Whether blending with rustic living spaces or serving as the centerpiece of a palatial drawing room, vintage turkish rugs are coveted for their lustrous pastels and monumental botanical designs. But besides their distinctive color palettes, these antique rugs are more than just beautiful: they also offer an intriguing window into the country’s rich cultural heritage.
Rug weaving is an intricate and longstanding tradition in many cultures, and it was largely the Turks who introduced this practice to European markets in the thirteenth century. Today, Turkish rug styles abound with symbol-filled Anatolian tribal carpets, soaring Safavid Persian florals and fluid curvilinear arabesques that offer a wide range of decorative possibilities for modern designers.
From the ancient rug and textile weaving centers of Oushak to the tribal regions of Bergama, Milas, Sivas and the Ghiordes, Turkish weavers have always pushed the envelope with innovative patterns and sophisticated techniques. In fact, this rich legacy has led to one of the most diverse selections of antique and vintage carpets in the world.
The Ottoman era saw a number of significant changes in Turkish rug weaving. For example, the weaving center of Oushak became renowned for its elegant curve-linear patterns and soft pastel colors that set it apart from other early Ottoman rug styles like the Crivelli Star and Ghirlandaio. The Oushak rug’s influence also extended to other parts of the world and prompted other weavers to adopt the central medallion pattern that would become one of the most recognizable rug styles in history.
Another important development came at the weaving center of Ushak, where a group of the greatest weavers in Turkey met to craft opulent room-sized carpets adorned with complex vine scrolls and elaborate arabesques. These masterpieces exhibited a more geometric style than that of the Seljuk era and included many octagonal and circular medallions along with star-shaped motifs.
The main types of Turkish rugs are the kilim, which is characterized by a plain slit-tapestry weave that leaves a gap between sections woven with different colors; sumak, which utilizes weft wrapping for a sturdier flat-woven rug; and cicim, which features extra brocade techniques and was made by the tribes and villages of central Anatolia. Milan-based carpet dealer Alfredo Levi explains that cicim is often washed and then shaved to mute its original color palette into pastels, making it ideal for today’s design sensibilities.