Turkish Rugs in Medieval Europe

europe european carpets turkish rugs weaving

Rug weaving craft spread in Persian and Anatolia(modern day Turkey) during the period of Seljuks and evolved through various stages of development. Since the 13th century high quality rugs have been woven in certain Anatolian districts, becoming a dominant accessory item in houses, markets and palaces and spreading out to Europe.

The fact that Anatolian rugs began to appear in European paintings from the 14th century with a further increase in the 15th century (Renaissance) indicates that these rugs were very popular in Europe. Common features of 13th century rugs which included geometric patterns, various figures depicting the tree of life and animal figues continued until the 15th century. Turkish rugs of the 14th and 15th centuries often included soch colours as red, blue, yellow and cream and made frequend appearences in the paintings by famous renaissance artists like Gentile, Giovanni Bellini, Capaccio, Ghirlandaio, Hans Memling and so on. For Europe's princess, Turkish rugs were and indication of wealth and they wanted to immortalize them by commissioning the artists of the time to paint their portraits together with their Turkish rugs. 

The most common motifs used in the carpets of that century were medallion, lamp and cufic script but later carpets began to be decorated further with such patterns as leaves, flowers, pomegranate, octagons and dioamond shapes. The medallion motif which was so popular in the 15th century not only maintained its position in rugs but spread to fabric patterns in the 16th century.

Carpets of Usak and Bergama; significant weaving centres of 16th century Anatolia are among the important items decorating the museums of Europe. Presence of Turkish rugs in Western museums and private collections in such large numbers indicate that they have been important export goods for centuries. Bergama carpets have since carried on their tradition of gemeotric arrangements involving triangles,hexagons and octagons.

At the universal exhibition held in 1867 at Champ de Mars in Paris participated by Kings and Emperors, Turkey(Ottoman Empire by then) received awards in silk crafts as European interest and demand for carpets began to increase further towards the end of the 19th century. Due to the fact that Turkey did not have enough rug looms to meet such demands at the time, Persian and Far Eastern rugs which are woven more easily and quickly due to single knot technique had made their way into the European market. However, they have not been able to overshadow the reputation of Turkish Rugs

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