Quadrifoglio Gallery is a small, nationally regarded gallery specializing in antique Oriental rugs and new, hand woven natural dye rugs, located 15 miles west of Boston and 5 minutes from Wellesley center in historic South Natick, Massachusetts
When many people think about antique Oriental rugs, they tend to think in terms of Persian rugs. Antique Persian rugs are arguably the most famous Oriental rugs woven in the 19th century or earlier, but they are not the only type. Persian rugs – and to clarify: a “rug” is smaller than 6 feet by 9 feet and a “carpet” is larger than 6 feet by 9 feet – are a sub-group of the broader category of “Oriental” rugs.
Oriental rugs were also produced in the 19th century or earlier in Turkey, The Caucasus, Turkmenistan, India and China.
An item, be it furniture, porcelain or other art forms, is often considered to be “antique” once it is 100 years old or older. The problem we find with this definition is that it tends to neglect other criteria that contribute to the authenticity and/or quality of an item or the methods used to produce it.
In the case of Oriental rugs, their production has gone through phases over the centuries, often determined by which country might have conquered another country or which dynasty came to an end, with shifting geographical boundaries often occurring. There are concomitant cultural factors, as well, such as the invention of synthetic dyes in the 1860s and the increasing use of them over subsequent decades.
Synthetic dyes started to be used in Persian rugs seemingly as early as the 1870s, and possibly in Turkish rugs even earlier than that. The use of synthetic dyes, and a lessening of the individual artistry involved in rug production, appears to have impacted Turkish rugs to a greater degree early on than Persian rugs. By the end of the 19th century, a period where most Persian rugs still reflected great artistry and use of synthetic dyes was somewhat sparing, Turkish rugs had already declined sharply in terms of their quality and aesthetics.
Both Persian and Turkish rugs go back at least to the early 16th century, with some examples considered to be even earlier. The height of Persian culture was the Safavid Dynasty, which spanned the period from 1501- 1722. During that era, magnificent carpets were commissioned by the Safavid court, with remaining examples considered to be some of the masterworks of the carpet genre. These would include The Ardebil Carpet in The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, its fragmentary counterpart in The Getty in Los Angeles and the early Kerman rug sold several years ago for 33 million dollars and now in a museum in The Middle East.
Once the Safavid Dynasty fell in 1722, carpet production lost its court patronage and fell into sharp decline, with a small number of rugs woven by nomadic tribes. Shifting borders comes into focus here, because Persia at one point extended further north into The Caucasus. Carpets were produced in this region during the 17th and 18th centuries including the famous Caucasian “Dragon Carpets”; and stylistic influences between The Caucasus of Persia seemed to have run both ways: namely, with carpets produced in The Caucasus utilizing the Persian “Harshang” design of various palmettes and flowers, as well as the classical “Herati” design, and “Dragon Carpet” designs eventually being copied in the northwest Persian region around Heriz in Azerbaijan Province during the Persian carpet revival period in the last quarter of the 19th century.
Persian rugs became more commercial