and leaves with small black flowers spray out on both sides of a light blue vase placed at the top. The vase has silver trimmings at its base and mouth. The outer corners of the five lobed prayer niche are filled with dark red rumis, verbenas in silver thread, and again, branches with pink blossoms. Black cartouches outlined in red appear on the wide border. The cartouches contain clouds in silver thread interspersed with white and dark red flowers with green leaves. Inscriptions in pink sülüs script and medallions with black Kufic inscriptions on a field of pink complete the cartouche design. An Ayet-el-kürsi in brown appears on an ivory ground on the outer border.

Feshane Carpets

Besides the Hereke carpets, the Feshane carpets constitute a second group in the last peri od of Turkish carpet weaving. The studio which had served as a weaving factory from the time of Sultan Mahmut II until 1830 in Kadırga near Kumkapı was expanded at this date and transported to Defterdar near Eyüp. The buiİding on the new site was originally constructed during the reign of Sultan Mahmut II for the production of fezes, the headgear of the time, thus the name Feshane. The factory, a military establishment in 1876, was turned over to the Sanayi ve Maadin Bank in 1923 and then to the Sümerbank in 1936. The production of carpets which continued until 1914 coincided with the beginning ofwork in Hereke, the last quarter of the 19th century. There is general agreement that the carpets for the palace were woven in Hereke and also in Feshane before either had been formally named as such. Feshane carpets are identified by the name and date which appear in the upper right hand corner of the carpet, but there are some known to ha ve been woven there which are not so marked. Among the few Feshane carpets which stili exist are those with Iranian carpet designs and some rough floor carpets with European designs and warp and weft of cotton. The high quality carpets display roccoco and Empire designs and some of them have peacock and pheasant figures dispersed throughout.


Kula Prayer Rugs

Kula Prayer Rugs

İn general Kula prayer rugs have a warp of double-ply red or white wool and a weft of single ply white wool or cotton. Kula is quite near Gördes so the resemblances between rugs produced in these two places seem quite natural. But the prayer niche in the Kula rugs is plainer and displays a straightined triangular form, one which is finely stepped. A band of small flowers defines the prayer niche. Above the mihrab is an inscription in a narrow ayetlik. The usual color in the niche is soft red, but occasionally yellow, deep blue and ivory are  used. Stylized flowers are arranged in vases which are upside down in relation to the niche or they are placed in squares on both sides. Small carnations hang down from the inner stripes and small flowers replace the hanging lantern motif. The colors are duller than those in the Gördes rugs and usually consist of apricot, gold yellow, red, blue and ivory, and rarely green. The borders are made up of narrow stripes showing detailed workmanship and may have as many as ten stripes of the same width (2.5 cm in average) or, one of them being wider, may dominate and become the essential border.

The most attractive of the Kula prayer rugs are those with the landscape patterns on the field in the niche. İn these a composition of small houses and a kind of cypress or similar tree is arranged flanking the field of the niche in rows one above the other. İn addition sometimes tombstones are placed between the trees. İn this case the rug is classified as a Tombstone Kula (Mezarlıklı Kula) rug. The mihrab triangle on these rugs is double sided and has steps leading up to it. The center is defined on a vertical axis with large flower motifs placed one on top of the other.

The most typical prayer rugs of Kula were produced in the 17th and 18th centuries. But Tike prayer rugs from all the regions of Anatolia produced at the beginning of the 18th and continuing on through the 19th century, they became inferior in quality and displayed a disorderly corruption of the traditional designs. By this time also, prayer rugs with the marpuç and triple niches were being produced in Kula under the influence of Gördes and Ladik rugs and reflect this influence. İn fact, it is difficult to diqtinguish these rugs from a Gördes rug. Saf prayer rugs as such were never made in Kula.

Konya Region Carpets and Prayer Rugs

The various motifs which are characteristic of the Uşak area carpets and prayer rugs have had an influence on the Konya region carpets and prayer rugs. This region ineludes the villages of Karapınar, Sille, Obruk, İnlice and in the areas of Ladik, Sarayönü, Ereğli and Karaman. Carpets and prayer rugs from this region, which are known by their regional names, have in common similar knots, octagonal stars and geometric designs. The diamond shapes, the two sided hooks called “ram’s head” (koçbaşı), and the oetagons called the Memling or Türkmen rose motifs (gül) form the ground filling. The prayer rugs can either have one or two mihrabs. İn the carpets that have one mihrab the background is divided by thin columns. İn the others the mihrab niches are stepped and hooked. The Kufic decorations on the borders have become simplified. The tulips, hyacinths and carnations with leaves adorn the motifs; the small niches line up along the top and bottom borders.

Ladik is the most important weaving cem ter of the Konya region and there prayer rugs feature border and column motifs which are reminiscent of those found on the Ottoman palace carpets. The curling branch motifs on the narrow border, however, have come from the Uşak carpet borders. The “S” motifs, Kufic imitative decorations, guadrifoil leaves and diamond-shaped motifs are also seen on Uşak carpets. The motifs of Karaman carpets are hooked and stepped diamond shapes with octagonal stars. These features are often seen in the 15th century paintings by Flaman, Memling and Van Eyck.

Hooked octagonal motifs with regional migration variations can be found on the carpets from Tekke, Yomut, Sarit, Ersari, Salor and Afgan. The Salor carpets are examples of the rare Türkmen carpets and have interlacing four part motifs that come from the Konya carpets.

Ladik Prayer Rugs

Rugs made in Ladik, near Konya, reflect a combination of two influences, that of the Ottoman palace carpets and that of the loca region. İn quality they are regarded just beow those of Gördes and Kula. İn general, their composition is reminiscent of other types of prayer rugs but displays a characteristic uniqueness. The mihrab has either a single or a triple arch, and in the latter, the middle arch is higher and wider than the other two. The niche rests on slender decorative columns. The ayettik and tabanlık above and below the niche have been removed all together, leaving wide rectangular spaces either on the top or at the bottom. Stemmed tulips, floral motifs and trees are arranged in these in a row, a particular characteristic of Ladik rugs. The niche, when single, is stepped and forms a plain triangle with hooks on the outer edges. İt is topped by a finial. İn some cases, small carnations hang down from the top; the niche is plain and infrequently has a date inscribed in it. The three lobed niches can be either with or without columns. The colors are vivid and mostly red, with deep blue on the niche ground, and yellow, purple and green on the borders. As noted earlier, this type of prayer rug was collected in the churches of Transylvania and came to be known by that name also.

Kırşehir Prayer Rugs

The prayer rugs of Kırşehir are a product of central Anatolia although the motif of double or triple outlines with hooks and steps in the niche of these rugs is also prevalent in the rugs of Gördes and Ladik. The Kırşehir rugs in existence date from the end of the 18th and especially from the 19th centuries. They are generally large in size, 1.5×2.5 m. Some of them have symmetrical double niches. The knots are loose and the colors are pale, the most usual colors being two or three tones of red, blue, green, yellow and black with a touch of brown and ivory. The main border displays floral motifs containing such elemente as ivy and cypress. The narrow stripes of the Kula rugs and the floral designs of the Gördes rugs are also typical characteristics of the narrow borders on Kırşehir prayer rugs.

Mucur Prayer Rugs

Prayer rugs produced in Mucur share much in common with those of Kırşehir probably because both cities are in the same province. The designs and compositlons are also based on those of the Ladik rugs. The first examples of this type from Mucur are dated from the end of the 17th century. Briefly they can be characterized as follows. The finely stepped prayer niche in several contours is either single or on opposite ends of the rug. There is a Crescentat the top. A flower or leaf motif appears in the center, as do hanging lamps. Small flowers hang down from the sides or in the center. The prayer niche is plain except occasionally there is a square medallion in the center. Ewer designs and half lozenge decorations on the alınlık and geometric motif sare remarkably reminiscent of those on Ladik rugs. Usually bright colors are used with purple as the charaeteristic color complimented by three shades of red and blue, yellow, black, white and a touch of green. Multipleniche prayer rugs bearing much the same characteristics as those above were also produced in Mucur.

Milas Prayer Rugs

Milas prayer rugs first made their appearances in the 18th century and can easily be identified because of their unique niche design, their long pile and their selvages. The niche is lobed in many instances and forms a lozenge at the top. The border is sometimes twice as wide as the niche. A crescent appears above the niche; on the sides are stylized blossoms or leaves; and the field is filled with geometric designs. The upper horizontal panel is also decorated symmetrically with stylized floral designs. The field is often dark peachred and the borders, are predominately yellow and green. Crimson, white and dark blue are also used. The bright yellow on the border stripes is also typical of Milas rugs. These stripes are decorated with zigzag motifs. The Milas prayer rugs utilize the Gördes designs but at the same time show some influence from Uşak and Bergama rugs, as well as from the Kula rugsf particularly in the border designs. Lastly, we should note that the examples in this group are an accurate imitation of the white field Uşak (Transylvanlan) rugs. The Milas rugs display a hybrid composition and for that reason they are sometimes called the “Hybrid” rugs.

Bergama Prayer Rugs

From the earliest 16th century examples it is obvious that Bergama carpets and prayer rugs have continued to carry the motifs and particular colors used on the Selçuk carpets, namely buff, natural white, two different reds, blue, brownish green and brown, and often with two shades of the same color side by side. This continues even today.

The mihrab niches on the prayer rugs are unique. They are encircled by bands of hooked or curved foliate stems. The sharp-pointed mihrab is framed on the sides by octagons either pointing in orout. Sometimes the center of the niche is filled with lozenges and the wide borders have Kufic like motifs which end in an “S” and small lozenges.

The carpets display both geometric and strong stylized plant motifs side by side and often echoed appropriately in the borders. After the 19th century these motifs were of naturalistic flowers and leaves. The reappearance of small animal figures in the 18th century on the Bergama carpets attests also to their relationship to former animal figured carpets.

A unique feature of the Bergama rugs of the 17th century was the use of wool in both the warp and weft. The warp is double ply thick, natural wool, while the weft is single ply red, or rarely brown wool. The knots were usually loose. The frequently used colors were cherry red, yellow, walnut green and blue.

Sometimes two shades of the same color were also used. The single- or triple arched triangular niches were decorated with hanging lamps and angular twisted branches. The floral motifs are extremely stylized and look most geometric. Rum is and stylized flowers with twisted branches are placed between the border cartouches, while schematized trilobed clover motifs appear in the narrow border. Actually the Bergama rugs are no more than variations on the other types of Anatolian prayer rugs.

Prayer rugs with animal skin motifs make another characteristic group in Turkish carpet art. The field ofsuch rugs is filled with spotted or speckled leopard skin designs. Because actual skins were often used when performing prayers they became a natural model for these later rugs, the oldest of which date to the 17th century.

At the end of the 18th century there was, throughout Anatolia, a deterioration in the quality of rugs, particularly in the production from the small rug looms. Even though the rugs were all based on traditional patterns, the individual regional characteristics can be distinguished in rugs produced up to the end of the 19th century; however deterioration had already set in by that time.

Carpets and Prayer Rugs of Hereke


Uşak Prayer Rugs

Uşak Prayer Rugs

The prayer rugs of Uşak are as renowned as the 16th century carpets which were produced there. Also noteworthy is the fact that they have the longest history of all prayer rugs, since they were produced as late as the end of the 19th century. They are generally large in size and nearly square; red wool yarn is used in both the warp and weft; they are tied with the Turkish knot; the selvages are long; and, occasionally, they are made of silk. The features of these rugs that distinguish them from other types of prayer rugs are their thick wool, strong knots, long pile and radiant colors.

The earliest example of prayer rugs from the Uşak region is the group with two prayer niches, o ne inside the other. They are dated to the first quarter of the 16th century and predate the famous Medallion and Star Uşak carpets. The famous Uşak prayer rug with the motif of large clouds which is in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin, is related in principle to this group. The scheme of this rug is a red niche surrounded by an immense cloud motif in light blue which fills the space in the whole lower half, while on the top of the rug is a second niche formed by the field of the rug. İt is rimmed by an enormous schematized palmette motif finely outlined in white. The red spandrels are filled with large schematic rumis while the space left in between is filled with medallions and stylized flowers on a field of blue.

The next group of Uşak prayer rugs which are seen most frequently are the ones which have opposed double niches with a medallion in the center. The best examples of these are in the possession of museums and private collections. This group of prayer rugs is most frequently represented by Italian, Flemish, and other European artists in their paintings dating from the mid 16th century until the 1620s. İn these rugs the plain niche ground was sometimes decorated with either a medallion or a hanging lamp, and at other times enriched by fillings of spiral branches, flowers, leaves or the motif of an ewer. The niche and the border may be in different colors.

Siebenbürger rugs, also called “Transylvanian” rugs, are mostly included in this Uşak group in spite of the fact that some were produced in various other centers in Anatolia. These rugs were gathered in large quantities in the small Protestant churches of a mountainous region in Hungary (now a part of Rumania), but since have been dispersed to various museums and collections ali around the world. They do not predate the 17th century and production seems to have stopped by the end of the 18th century. The field of these prayer rugs is red, yellow and blue.

The typical design for most of the late 17th and 18th century prayer rugs in the so-called “Transylvanian” group is an adaptation of a classical 16th century design. A double niche prayer rug from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London is one of the typical examples of this. The field is filled with floral designs, and two large double handled vase shaped mosque lamps hang from the center ofeach arch. The main border shows an alternating succession of elongated cartouches and star medallions and both guard stripes conta in powerful trefoil designs.

Some of the Uşak prayer rugs resemble the famous white ground Uşak carpets. One of these is in the possession of the Institute of Art, Chicago, in this rug the field is filled by a “Çintamani” design, and triple leopard dots are repeated on the upper part (alınlık). The Uşak type of border, where the cloud designs are lined alternately on a multicolored field is also characteristic. İn another example, this time from the National Museum, Munich, the niche is lobed and finely outlined in zigzag on a white ground. The place on the lower part of the rug where one stands when praying is defined by decorated clog designs. The border is ornamented by opposing palmettes and the spandrels by curved twigs, rumis and motifs of stylized flowers.

Beginning with the  17th century, multiniched (saf) Uşak prayer rugs in various pat-terns and inspired by Ottoman palace carpets were produced in great quantities. The outlined niches of these prayer rugs express a continuous innovative search for interesting compositions through the use of various colors and decorations.   The prayer niche  is always monochrome but often is filled with various motifs such as a hanging lamp at the top or ornamented clogs at the bottom. All of these rugs are completely dominated by the natura Iistic floral decorations so common in all of Ottoman art in this period. The plum blossoms, carnations, tulips, roses and hyacinths are intended to suggest the feeling of praying in a garden full of flowers. Some severely damaged but very attractive examples of this type of rug are kept in  the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, istanbul.

Palace Prayer Rugs

We now turn our attention to prayer rugs in the style of the Ottoman palace carpets. These began to be produced beginning in the decorative art. Just as in the case of some of the Ottoman palace carpets, these luxurious prayer rugs were produced at the end of the 16th and in the 17th centuries on the looms of İstanbul, Bursa and Edirne.

The most attractive examples are the ones with a mono colored niche. The palace prayer rugs generally have a warp and weft of silk and the knots are in wool and cotton. The prayer rugs of Uşak and then Gördes carry on the compositions of the palace prayer rugs in later years. The similarity is especially apparent in the mihrab columns, the floral fillings inside the niche, the hanging lamps and the naturalistic floral motifs on the borders. Sections from the main field of the palace carpets are employed as interior fillings in these prayer rugs.

A prayer rug of this type with a green niche and designated as having been made in İstanbul was donated to the Sultanahmet Mosque and then later transferred to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, İstanbul, where it is recorded under the same name in the inventory. The warp and weftare silk and it is tied with a very soft and shiny wool in colors of green, red, yellow and brown, but when white and light blue are needed cotton yarn is used. This prayer rug is in a very worn condition and the section missing in the center is sewn together in a careless manner. Another example of the same pattern dated 1610 and kept in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin is in very good condition.

The one in İstanbul was probably donated to be placed in front of the mihrab of the Sultanahmet Mosque at the time of its completion in 1617. Another prayer rug belonging to Sultan Ahmet I, which was probably made to be put in the Sultan’s apartment (Hünkâr Mahfili) in the mosque, is kept in the treasury reserves of the Topkapı Palace Museum, İstanbul. This prayer rug has a pistachio green niche filled with a deep red, pointed and egg shaped medallion in the center. The corner fillings consist of curved branches and rumis in turquoise blue against a cream field. The traditional borders of other rugs of the same type a re found in this example too.

The wool of these two prayer rugs is so fine that it gives the impression of silk at first glance. A brown prayer rug with the representation of the Kaaba on it which is preserved in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul, is clear evidence that the Ottoman palace carpets continued to be manufactured until the middle of the 18th century. The prayer niche in this one is divided into three sections by triple arches and four columns of which two are cut at the edges by the border. The representation of the Kaaba filIs the dark green ground in the middle of the central arch. Silver thread is used in some parts such as in the lamps hanging from the mihrab arch, in the motif of the Kaaba, and in the stars and capitals of the columns. Since the thread is corroded the warp and weft have become visible under neat.

İt is quite probable that carpets and prayer rugs of high quality were woven on special looms in İstanbul and Bursa routinely or when specially commissioned. İt is unreasonable to believe that new designs were sent to Cairo every time a new carpet was to be manufactured. Even more important, if they were woven for so many years at the same place why has there been no trace of this art in Cairo? On the other hand, we know that the tradition of Ottoman palace carpets has continued to exist both in İstanbul and in Anatolia up to the present day. The designs are ever changing and being enriched as exemplified in the so called Izmir made prayer rugs and the Hereke carpets woven on the looms which were established there in 1844.

Gördes Prayer Rugs

The prayer rugs of Gördes are noted not only for giving their name to the Turkish knot but also for being the group of rugs most influenced by the Ottoman palace carpets.

İn general these rugs can be distinguished by the following characteristics; the high arch of the prayer niche is finely stepped and has undulating contours, they exhibit an extremely high quality of weaving, using shıiny wool in tight knots (3600 knots, 60×60, per 10 cm2); and they have a short pile. The warp is double-ply wool and the weft is single ply wool or cotton. The field of the niche can be in deepblue, blue, red, or green; a few are in white. The rugs with a deep blue ground in the niche are valuable, and the ones with a white niche are rare. Two decorative bands, which may symbolize mihrab candles, appear like columns on both sides of the mihrab and are filled with stylized floral motifs. The rugs almost always have an upper horizontal panel (ayetlik) above the niche and outlines of feet at the bottom (tabanlık) which are separated from the central field by a narrow band. Vivid red with various shades of green, yellow, blue and cream are the colors most frequently used. The floral motifs are geometrically ordered.

There are special types of Gördes prayer rugs. The “Marpuçlu Gördes” rugs with two decorative columns on either side of the niche are based in style on the Ottoman palace carpets. The arch of the prayer niche is high and round, lobed or in the form of a finely stepped triangle. The niche is outlined with fine lines and is rimmed by notched thin zigzags while hyacinths or small flowers hang from the niche point. The charaeteristic crescent motif (alem) at the top is rare. The two decorative bands (marpuç from which they get their name) on both sides of the niche are filled with lozenge motifs in straight bands which themselves are filled with lotus designs or stylized flowers terminating in ewer motifs.

The Gördes prayer rugs with a mihrab at both ends are another special type. These rugs are  called the  Maiden   Gördes  (Kız
Gördes); they received that name, probably, because they were intended for the dowry of young maidens. The prominent colors found in these rugs are cream, red or blue and the wool is short and dull in texture.

Prayer Rugs 3


Prayer Rugs

Prayer Rugs

Three prayer rugs, which do not resemble one another at all and have three distinctive compositions, demonstrate the lively Selçuk carpet making tradition. These prayer rugs dating from the 15th century are in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul. Their exceptional display of technique and varied coloring pay tribute to the creative skill of the early Turkish carpet weavers.

The first of these rugs measuring 1.28×3.11 m was brought to the Museum from the Şeyh Babayusuf Tekke, Sivrihisar on 10 November 1933. Its composition is formed by sixteen prayer niches aligned one above the other in two rows of eight on a dark blue field. The prayer niche is surrounded by red and has purple edges. İn the center of each niche is an eight pointed star set within a medallion. The main border is decorated with a Kufic inscription.

The second prayer rug also from Sivrihisar and of the same accession date, measures 1.30×5.20 m. İt has a dark blue or green prayer niche on a white ground in each office panels. The overall design is a separate prayer niche created by the so called rows of niches which form a multi panelled prayer rug. From the base and apex of each niche project points like those of Kufic characters and from  these  are suspended three  oillamps, right, left and center. The base of the niche is adorned with various designs including eight pointed stars at the place where the person praying should stand. The purple color used in both of these rugs indicates that they could not have been made earlier than the 15th century. These rugs, compared with other Selçuk carpets, are worked with finer wool and their weft strands are beaten more closely together.

The third prayer rug obtained from the Kılıçarslan Tomb, Konya on 31 March 1930 is 1.29×0.86 m. İt is completely different from the other two in composition and uniqueness of motif and coloring. The purple color of the field, as mentioned above, is typical of this century. The overall pattern of the rug is made up of three motifs, one upon the other, interspersed with three vertical yellow bands. The two spaces so created are twin prayer niches in blue. The inside of the yellow bands and the blue prayer niches are enriched with fillers of characteristic Selçuk motifs. These remind one of arrowheads of Kufic lettering. The outlines of the blue motifs on the outer edges are further embellished with red hook like shapes. The border continues in green on a yellow background with motifs resembling again the tips of Kufic lettering, a typical Selçuk device.

Another group of Anatolian rugs dated from the 15th century through the 16th century exemplify, in quite opulent variations, a continuing and uninterrupted tradition of rug making. These all present a plain triangular niche defined by a decorative band under which lies a second prayer niche (keyhole or reentrant) octagonal in shape and of smaller size. İn some instances the octagonal prayer niche also is repeated in the upper part, thus resulting in a double niche. Sometimes it is placed in reversed order. The octagonal keyhole or reentrant niche (John Mills) has been interpreted in two quite different ways.
Enderlein describes it as a basin for ablution before prayer with a water channel to feed it, and C. G. Ellis describes it as a stylized mountain, as found on Chinese dragon robes, where the worshipper symbolically stands on elevated ground. However, it should be understood simply as an entrance to the Mihrap.

in Renaissance paintings other types of 15th century prayer rugs can be found. Representations can be seen in the works of Gentile and Giovanni Bellini, Carpaccio and Lorenzo Lotto. The earliest example of these types appears in a painting by Gentile Bellini in the National Gallery, London. İn Giovanni Bellini’s painting entitled “Loredan, Doge of Venice,” dated 1507, which is now in the Munich Gallery, such a carpet is to be seen on the floor beneath the table. İt is identical to a prayer rug in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin. İt contains a simple, pointed mihrab arch outlined by a narrow scrolled band which cuts into the niche field below, forming an octagonal meander. The niche also contains a central medallion and votive lantern hanging from the apex of the niche. The outer border is filled with a Kufic design which is also seen in early “Lotto” carpets of the early 16th century. Apartfrom this fine prayer rug, which must be attributed to the 15th century, the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin, has two more of a similar composition.

There is a 16th century prayer rug in the same Berlin museum which has a hooked octagonal niche in the form of a narrow decorative band on the field. The motif of a hanging lamp on the red field of the niche is the same as that found in the first example above, except that an eightpointed star replaces the medallion of the former. Also a distinctive wide border of angular spiral leaves, of which the top edge is missing, takes the place of the Kufic border.

Another example from the 16th century is one in the Ballard Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ne w York, in this rug the prayer niche is almost the same as that of the first one but here the field is enriched by ornaments. The wide border presents a clear example of a design of hooked angular spiral leaves and lotus and palmettes terminating in a crescent moon finial.

Another prayer rug, this one from the 17th century has an elongated prayer niche, a central medallion and a triangular prayer niche with a zigzag pattern reminiscent of the Berlin original. Its border with cloud motifs is a classical Uşak one. İt is preserved in the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris.

A prayer rug of this period is also found in the McMullan Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. İt measures 2.69 x 1.6m. The design features two octagoral prayer niches facing each other and a central eight pointed star on a red field. Stylized floral motifs are scattered casually among the bold-ly contoured, huge dark brown Chinese clouds on the border. This is large fora prayer rug. A smaller example from this same collection measuring 2 x 1.57m has again a red field, but this time there are two opposing plain triangular niches in the form of a mihrab and a large medallion in the center surrounded by various decorative patterns. The border has a somewhat coarse composition of highly stylized angular flowers and leaves in red outlined in yellow, blue and white on a dark brown field.

Other prayer rugs of this period also found in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, istanbul, should be noted. One of these has a red niche and resembles slightly the one described above from the Museum in Berlin. But here the lower octagonal indentation is filled with a medallion of flowers and leaves; the hanging lamp has turned into a long decorative motif; and arı eight-pointed star is placed in the center with quarter motif s on the four sides. The same quarter motifs are also repeated on the outer corners of the prayer niche on a field of yellow.

The border exhibits quite a harmonious composition of lined, slim white contoured palmettes interspersed with flower fillings in different alternating colors. The corner shifts are not clearly elucidated. The right edge of the border is completely missing.

Another prayer rug in the same museum, again from this period, displays two octagonal prayer niches in red, but here they are opposite each other Small rosettes are placed around the octagonal medallion in the center and guarter motifs of decorative rosettes fill the four sides and the octagonal niches and sides. The wide border is lined with various colored delicate motifs derived from Kufic inscriptions. One of the edges on the narrow side is missing.

A different prayer rug in the same collection gives stili another unique example from this group. The yellow niche is minimized by a long and narrow mihrab with brown dots, a pattern derived from an animal skin. At the bottom of the rug is a diamond shaped indented motif with a crescent moon finial. The hanging lamp has been replaced by a longish spray of flowers suspended from a huge palmette capital which is crowned by a decorative lotus leaf. A much wider field around the mihrab surrounds it almost like a border and the brown ground is filled with polychrome motifs reminiscent of some examples of those seen in the Caucasian dragon carpets. The border is completely indistinguishable as it intermingles with the field of the rug.

We turn our attention to examples of later period prayer rugs. The first is in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul, and epitomizes the last stage of development in this group of prayer rugs. İn this rug the prayer niche is formed by a series of six stepped broken lines which proceed up from the bottom and culminate with a crescent on the top. All of the six are in different colors and the square spaces on both sides are all filled with different colored medallions. The border of this somewhat peculiar prayer rug is a repetition of geometric lines in small squares. On the rightside is a different composition which alternates with large stars. Another variation of this prayer rug with niches lined up, one on top of the other, is in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin.

For another prayer rug from the same group of this later period we turn to an example in the Ballard Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. İn this rug the prayer niche has a depressed and triangular appearance and is circumscribed with a brown band decorated with rumis in geometric forms and hooked lozenges in red and yellow on a red ground. The octagonal indentation at the bottom is broadened in order to bring it in harmony with the triangular shape, and a lozenge medallion is placed in the center. This prayer rug from the 18th century exhibits an enriched example of the type of rug with a crescent like finial at the top of the mihrab. This enrichment includes a huge lozenge medallion in the center of the field, two wide brown triangles placed symmetrically at the lower edges, and steps on only one side (symbolizing the mimber as seen from the profile). Three hanging lamps of which the middle one is green and the other two blue are also found in the field. Furthermore, the outer corners are each filled with green hanging lamps. The broad border of the rug has a clumsy geometric appearance with its yellow and red angular spiral leaves and highly stylized rumis and palmettes on a brown field

Another prayer rug of stili later date in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul displays a degenerate example related to this same group. İn it a depressed triangular prayer niche in the form of a wide band on a red field curves upwards at the lower edge and terminates with carnation bfilled octagons. The space in between is left empty of motifs but here is depicted an ewer with double handles. The field of the niche is filled with symmetrical and reversely placed Kula land-scapes in two rows. The fourline inscription on the top of the rug is so worn that it is in decipherable. The spandrels are decorated with schematic and stylized motifs of flowers and leaves.The broad border with blue, green and red colored flowers and buds on a white field displays an incongruity with the main pattern of the rug. This last example from this group is dated the middle of the 19th century.

İn concluding our discussion of Turkish prayer rugs we will examine more in detail the development of ten different groups of prayer rugs which are specifically identified and most have become labelled with the name of the region in which they were woven: Uşak, Palace, Gördes, Kula, Konya, Ladik, Kırşehir, Mucur, Milas, and Bergama. The distinct characteristics which delineate each group are sometimes clear. At other times to classify an individual rug as to origin is difficult. There was a great deal of crossfertilization of motifs, composition, and techniques. Each has its unique history of development but all have added to the richness that makes Turkish prayer rugs so renowned and famous.

Prayer Rugs 2


Palace Carpets

Palace Carpets

Alongside the dewelopment of the traditional Turkish carpets, a completely different type of carpet both in technigue and design appears at the end of the 16th century, the Ottoman palace carpets. The conquest by the Ottomans of Tabriz in 1514 and later of Cairo in 1517 pawed the way for some new concepts, both technical and ornamental, in the art of Turkish carpet making. The carpets, first wowen in Cairo between the years 1540 and 1550 reflect a combination of colors and designs reminiscent of the Mameluke carpets. But in a considerably short time the naturalistic style of the Ottoman palace carpets began to gain predominance. These carpets were not the product of a long dewelopment but had rather a sudden birth. Because of the intricate and mixed designs of these carpets and the fact that they were seldom depicted in European paintings, it is difficult to date them.

Designs using lancet leawes called “saz”, palmettes and medallions intermingling with wery naturalistic motifs of tulips, hyacinths, carnations and pomegranates began to appear creating a completely different fresh effect. Naturalistic leawes which appear in warious other branches of Ottoman art also are displayed in these carpets. Also Persian (Sine) knots instead of the Turkish were preferred in making these luxury carpets with their extremely rich and elegant designs. The resulting effect of the knotting is projecting tufts of colored yarn which make the close wowen pile of the carpet. The knots of wool and cotton being wery tight (200 to 700 thousand per m2), produce an effect Tike that of soft welwet. Silk was newer employed in the knots but it was used occasionally in the warp and weft; the woolen pile was often supplemented with cotton.

The arrangement of the medallion in Persian carpets plays only a secondary role, the basic pattern appearing Tike a section cut out of an endless field. Ewen if the patch like medallions were to be remowed, the general effect would stay the same. And, in factsome carpets without any medallions are much more pleasing in composition.

A theory first put forward by Erdmann and then readily accepted by others was that the designs were supplied by the Ottoman palace artists in İstanbul for use on the Cairene looms. Kühnel, on the other hand suggested that, due to their technical characteristic, some of these carpets could hawe been wowen in İstanbul or Bursa, a silk center famous for its rugs since 1474. An Imperial Edict dated 1585 by Sultan Murat III supports this wiew for it commands that elewen carpet weawers should be sent to İstanbul bringing with them dyed threads of wool. These Ottoman carpets were of wery soft, silk like wool which could only hawe been easily dyed and supplied from Egypt. The warp and weft of carpets produced in Cairo were undyed, or sometimes were of red or yellowish wool, whereas Bursa carpets were made of dyed single or double ply silk. Cotton yarn was used when the colors of white or pale blue were desired.

There is much speculation about the dating of these carpets anywhere from the founding of the  Ulu Mosque,  Diwriği 626 (1228-29) a time when they could hawe been giwen as gifts of the Mengücük, to the middle of the 16th century as samples of the Para Mameluke group since they carry some of their characteristics. Some daim they are of the Anatolian Beylik period between the Selçuk and Ottoman periods (14th-15th cen­tury) while others fluctuate between the 16th and 17th centuries. Because of the use of the Turkish knot the special wool yarn, the weawing of warp and weft and the characteristic Kufic border, the end of the 14th century seems plausible. İts prowenance could be in centers Tike Sivas or Konya which had already been praised by Marco Polo when he wisited the area around 1271. They were an urban product, an experiment in color and composition which did not continue.

There is much waluable Information in the archiwes of the Topkapı Palace Museum, İstanbul, in the Prime Ministry and in the Municipal Library, İstanbul, concerning the Ottoman palace carpets. İt is recorded in these documents that carpet weawing loorns were in use from the time that the Ottoman palace was organized and established and that a group of craftsmen, some of whom were entrusted with weawing textiles, were responsible for making smallsized carpets in the palace. Besides, we also hawe the offical registries of the palace dated until the end of the I6th century in which the names, the amounts of daily wage paid and the horrelands of these palace craftsmen are recorded.

Hamza and Mustafa, the names of two carpet weawers from the time of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror are mentioned in the data recorded in the inquiry notebooks numbered TKSA 9613-1 and dated H 932 (1526). The first one was admitted to the organization of the textile weawers and became the warden of the carpet weawers guild during the reign of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (1526). Mustafa, the other person mentioned was also taken into the palace as a carpet weawer during the reign of the Conqueror and had a son Mehmet who became an apprentice in the carpet weawers guild in ıhe time of Süleyman the Magnificent.

We also hawe the names of fiwe carpet makers, including both masters and apprentices, of a total ofnineteen who had practiced that art in the time of Sultan Beyazıt II. The names of these fiwe men who had receiwed 3245 small silwer coins (akçe) as a gift in return for presenting to the sultan carpets for the Mosque of Beyazıt in H 917 (1511), in the third month of the Arabic calendar (Rebiülevvel) are: İlyas, Nasuh, İskender, İsmail and Hızır. From the abowe named craftsmen İlyas had receiwed 900 silwer coins from the Superintendent of the Treasury in H 909 (1501) in the fifth month of the Arabic calendar (Cemaziyelevvel) in return for a prayer rug; Nasuh had receiwed 2000 silwer coins for a carpet he had presented in the same year; İskender had receiwed 1500 silwer coins for a carpet presented in the ninth month (Ramazan) of H 911 (1513); ismail had receiwed 800 silwer coins for a carpet the same year; and Hızır had receiwed 800 silwer coins for a carpet presented in the third month (Rebiülewel) of H 915 (1509). Nasuh was a natiwe of Walachia and diedjust before H 932 (1526) during the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent İlyas of Niğbolu and Hızır of Kossowa were also among the twenty-fiwe palace carpet makers listed in the serwice of Süleyman the Magnificent.

İt is also recorded in these official registry books dated H 1001 (1595) that sixteen carpet guilds were in operation in the time of Sultan Murat III. We do not find in these documents the names of any carpet makers who had come from Egypt. Moreower, carpet making had started to deteriorate during the reign of his son, Sultan Mehmet III, and as recorded by H 1008 (1599) only one new weawer was admitted to the ranks of the sixteen weawers.

The white and light blue cotton yarn, and the cotton hawing a texture of silk which is used in the palace prayer rugs and carpets was only produced in Egypt. İt is interesting to find that in the order of Sultan Murat III for elewen master carpets weawers to come from Egypt was included an order for yarn which they were to bring with them (25 October 1585). From the names cited in the order it is obwious that Mehmet the son of Arslan was a Türk. İt is also known that after this date the palace carpets wowen in the palace workshops were made with both a silk warp and weft, the first such of this kind. The stylistic use of flower motifs in this period was uniwersal in ali art forms, as seen from palace -drawn embroidery patterns, and as seen on examples of cloth, kilims, tiles, and illuminations. This was to continue through the 18th century. Later it reappeared in a distorted form in the carpets of Uşak and Konya.

Two large carpets, one of which is sewerely damaged, and a small prayer rug, all in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul, plus one other prayer rug of medium size in the Topkapı Palace Museum, İstanbul, are the only examples of these carpets that we hawe leftin Turkey. Most of these carpets were sent to European palaces as gifts and remained there. The large, best preserwed carpet in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul, has a red field. The main pattern is cruciform motifs formed by double rumis in white lined up in an endless repetition in diagonal rows on a dark blue and green ground. The palmettes on the four sides are joined together forming a diamond pattern.

İn recent years a carpet that matches this one (9.95×3.30 m) has been found in storage in the Pitti Palace, Florence. İt also has the repeated two rows of blue and green. The main field on both ofthese carpets is red. This particular carpet was a gift to Duke Ferdinando II by Admiral Werrazzano in 1623. İt was first displayed in the Hayward Gallery Exhibition of 20 May-10 July   1983  and described in the catalogue by Donald King. This piece indeed reflects the grandeur of the palace carpets.

These palatial carpets had an effect on the European art of carpet making and were imitated later in Spanish and Polish rugs. Poor quality carpets also inspired by these originals are stili being produced in İstanbul and in areas around izmir and Uşak. Another group of carpets in existence, designated as the late period izmir Carpets, also shows the influence of the Ottoman palace carpets and they are ewen more inferior. These are produced in   western  Anatolia  mainly in   Uşak and Gördes and hawe come by their name merely because they are exported from İzmir.

One carpet though it does not strictly fail in this group should be noted because of its importance   as  an   example of exquisite Turkish carpets. İt is one of twenty-two carpets which were stolen from the Ulu Mosque, Diwriği, in 1978. Hawing been discowered hidden in the ground in Kayseri in 1982 it was brought to the newly created Wakıflar Carpet Museum, istanbul, where it is now displayed. İt is tied with Turkish knots. On a red field in blue are rows of octagonal star medallions tied together by small stylize dcypress branches reminiscent of a candelabra. İn the middle of the squares formed by the medallions are diagonally set rosettes. The motifs of stars with extensions similar to those on the borders of the Selquk carpets enrich the composition. A fragment from the main field of a similar carpet with an Uşak carpet type border is in the Islamic Arts Museum, Cairo. Also a similar carpet is in the Mewlana Museum, Konya.

There is only one carpet stili in existence today which was produced earlier using the Ottoman palace carpet technique.

But certainly besides the production of carpets in the palace, carpet making was practiced in priwate workshops and on family looms in istanbul for a long time both before and after that date. A place in İstanbul called Halıcılar in the neighborhood of Yenibahçe has long been known for its carpets. Since there was no marketplace in the wicinity, the carpets were sold in the Cowered Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı) and in surrounding shops. İstanbul carpets until the 20th century hawe radically changed so that now the old time istanbul type carpets hawe been replaced by ones manufactured in Bandırma and Kayseri. The carpets produced when the factory of Hereke was established in the 19th century had nothing in common with the genuine istanbul carpet. These were produced in warious sections of the city. İn fact the art of carpet making in these centers continued in the 19th and 20th centuries. Feshane in Eyüp was famous in the 19th century; Kumkapı, Topkapı, Etyemez, Üsküdar and Istinye were famous into the 20th century. The carpets of Kumkapı for example were prized for their high quality, so much so that a daily paper of 1959 related a rumor that a silk carpet manufactured there had been sold at the exaggerated price of 60,000 dollars in the United States. Carpet making was also practiced until recently in Topkapı, Kartal and Pendik.

İn the 19th century Turkish carpet weawing continued to dewelop. Sultan Abdülhamit II in 1881 added 100 carpet looms to the factory founded by Sultan Abdülmecit in 1844 at Hereke for the weawing of cloth, and thus the production of the famous Hereke carpets was begun. These masterpieces are stili being made there under the direction of the Sümerbank.

The art of old Turkish carpet weawing is creatiwely continuing in the Konya, Kayseri, Siwas and Kırşehir regions, in western Anatolia in İsparta, Fethiye, Döşemealtı, Balıkesir, Yağcıbedir, Uşak, Bergama, Kula, Gördes, Milas, Çanakkale and Ezine, and in the east in the Kars and Erzurum regions.

Prayer Rugs


Variations of Medallion and Star Uşak Carpets

Variations of Medallion and Star Uşak Carpets

One of the variations of the medallion Uşak carpets in the Museum of Art, Philadelphia, shows the medaİlions with two different endlessly repeated fillings arranged in offset rows. The composition clearly emphasizes this continuum. The oldest example of this type was in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin, but unfortunately it disappeared during the war. But recently up to twenty-five similar carpets have been discovered in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul.Another variant group is related to the Star Uşak carpets. İn these carpets four diagonal cartouches move out from the central octagonal section. The pattern consists of alternate and staggered rows of large and small stelate diamond shaped medallions and square cartouches. The most outstanding carpet of this type is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Other examples are to be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and the Vakıf Museum, İstanbul. İn a small carpet with a red ground in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul, the central medallion is framed by a square from the corners of which large palmettes derive. The half diamonds above and below are typical of Uşak carpets. The shape of the star medallion and the geometric lines help to date this carpet to the 18th century.

A different group of carpets from the 17th century having characteristic borders with Chinese clouds and a field design of floral motifs and lozenges is also attributed to the Uşak region. A most distinctive example of this type was in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin, previously, but it was destroyed in the Iast war. A later sample is in the Kunstgewerbe Museum, Hamburg.

Starting in the 15th century Chinese cloud motifs began to appear especially on Uşak carpets. Two unique Uşak carpets consisting of a central composition made up of Chinese cloud motifs and dating to the 17th century are to be found in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul. The first of these carpets has on a central field of red, eightpointed star medallions outlined in twisting Chinese cloud light and dark blue contours. These form large diamonds around the medallions. Yellow wavy branches and yellow hyacinth like flowers interweave between the diamonds in an endless pattern.

The second carpet has a buff field in which multi colored Chinese cloud motifs are arranged similar to those on Holbein carpets. The central composition is made up of alternating rows of diamonds and octagons in red, white, dark blue and green. A stylistic dragon figüre is formed around the gül motif by green white and red cloud motifs. This Uşak carpet with its characteristic intertwining border of curved stems and mixed rumi shows its Türkmen origin and its dating to the 1700s.

Among the different types of the Uşak carpets is an unusual piece from the 17th century which shows a pattern of red, blue and white circles set one above the other. İt resembles the Türkmen and the Yörük (nomad) carpets of the outlying area of Central and western Anatolia. The border of the carpet with twisted branches and double rumis is a typical Uşak. Two pieces with white fields are seen in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin, and in a collection in Switzerland. Another half-carpet that shows a pattern with blue palmettes on a red ground and white and yellow twisted rumis has survived. This carpet which can be dated to the beginning of the 18th century has an outer border reminiscent of the Kufic with cartouches forming a continuation of the Holbein type carpets. The inner border bears the characteristic Caucasian features.


Another carpet from the 18th century with red ground shows a very different pattern with the arrangement of the stylized motifs of the yellow trees in rows containing hooks on both sides with dark blue small palmette fillings between them. İt forms a pattern of a lozenge. On the trees are fillings of very fine scenes of stylized animal combat. This carpet that is dated to the end of the 18th century can be related to the Yörük carpets.

A related variant Uşak carpet of the 19th century is to be found in a private collection in Washington, D.C. This carpet was published by Walter Denny in 1979 in a Smithsonian Institution exhibition as a south-east Caucasian carpet (2.47×1.07 m). Except for its border, its similarity to the 16th century

Uşak carpets is obvious. Another Uşak carpet with red ground with floral motif s arranged in a lozenge pattern comes from the end of the 17th century.

Next to these developments of the late period two small carpets from the 16th century showother examples of the rich variety from the Uşak area. The first of them is in the form of a rectangle with a plain, dark blue ground. Its plan is original. The border is very different with red geometric, twisted branches and stylized flowers resembling a hyacinth on a yellow ground. Very Iittie has remained from the outer borders that contain flowers and leaves.
The second carpet shows the type of Uşak with double niches. İn its center is a large blue oval medallion on a red ground. İt is filled with rumis and palmettes. The corner fillings on a pink ground are decorated with stylized flowers. The border which contains large floral motif s and clouds has a black ground.

Uşak Carpets with a White Field

Two distinctive groups of carpets are attributed to the Uşak region because of their designs and the technigues of weaving. These are carpets with fields of white andsoft ivory and borders with Chinese cloud motifs and palmettes. They are better known as “Bird” and “Qintamani” (Chinoiserie) carpets and date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. The main design, that of two leaves facing each other, at first glance appears to be a motif reminiscent of birds, a misconception perpetuated in the name. Here we have a geometric composition, a contradiction for an Uşak carpet, but the designs are completely floral in character and are placed among rosettes and flowers.
Two-niched Usak carpet, end of 16th

Very significant examples of the “Bird” carpets are in the museums of Konya and İstanbul, but in addition they can be found in abundance in private collections and in other museums ali over the world.

The third white ground carpet is small in size, and displays a pattern derived from that of the first Holbein type. The field is divided into squares, each filled with red rosettes, while the dark blue quarter diamonds in the corners form a total lozenge motif. The designs are connected to each other by slender stems. The typical border with its huge stylized clouds and braided motifs is enriched by the placement in the field of rosettes in between the clouds. This carpet can be dated to the end of the 17th century.

If we take our cue from European paintings, we must assume that these carpets first appeared in the first half of the 16th century and continued until the middle of the 17th. The following examples typify the extent of the variety and the dates of these depictions. Such a composition appears in a fresco painted on the ceiling of the Royal Palace in Munich by Peter Candid in  1587, although the details of the designs are not clearly stated. We can also find the names of carpets with a white ground in earlier dated inventories of Archduke Ferdinand of Tirol in 1571-72, of Emperor Maximilian II in 1578 and of Queen  Elisabeth  of France (and wife  to Philippe II) in 1545-1568. A painting with a “Bird” carpet spread on a table, which is in the collection of Lazaro in Madrid and another one attributed to the Clouet School are both undated but they might be copies of older originals. Considering the shape of the helmet and armor in the picture, both could be dated to somewhere between 1560 and 1570. İn Berlin is an elegantly drawn picture depicting a  sophisticated type  of carpet which is notable because the year 1610 is woven into the carpet in a chronogram. A carpet similar to these is in Stockholm in the pri­vate collection of Lundgren. İt bears the coat ofarms of Jan Andrzej Prochnicki, the Bishop of Lemberg (1614-1633) woven just in the middle of the carpet. İn the gallery of the Hermitage Museum, Leningrad, “Bird” carpets are depicted with extreme accuracy in the pictures painted by Alessandro Varotari around 1625. An inscribed date of 1646 appears on a small carpet in the Transylvanian church of Schassburg.

Bird carpet, 17th c; from the McMullen Collection in Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

A smaller group than the white field Uşak carpets is that with spots and stripes reminiscent of leopard and tiger skins which is des-ignated as “Qintamani”. İn these a design of three leopard dots and two tiger stripes is repeated in blue, red and yellow throughout the field. İt is interesting to note that in the 16th and 17th centuries fabrics with the same design were used to make caftans for the Ottoman Sultans. Some of the “Qintamani” carpets were woven in tremendous sizes. Examples of these carpets can be found in the museums of istanbul and Konya, in the Museo Bardini, Florence, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in the Philadelphia Museum and in various private collections.

The next two examples we will qite are ali included in the collection in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul. They show the variety and uniqueness of the Uşak carpet group. The first is a large carpet dating from the end of the 16th century. Here the field is red, the tiger stripe yellow and the leopard dots blue, and the border is extremely wide. The second carpet is a very long one and is dated to the 18th century. A blue hooked single tiger stripe is filled with red and yellow on a brown field; there are also three leopard dots in white with yellow and red centers. The tiger stripe almost resembles a bug with its four arms projecting from the top and bottom. The geometric wide yellow border is filled with stylized tulip, carnation, pomegranate and hyacinth flowers emerging from blue colored thick spiral stems. Very stylized small animal figures are placed in pairs on both ends of the long side. The natural brown wool of the field has been extremely worn by time.

A carpet with three leopard dots and double tiger stripes in red on a dark blue ground in the Vakıflar Carpet Museum, İstanbul, shows the continuation of this type in the 19th century. Only here the pattern of a skin is mixed with a central medallion which disturbs the harmony. The border with its geometric form points to a late period.

Without a doubt the Uşak carpets constitute the second brilliant period of the Anatolian carpet tradition, a period extending from the 16th to the end of the 18th century. As a group they started to degenerate and show signs of retrogression by the end of that period but nevertheless they did not disappear because very degenerate samples of some types have lasted until the present time.

Bergama Carpets

Geometric designs and highly stylized floral motifs used in accord with the lines of geometric patterns were common in the Bergama carpets that developed from Type III and Type IV of the Holbein carpets. One of the most prominent of these displays a pattern grouping where two or three squares of equal size, lined up one above the other, fiil the ground across the carpet. The squares contain central octagons, or sometimes hexagons, filled with triangles. A different type displays a grouping of small octagons around the mid octagon thus producing the main motif. Rectangular and square frames were not used in the beginning. Later stylized animal figures began to appear. Stars and square motifs were also used in these carpets. The Bergama carpets, of which the oldest examples date from the 16th century, have perpetuated many patıerns and Kufic borders of the Selquk carpets. From the earliest 16th century examples, it is obvious that Bergama carpets and prayer rugs have continued to carry the motifs and particular colors used on the Selquk carpets, namely buff, natural white, two different red, blue, brownish green and brown, and often with two shades of the same color side by side. This continues even today. The cerpets display both geometric and strong stylized plant motifs side by side, ones often echced appropriately in the borders. After the 19th century these motifs were of naturalistic flowers and leaves. The reappearance of small animal figures in the 18th century on the Bergama carpets attests also to their relationshif. to former animal-figured carpets.

Palace Carpets


16th and 17th Century Classical Turkish Carpets (Uşak Carpets)

16th and 17th Century Classical Turkish Carpets (Uşak Carpets)

The second great period for Turkish carpets following that of the Selquk era began in the 16th century in Uşak and its surroundings. This most famous and largest group of carpets, although frequently painted by European artists and highly esteemed in Europe until the end of the 18th century, was recognized merely as Turkish carpets in inventory records. The name Uşak for these carpets is a relatively new classification. İn the local sources the Uşak carpets have been identified as such since the 17th century.

A number of references attest to this. For example, in 1633 Evliya Qelebi related that there were 111 carpet merchants in the guild of İstanbul and mentioned the forty shops where carpets from İzmir, Thessaloniki, Cairo, Isfahan, Uşak and Kava la were sold. İn 1674, the name of an Uşak carpet is listed in the inventory of the Yeni Valide Mosque, İstanbul (Evliya Qelebi). The Hırka-i Saadet department of the Topkapı Palace, where the mantle of the Prophet Muhammad is kept as a relic was also covered with Uşak carpets in 1726. Another reference is to an order that was made to Uşak for carpets for the opening of the Laleli Mosque, İstanbul, in 1763. And again, Ahmet Refik describes the Uşak region together with the town it self in the late 17th and 18th centuries (H 12th century) stating that the pattems for their carpets were provided from İstanbul.

İt has been generally accepted that the first two types of the group known as the Holbein type carpets are  regarded as  the original Uşak carpets. İn these, geometric designs are replaced by floral motifs and medallions formed of plant designs.  These two types have been classified as the Medallion Uşak and the Star Uşak. İt is uncertain which predates the other. Although some scholars tend to place the Star Uşak carpets at an earlier date, it is quite impossible with the data available today to determine a specific and authentic date. If we take into account the date that their representations in European paintings occurred, then we must assign them to the first half of the 16th century. The medallion motif we know was used for the first time in Turkish carpets in this same century.

The medallion entered the art of carpet making from the bindings and the gilded pages of illuminated manuscripts, in other words from the art of the book İt has played an important part also in the Tabriz carpets of the 16th century. The conquest of Tabriz by the Turks in 1514 marks the beginning of the use of medallions in Turkish carpets. The wealth in diversity of the medallion types in Uşak carpets represents the supreme power and the creative force of the Turkish artists.

İn the carpets of Tabriz, Kashan, and Isfahan, the center of the carpet is decorated with a large medallion as the main motif and the corners are emphasized by quarter medallions. Following the conventions of miniature art, the medallions and the field are filled with floral designs and with compositions consisting of both human and animai figures. Thus the development of the Persian carpet was hindered because the artists who designed the carpets were the same as the miniaturists and they directly applied miniature design to the technique of textiles.

Medallion Uşak Carpets

İn the case of Uşak carpets we find that the later examples of the 16th and 17th centuries show a natural, continuous development in the changing art and technique of textiles. The Uşak medallion carpets, generally accepted as the more important of the two types, exhibit a further development during the course of the 18th century, that of reaching a length of nearly 10 meters. İn these long carpets the overall composition gives the idea of an endless continuum with a circular medallion on the main axis and a Iine of pointed lobed medallions on both sides of it. This makes them quite different from the Persian carpets where the composition is closed within definite borders. İn this schematic use, the medallions only differ in shape by being either oval or circular, and the alignment remains constant even when the field varies in size.

The best quality medallion Uşak carpets which were produced in quantity until the middle of the 18th century are the on es with yellow floral designs on a dark blue ground and with rich red and blue medallions. The on es with a red background always have dark blue medallions and are of higher quality. They are usually made of wool, but sometimes cotton is also used. Deep red, dark blue and yellow are the predominate colors; green and blue appear as secondary colors and black is used on the contours. Amazingly magnificent decorations were achieved by using these three primary and two supple mentary colors.

These carpets attained their classical form in a very short time so that, beginning with the 16th century, the Uşak medallion carpets were being directly exported to Europe. Paintings of them in this period demonstrate this. For example, in a family portrait copied during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in 1570, a medallion Uşak carpet is depicted under the feet of the English King Henry VIII.

İn the Flemish intehor paintings of the 17th century we also have some extremely accurate representations of medallion Uşak carpets which were used as table covers. We can also cite, among many others, paintings by Vermeer in Buckingham   Palace   and  the Gallery of Dresden and by Terborch in the National Gallery, London. The medallion Uşak carpets, one bearing the Polish Wlesiolowski coat of arms (at present in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin), and one in Wavel, Krakow are clear evidence to support the contention that these carpets were made both on order and also were sold commercially in Europe.

İn the 17th century various types of the medallion carpets appear. One of them strongly emphasizes an infinite pattern with eight lobed medallions placed on various axes. An older example of this in the Berlin Museum was destroyed d u ring the last war but other examples have been found.

İn the last half of the 18th century very different patterns of the Uşak carpets  with medallions were stili being depicted in European paintings. The Swiss painter Liotard (1702-1789) in his painting “The Portrait of the Countess of Conventry” has depicted an Uşak carpet with medallions, the origin of which is unknown. The light brown medallion is on a dark blue ground and above and below it are lotus forms. The medallion is framed by palmettes on either side. Here  the medallion almost occupies the whole width of the carpet with only a short distance to the border.

İn the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul, and in the Mevlana Museum, Konya, there are a large variety of exquisite and valuable examples of Medallion Uşak carpets, some of which are whole and some fragmented. İn the Kuwait National Museum, a museum founded recently by the Emir of Kuwait, there is an example (3.25×7.23 m) of a very fine Medallion Uşak carpet. Also in this museum are a sewn together small Type I Holbein carpet (1.4×2.87 m) and a Star Uşak carpet.

Star Uşak Carpets

These carpets of which we now have few original specimens, constitute a smaller group. İn this type, eightpointed stars alternate regularly with diamond shaped medallions in offset rows. These carpets were of medium size, very few examples in hand being more than four meters in length. They never postdate the 17th century. The field is always red with eight pointed stars and small star shaped lozenges in blue. İn this type of Uşak carpet the center of the carpet is never emphasized because of the profusion of lozenges. Occasionally medallions in red lie on a field of blue. The field is decorated with angular stems and multicolored floral designs with the medallions being filled with palmettes and twin rumis in red and yellow.

We can date the samples in this group with more certainty. Two carpets in a group of three Star Uşak carpets which bear the crest of the Montague family are dated inside the cartouches on the border. The dates are actually woven into the narrow edge of both these carpets, which are part of the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch. The third one of the same group has no date. The larger carpet, dated 1584, has alternate rows of three stars with two medallions and two stars with three medallions. The other one, dated 1585, is of smaller size and is decorated with rows of three diamond shaped medallions.

Since 1914 these examples were attributed to an English origin but in later years they were accepted as actual Turkish carpets by such authorities as Kühnel and Erdmann Dr. May Beattie, on the other hand has recently examined the technique and matehals used in these carpets and claims that they were woven in England or Antwerp. İt is difficult to accept the probability that these magnificent Star Uşak carpetscould have been produced at such an early date in England or Antwerp, centers which were devoid of any traditions in carpet making and weaving. This supposition having no sound foundation can only be explained by the fact that copies of Turkish carpets were woven in England at later dates. We have no evidence to prove that Turkish carpets were produced in England in the 16th century.

Authorities agree that these carpets were commissioned according to a desired technique and quality to be woven under the control of and on the looms of weavers in the Uşak region. The Roman numerals of the date 1584 in the field of the larger of the two dated carpets mentioned above were in error reversed in the weaving. This shows that the ones who did the weaving were unable to read it correctly.

The first classical depiction of the Star Uşak carpet in a painting was portrayed in the first half of the 76th century by Paris Bordone, in a painting dated 1533 which is now in the Accademia di Belle Arti, Venice. Another example is a magnificent Star Uşak carpet under the throne of the Doge in the painting entitled “A Fisherman Bringing the Ring of St Mark to the Doge”. However, these kinds of representations do not appear in England prior to the 17th century. To date, no miniatures have been found which show representations of Star Uşak carpets.

Although the Star Uşak carpet seems not to have been produced beyond the 17th century, its development had been perfected in a very short period of time and without ever showing any signs of decline before its sudden demse. We have about twenty or twenty-five carpets of this type dating from the 16th century. Their sizes a re not more than four meters in length. A small example, one in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul, is noteworthy. İn its present condition it consists of only a central axis with halfstar medallions above and below and a complete one in the middle. Some other interesting examples of the same group from the 17th century are keptin the Vakıf Museum of the Sultanahmet Hünkâr Kasrı, İstanbul. Among these, a very severely damaged Uşak carpet is unusual with its red star medallions on a field of blue.

According to Donald King: “There is a clear relationship between this pattern and Persian designs such as that of the Ardabil carpet, with its floral ground and its arabesgul filled medallions and ovals. Even though the Ardabil carpet, dated 1539, is slightly later than the first Star Uşak carpets, there can be no doubt that the latter were devised under Persian influence. This influence could well have arrived through peaceful channels, but it was quite probably reinforced by Ottoman occupation of parts of Persia, including the important carpet weaving centre of Tabriz in 1514 and from 1533 on wards.

Although it may be difficult to establish a relationship between the Ardabil carpet and the Star Uşak carpets, it is possible to see such a relationship between it and the decorative tiles of the Gök Mescid in Tabriz. The reign of Timur in this area was followed by that of Türkmen rulers. İn H 870 (1465) the Karakoyunlu Türkmen ruler Muzaferiddin Cihanşah (1436-1467) had the Gök Mescid which he built decorated with tiles containing a continuous pattern of lozenges from the four sides of which extend palmettes, a design quite adaptable to carpets. İt reminds one of the filler designs on carpets, and certainly the influence on the Star Uşak carpets comes to mind. This is seen in the example shown.

The designs of the tiles of the Gök Mescid in Tabriz from the 16th century might have been a source for the development of the patterns of the Star Uşak carpets. The close affinity of the Türkmen with the art of the carpet is known. On the other hand there is another example that shows a close similarity between the Star Uşak carpets and an architectural decoration that comes from the same period.

During the recently completed restoration work of the Selimiye Mosque, Edirne, the ceiling above the windows was cleaned. Black pen designs originating from the same period (1575) came to light under the plaster. They show a close affinity with the patterns of the Star Uşak carpets. These motif s developed in various branches of Turkish art starting with the Karakoyunlu Türkmen. This has created an original richness of decoration with various forms of application depending on the place they were used or on the material.


Old Turkish Carpets

Old Turkish Carpets

It seems quite apparent with the discovery of the carpets during the excavations of the Pazırık tombs in the foothills of the Altai mountains in Siberia that the Turks were acquainted with the Turkish knot carpet technique during the time of the Huns, that is the 3rd or 2nd century BC. The next discovery of early carpets was made by Sir Marc Aurel Stein in 1906-08 in East Turkestan east of Lake Lop at Lou-lan. Then later A. von Le Coq in 1913 found small woven pieces of carpets dating from the 3rd to 6th century AD at a shrine in Qyzil near Kutsha during excavations in the Tarim basın also in Turkestan. These latter were woven with a simple knotting technique on a single weft and indicate that per-haps during this long period the advanced technique of the Pazirik carpet may have been forgotten or lost.

The simple knotting technique of East Turkestan next appears in some carpets found in Fost

Fostat (an ancient site near Cairo), carpets of the Abbasid period reflecting Islamic influences with their geometric designs.

It is known from historical sources that carpets during the 10th century were woven in Bukhara and other places in west Turkestan and that they were exported to other countries. This continued until the period of destruction by the Mongols in the 13th century.

There is in the Islamic Art Museum, Cairo a wool carpet (from Fostat), one woven with palmettes on a red field and tied with the Turkish knot which J. Zick Nissen after careful examination has suggested is among the first of the knotted carpets to have been woven in the Islamic world d u ring the Middi e Ages. This carpet has a band of Kufic writing in the border Further speculation is that it was imported in the 7th to 9th century during the Abbasid Period from West Turkestan (Maveraünnehir). This indicates that Bukhara, not East Turkestan was the first weaving center.

Another fragment, this time with intricate designs and different border motifs which is in the National State Museum, Berlin, was acquired by Kühnel and is believed to have been imported to Egypt from West Turkestan (Transoxiana) and Bukhara. Since there are no other extant examples from this area other design variations cannot be cited.

There are however other early carpet frag-ments which were found in Egypt. These employ the knot on a single weft as used in the carpets of the East Turkestan group and usually they have a dark blue field. Two frag-ments from Fostat are in the Benaki Museum, Athens and have been carefully examined by J. Zick Nissen. Another recently found in the town Tulunlu el-Katai (near Cairo) and now in the Cairo University Collection carries the same characteristics, Kufic borders and pearl-lined connecting motifs.

It seems apparent that when the Tulunids un der Humaraveyh spread o ut from Egypt into Syria and the Adana region their weaving and carpet art developed. However it is a pity that there are no examples of carpets from Iran during the Selçuk Sultanate. The oldest carpets which we can examine carefully from the Anatolian Selçuk period are those with Turkish knots of the 13th century woven in Konya.

After F. R. Martin’s discovery of eight Selçuk carpets in the Alâeddin Mosque, Konya in 1905, R. M. Riefstahl found three more in 1930, and in 1935 and 1936 seven others were found in Fostat bringing the total of this collection to eighteen.

The art of carpet weaving which the Turks brought to the Islamic world extended the technique of single knotted wefts as far west as Spain. These pieces were greatly admired by the Europeans as can be attested by the frequency of their representation in the paintings by artists of the period.

Iranian carpets as such only appear after the 15th century, for in the 14th and 15th cen­tury miniatures we find representations of carpets with borders of the Kufic design and motifs in common with those used on the 13th century Selçuk carpets. It is obvious that the development in Iran was influenced by the Turks. Original Iranian carpets only started to be produced in the 16th century. The Kufic borders of the Selçuk carpets which later developed into intertwining and floriate borders became an enriching element of Spanish and Caucasian carpets.

The animal-figured Anatolian carpets predominately appeared in the 14th century and have their origins also in the Selçuk Period. İn order to have achieved the fame and popu-larity they seem to have gained in Europe based on the frequency of their representa­tions in the paintings of this period, the carpets must have been introduced into Europe during Selçuk times. One of these original carpets was brought to the Berlin Museum by W. von Bode from Rom e in 1890. It has a dragon-phoenix combat composition (Ming). Another with bird figures flanking a tree was found in 1925 in a village church in Marby, Sweden. Later more examples of animal-figured carpets have come to light in Fostat, İstanbul and Konya.

After finding the three Selçuk carpets in Beyşehir, R. M. Riefstahl found a fourth car­pet of the 15th century which can be desig­nated as the beginning prototype of the later famous Holbein group of carpets. These car­pets with geometric and intertwining floriate designs and Kufic-like borders originated dur­ing the Ottoman Period. Beginning in 1541 with the reign of Su/tan Mehmet the Conqueror and through the 16th century, these appear in paintings executed first by Italian and later by Flemish and Dutch painters. They most frequently were used by Holbein in his works and thereby as a group, bear his name. Though not all are typical of Holbein representations, these carpets have been classified into four groups. The oldest and most characteristic group has small pat­terns of octagons and diamonds with submerged contours alternating in offset diago­nal rows on a background of rumi palmettes. The second type, which in fact was not used by Holbein, consists of diamonds and cruci form like devices of floriate motifs and octagons without contours. Since these are seen frequently in Lorenzo Lotto’s paintings they are also called “Lotto” carpets. These two groups were especially important ele­ments in the development of the later Uşak carpets.

The third and fourth groups of Holbein carpets have simple designs consisting of squares and rectangles with fillings of octagons. These designs which are related to the animal figured carpets became perfected during the 15th century and have continued in use until recent years.

The Holbein carpets consisting of squares and rectangles with two small octagonal devices above and below, relate back to the carpets with border motifs of the Selçuk times. The large-pattern Holbeins are a transi­tional development leading to the Bergama carpets. In these, the geometric and sometimes strongly stylized floriate designs pre dominate. The oldest group of these carpets dates to the 16th century. In the 18th century animal figures were again introduced as filler motifs thus establishing a link to their predecessors, the animal-figured carpets.

Alongside the development of the geo­metric-type carpets of the 16th century there was at the same time the beginning of a new and exciting period in the art of Turkish carpet weaving. This started in Uşak and grew out of an interest and resurgence of other aspects of classic Ottoman art, particularly that of archi­tecture. This rich and varied group of Uşak carpets has been collected and thoroughly studied. From the two typical classic forms, the Star and Medallion Uşak

the Star and Medallion Uşaks, variations with rich motifs mark the beginning of a new period. These include carpets of the medallion type of up to ten meters in length in which the central medallions are flanked on each side by cut-off medallions thus signifying an endless expanse of composition.

The Tabriz medallion carpets are inspired by the decorative motifs on book, book bind­ings and covers. But the confined, static qual­ity of this design has been given a new expansiveness by the use of these motifs on Turkish carpets. The Turks, not confined to the art of the book, preserved in this endless con­tinuum the essence of the plasticity of the textile medium. The creation of Uşak carpets continued from the 16th century through the middle of the 18th.

The eight pointed star motif alternating with diamond-shaped medallions in offset rows, the composition of the Star Uşak car­pets, is the best expression of this feature. Excellent examples of small carpets of this type from the early 16th century can be seen, but later examples are not available since they ceased to exist by the end of the 17th century.

Simultaneously with the development of traditional Anatolian carpets a completely new type of carpet using naturalistic motifs emerged in the 16th century, the Ottoman Palace carpets. Using the Persian (Sine) knot instead of the traditional Turkish (Gördes) knot these weavers were able to produce a close woven pile which had a texture similar to that of soft velvet. This was the beginning of a nat­uralistic style which pervaded all phases of Ottoman art. The ornamentation using all forms — tulips, hyacinths, roses, carnations, budding flower stems, graceful twisting leaves —continued to an increasing degree until the end of the 18th century.

The conquests by the Ottomans of Tabriz in 1514 and later Cairo in 1517 are important dates in Turkish carpet history. Under the influence of the Mameluke use of color and techniques in their carpets, the naturalistic and flower motifs became more evident and gave way to a new form of expression.

It was first thought that these carpets were produced on Mameluke looms and snipped to the court in Istanbul but from examination of sample carpets sent from Istanbul, E. Kühnel later modified his theory acknowledg­ing that because of technique it was quite possible that some of these carpets were produced in İstanbul and in the famous silk cen­ter, Bursa. There is data to support this.

Sultan Murad III by Imperial Edict in 1585 had ordered eleven Egyptian weavers (one was Turkish, Arslan by name) to come to Istanbul together with their silk like fine wool for weaving. This included the beautiful red, yellow, deep blue and fresh green yarns used in Mameluke carpets. Customarily the warp and weft of these carpets were of natural white wool or the warp was sometimes of red wool, whereas the Ottoman Palace carpets woven in Istanbul and Bursa used silk in the warp and weft.

Except for two rather damaged large carpets (8.8×4.65 m and 4.28×4.8 m) and one prayer rug in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, İstanbul, and another prayer rug in the Topkapı Palace Museum, Istanbul, no other examples are left in Turkey. These carpets having been generally exported are now in museums and private collections around the world. The two museum carpets were found in the Seyyid Battal Gazi Türbe, Eskişehir and were brought to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Istanbul in January 1911 (10 Kanunusani 1329) where they were inventoried as Nos. 768 and 153. The large one, No. 768 has a composition of five rows of diamond devices alternating in color from yellow to dark blue. The diamonds are connected to each other by two winged extensions. This baroque composition of connect­ed diamonds is very common in Ottoman Palace carpets and can be found in another carpet, for example, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London with exactly the same field composition as the one above except that medallions have been added.

From the middle of the 16th to the end of the 17th century these Ottoman Palace carpets continued to be woven though they were constantly declining in quality. The traditional compositions were carried on in a rather poor group of Uşak carpets, a group which became known in the 19th century as the izmir carpets.

On the other hand the vigorous character of the Ottoman Palace prayer rugs continued to live on in the 18th century in the wide variety of prayer rugs from Gördes, Kula, Ladik and Uşak. There is an excellent example of an original palace prayer rug, one belonging to Sultan Ahmet I which is now in the Topkapı Museum, Istanbul. In spite of the fact that it was probably used under a brazier and has some burned areas in the center, it still is fit for the use of a sultan.

One other palace prayer rug is in the Berlin Museum. On the upper border the date of H 1019 (1610) has been woven as a chronogram which helps both to establish the fact that these rugs may have begun to be exported at the beginning of the 17th century and also to date the Sultan Ahmet piece.

The oldest known group of prayer rugs unique in Turkish carpet weaving is from the 15th century. The three rugs of completely distinctive composition now found in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Istanbul attest to the lively creativity shown by this group. Other examples of this period can be seen in the Renaissance paintings of the Bellinis, Carpaccio and L. Lotto. In the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin is a prayer rug which is identical to one found spread under the table in Giovanni’s 1507 painting of the Venetian Doge, Loredan. One of the earliest representations is in a painting by Gentile Bellini in the National Gallery, London. There is an exquisite Uşak prayer rug of the early 16th century in the Berlin Museum which has in the depressed area at the bottom a very large palmette device not unsimilar to the one in the Bellini prayer rug. In the Bode Collection an Uşak prayer rug of the 1600s is one of the examples of those woven with a very wide border and a single medallion in the middle of the field which contains a double mihrab. It is unfortunate that we have so few examples of the 15th and 16th century prayer rugs.

In the 17th century there was a sudden resurgence both in number and in variety of prayer rugs, most notably being those from Gördes with finely stepped mihrabs and undulating contours which at the same time reflect a continuation of the Ottoman Palace style. North of Gördes in Kula similar rugs with similar mihrab niches and borders containing up to as many as ten thin stripes should be noted. Kula also nmduced land scape patterned rugs which included a composition of small houses and trees. Third in importance came the prayer rugs of Ladik. These were striking because of their soft texture and vivid colors and characteristic rows of long-stemmed tulips above and below the mihrab. There are rugs with two or three contoured mihrabs in two or three colors of red that are products of Kırşehir and nearby Mucur. Milas prayer rugs on the other hand using motifs from the Gördes rugs are bright and many colored and have been influenced by the Uşak and Bergama traditions.

The Transy/vanian church carpets found in museums and collections around the world mostly date from the 17th century. These sin-gle-and double-niched mihrab rugs are relat­ed to the Uşak and Bergama groups. Besides these, there are numerous other types of prayer rugs which, though unique in their own way. reflect various influences. The development of Turkish carpet weaving con­tinued until the end of the 19th century. In 1891 Abdul ha m id II added a hundred carpet looms to the fabric-looms which were set up in 1844 by Abddlmecit in Hereke, and started the production of the well known Hereke carpets. Today in the same place, carpets are produced in the same style under Sümerbank management.

In the Konya, Kayseri, Sivas and Kırşehir regions, and in İsparta, Fethiye, Döşemealtı, Balıkesir, Yağcıbedir, Uşak. Bergama, Kula. Gördes, Milas, Çanakkale and Ezine in west­ern Anatolia and in Kars and Erzurum in east­ern Anatolia there are other creative endeavors at revitalizing the art of Turkish carpet weaving. The epitomy of the unique contribution of Turkish carpet weaving lies in a continuity, one which builds and discards as it develops. In the process of giving and taking, the uniqueness is matched by a firm grasp of the traditional. This freedom of expression has given rise to the vast variety which is the essence of art at its finest.