The World’s Most Expensive Carpets

Ever wonder what an antique carpet worth millions looks like? Here are nine stunning examples of the most expensive carpets ever sold at auction, including one worth more than $33 million


Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

# 9 At Sotheby’s London’s “Arts of the Islamic World” auction on October 7, 2009, this Safavid silk, wool, and metal-thread prayer rug was estimated at $127,368 to $191,052. The circa-1575-to-1625 carpet, inscribed with Persian verses in nastaliq, earned a whopping $4.3 million, making it the ninth most expensive carpet ever sold at auction. The inscriptions suggest that it may have been a diplomatic gift from the Safavid Persian court to the Ottoman Turks.

Photo courtesy of Christie’s

# 8Three carpets of this exact design by Pierre-Josse Perrot were made for the Crown Furniture Repository in France, the administration responsible for furniture and art inside the royal residences. ThisLouis XV Savonnerie carpet,woven sometime between 1740 and 1750, was the last one produced. The carpet surpassed an estimate of $2 million to $4 million, selling for $4.4 million, as part of Christie’s New York’s November 2, 2000, sale “Magnificent French Furniture.”

Photo courtesy of Christie’s

# 7 According to historians at Christie’s, this silk Isfahan rug is an exceptional example of Safavid art during the reign of Shah Abbas (1587–1629). Which may be why the circa-1600 carpet maintained an esteemed provenance throughout the years, residing in the collections of art collector and philanthropist Grace Rainey Rogers, Armenian-American archaeologist and art collector Hagop Kevorkian, as well as Doris Duke and the Newport Restoration Foundation. The lot garnered $4.45 million at Christie’s New York’s June 3, 2008, “Oriental Rugs and Carpets” sale after being estimated at $1 million to $1.5 million.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

# 6 This central-Persian Isfahan carpet (circa 1650–1699), was estimated at $800,000 to $1.2 million for Sotheby’s New York’s “Important Carpets from the William A. Clark Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art” sale on June 5, 2013. The lot, which had been on display in the Corcoran Gallery of Art, sold for $4.65 million.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

# 5 The Pearl Carpet of Baroda is a circa-1685 masterwork of silk and fine deer hide, embroidered with strings of natural Basra pearls and English colored-glass beads. Estimated at $5 million, it sold for $5.548 million at Sotheby’s Doha on March 19, 2009. The carpet is set with approximately 2,500 table-cut and occasional rose-cut diamonds set in silver, as well as foil-backed rubies, emeralds, and sapphires, all set in gold.

Photo courtesy of Christie’s

# 4On April 28, 2000, Christie’s Monaco held a sale of items from the collection of Karl Lagerfeld, including this Louis XV Savonnerie carpet,which is one of three designed by Pierre-Josse Perrot. Thanks to its star-studded provenance, the circa-1750 carpet (estimated at $5 million to $8 million) sold for $5.7 million.

Photo courtesy of Christie’s

# 3 This Mughal Millefleurs “Star Lattice” carpet from northern India was once owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt II and displayed at the family’s West 57th Street residence in New York. The carpet subsequently graced the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, when Vanderbilt passed it along to his daughter. Estimated at $2.4 million to $3.2 million, the lot was sold by Christie’s London for $7.7 million on October 8, 2013.

Photo courtesy of Christie’s

# 2On April 15, 2010, Christie’s London sold a Kirman “vase” carpet—estimated at $307,600 to $461,400—for an astonishing $9.6 million. The mid-17th century piece is the earliest known example of the popular Persian carpet design called the herati pattern.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

# 1 The most expensive carpet ever sold at auction is this sickle-leaf vine scroll and palmette “vase” carpet,circa 1600 to 1650. After being displayed as an example of outstanding Persian carpet weaving in museums and galleries—including the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Textile Museum, the Asia House Gallery, and Fogg Art Museum—the carpet was estimated at $5 million to $7 million. Because the sickle-leaf design is the rarest of vase-technique carpet patterns and this is the only known example featuring a red background, Sotheby’s New York was able to sell the lot for $33.7 million on June 5, 2013.

The Safavid Empire & the Golden Age of Persia

The Safavid Empire was responsible for one of Persia’s golden ages in terms of power and culture. In this lesson, we’ll explore this time period and see what legacies it left behind.

The Safavid Empire

Today we call it Iran. A few hundred years ago, people called it Persia, and it was a name they knew pretty well. Throughout various points in history, Persia was one of the economic, cultural, and political centers of the world. Its location between Europe and Asia made it an ideal center for trade, as well as the confluence of world philosophies, inventions, and customs.

So, Persia was a name that people had heard of. But never was this more true than during the Safavid dynasty, a series of rulers who turned Persia into one of the greatest empires of the world from 1502 to 1736. In fact, many scholars point to this time period as the origins of modern Iranian history. So, whether you call it Iran, Persia, or the Safavid Empire, it’s got to be something you’ve heard of.

The Safavid Empire at its greatest extent.

Rise of the Safavid Empire

Persia had been an area of geopolitical importance for a while, but this really became true when the Mongol Empire conquered nearly all of Asia in the 13th century and opened up trade with Europe. Suddenly, Persia was the center of the world’s most lucrative international trade routes. So, it was no surprise that after the decline of the Mongols, other empires formed in Persia to try and take its place. Some succeeded from time to time, but overall Persia remained a region full of diverse cultures and small kingdoms that shared little in common.

At this same time, in 1502, a member of the Safavid family named Shah Ismail Idefeated the armies of Azerbaijan and claimed the throne. Ismail I then announced the creation of a new Persian Empire that would be guided by the Shi’a sect of Islam. This brought other adherents of the faith to his side, and within a year Ismail I had amassed a major fighting force and conquered the majority of the diverse Persian kingdoms, unifying them under Safavid rule. Within ten years, Ismail I had fully conquered the Persian region, and the dynasty seemed assured.

Shah Ismail I

Safavid Society

Although they were ethnically from the region of Azerbaijan, the Safavids inserted themselves into power as true Persian kings. Persian became the official language of the royal courts, although in practice practically everyone in the empire was multilingual. As the empire stretched, they came into conflict with other major powers, most notably the Ottoman Empire, who were adherents of Sunni Islam, a rival branch of the religion. The Ottoman Empire was one of the most powerful in history, and the two powers fought several wars for control of territory around and through Persia.

The Safavids did have a strong military, and are one of the so-called gunpowder empires, the first military dynasties who were able to truly implement gunpowder weapons like cannons in warfare with success. The first major moment for the Safavids came around 1555, when the Ottoman rulers signed a peace treaty with the Safavids. It was the first time that the Safavid Empire had been formally, diplomatically recognized as a sovereign state by their rivals.

With a large, relatively secure empire in the center of major international trade routes, the Safavids were not only powerful, but very wealthy. With this wealth, they instituted a Persian golden age in terms of art, philosophy, medicine and other intellectual achievements. Architecture in particular flourished, and Safavid cities are noteworthy for their sophisticated layouts and designs. Calligraphy was another major art, and the combination of writing and painting into a single discipline helped generate a literate community devoted to the patronage of books. Even bookbinding became a major art of Persia.

How to remove blood from carpet

Accidents around the home happen. It’s just a fact of life. If you scratch yourself while cleaning, or your dog accidentally scratches it’s paw, you might leave a bright red trail of blood across the rug. In case this happens, it’s imperative that you act immediately! If you follow the steps that I detail in this blog entry – as soon as possible – your carpet (regardless of it’s material of pile type) will find itself fresh and clean, good as new. Additionally, there’s another very effective method that works fantastically on dried blood stains.

Removing Fresh Blood from Carpets

First Step

The first thing to do, as soon as you notice a stain, is to blot the area with an absorbent paper towel to absorb and remove any excess blood that hasn’t soaked into it. Make sure to BLOT – not to scrub or rub – as doing those things will only spread the stain and make it worse.

Second Step

Place a few drops of mild liquid dish detergent into a bowl or bucket with a few cups of cold water. Make sure to use as cold water as possible, as hot water will only set the stain into the fibers of the carpet, making the discoloration almost impossible to get rid of. Make sure to be somewhat careful and discerning regarding the amount of drops of dish detergent that you mix in! Any soap that remains after cleaning will just attract more dirt, and the blood stain will become a dark spot.

Third Step

Make a white rag or cloth wet with the home-made cleaning solution, and gently use a sponge to apply it to the top of the stain – again NOT rubbing or scrubbing it. Keep wetting the cloth and blotting the stain until all the blood comes up from the carpet. You might need to repeat this step a few times depending on the size or depth of the stain.

Fourth Step

Using a dry section of absorbent cloth or paper towels, blot up all the water from the carpet to allow it to dry as much and as fast as possible. If the stain covers a large area, aiming a fan into the room to circulate the air faster, or using a hair dryer on it’s cool setting could help hasten the drying process. By quickly drying the area, you will reduce any of the chances that blood that got deeply set within the carpet’s pile will come back up and become visible after the surface stain was removed.

Removing Dry Blood Stains from Carpets

Immediately take a stiff, bristly brush to the stained area and brush it firmly to help crumble the stain up, and then vacuum all the remaining particles up. Then, move to the Second Step of the tips for removing fresh stains from carpets detailed above.

The Basics of Mothproofing


Caring for wool sweaters and household items may be your last concern at this time of year. But the steps you take now can make all the difference in what you find when you bring out your things in the fall: wonderful woolens, or ones peppered with holes.

What’s Bugging You
If you see moths flying in your house, they probably aren’t clothes moths, but pantry pests — the type that infests flour and grains. Clothes moths don’t like light and are so secretive that you’ll probably never see them. What’s more, the adult moths won’t do any harm. Damage to woolens is actually done by the larvae of two types of insects: clothes moths and carpet beetles (the latter being more prevalent than moths in most areas of the country). Both insects lay eggs in secluded spots with plenty of food — wool, fur, down, shed pet dander, and other animal-based materials. Larvae emerge within a few weeks; beetle larvae can feed on fabric for a year or more and moth larvae may cause damage for a couple months.

Cleaning Up
Moth and beetle larvae shun bright light, so they rarely attack frequently worn clothing or heavily trafficked carpets. They thrive in clothing that is packed away and carpet hidden under furniture, especially if there are food spills or other attractive scents. The best strategy? Keep things clean.

Weekly use of the vacuum and general good housekeeping go a long way toward keeping pests at bay. If you clean often, you may remove them without even knowing it. Vacuuming also removes moth eggs and larvae from carpets before they have the opportunity to hatch.

Before you pack up winter clothing for storage, wash or dry-clean garments that have been worn. This rids them of moth and beetle eggs and also eliminates perspiration remnants and food spills, which attract and nourish pests. Moths and beetles don’t eat items made of synthetic or cotton fabrics, but you should clean those, too, if you store them with woolens.

If you have winter coats you haven’t worn, you probably won’t want to pay for dry cleaning just to guard against eggs that might have been deposited on them. Yet if you store them as is, you risk an infestation. In this case, try an old-fashioned but effective regimen: Take the items outside on a sunny day and brush them vigorously, especially under collars and along seams. This should remove eggs and larvae, which are so small, you probably won’t be able to see them. In case you miss a few of the pests or their eggs, pack this clothing separately from laundered or dry-cleaned items.

Smart Storage
Moths and beetles can get through extremely tight spaces. When storing woolens, reclosable plastic bags or plastic boxes are best for keeping pests out. To protect the items from condensation, wrap them in lengths of clean cotton, and store. Take care in using plastic containers for long-term storage — years rather than months — as they do not allow the items to breathe, and some plastics may degrade fabric over time. If storing valuable items, consult with a professional textile conservator for recommendations.

Choosing a Method
There are numerous products — some natural, some chemical-based, and with varying levels of effectiveness — that are intended to deter moths and beetles. It’s best to know a product’s pros and cons before you make a choice. In the right circumstances, any of these approaches can be useful. Just remember that nothing discourages clothes moths and carpet beetles more than keeping your woolen items clean and storing them correctly.

The dark-colored heartwood of red cedar contains natural oils that kill clothes-moth larvae, but this alone won’t protect clothing. It’s not effective against carpet beetles, and, with moths, it kills only young larvae, not older ones or eggs. The effect also fades as the scent does. You can replenish the scent of boards, closets, and chests by sanding the wood lightly or dabbing on cedar oil, but there is no way to know if you’ve added enough. If you have a cedar chest, it’s best to think of it as a reasonably airtight storage container — and only keep clean fabric inside it. Again, wrap items in clean cotton before storing them.

Mothballs and Moth Crystals
These can thwart infestations but come with many drawbacks, so you’re probably better off without them. Both products contain pesticides that can be harmful to people, unborn babies, and pets. Since mothballs and moth crystals work by releasing fumigant gas, they must be used in tight-fitting containers, rather than in closets or drawers, to be effective. If you do use these products, keep containers out of your living area — in a garage, perhaps. And air out clothing thoroughly outside before wearing it or hanging it in your closet again (dry cleaning won’t eliminate the mothball odor).

Using this plant to repel clothes moths is an old homemaker’s trick. Sachets filled with lavender (and/or laced with its oil) and suspended in your closet or tucked in your drawers are said to protect woolens. They will also leave a pleasant scent behind. Lavender will not, however, kill moth eggs or larvae, so be sure the space is free of them first.

Solving an Existing Problem
What if you already have clothes or carpet pests? Here are some tips for identifying the bugs you are dealing with, getting rid of them, and then salvaging your woolen items.

What to Look For
You won’t likely see clothes moths, but if you find holes, you know you have a problem. With moth larvae, you may find silky webbing or cigarlike cocoons. Beetle larvae leave dried skins — like tiny rice grains.

Treating Clothes
Remove and treat all infested material. You might throw away the most damaged clothing. Dry-clean or launder items you keep; freezing also eradicates pests: Put items in sealed plastic bags, squeeze out air, and freeze for a few days. Take the bags out, let them return to room temperature, and then repeat. In case of condensation, let clothes air out before storing again.

Cleaning Carpets
For a severe infestation, call a professional. To treat a minor problem, buy a spray made for these pests and spot test to make sure it doesn’t affect the carpet color. Apply, following label instructions, anywhere you find traces of larvae or don’t often clean — such as behind bookcases and along baseboards. Treat both sides of the carpet (if not fastened down) and the rug pad.

Catching Them All
Clean your house thoroughly before replacing treated items. If furniture is infested, you might need to call an exterminator.

Using Traps
Try pheromone-laced cardboard traps to check if moths remain. (These shouldn’t be your main defense, however, and won’t trap beetles.)

You may be able to repair blankets or other large-thread items yourself, using matching yarn. Finely woven items and heirlooms should be taken to a company that specializes in reweaving.

Weaving Iridescence: Color Play for the Handweaver

Source: Weaving Iridescence: Color Play for the Handweaver by Bobbie Irwin

Comments on Certain Fibers and Yarns
Cotton is one of my favorite yarns for many purposes, from dish towels to clothing fabric.  Cotton yarns come in many sizes and textures and are readily available from a number of sources. Cotton is usually classified as unmercerized or mercerized.
Unmercerized cotton is soft, with little or no luster, and relatively inexpensive.  It requires strong color contract to produce effective iridescence because of its lack of luster.  Common sizes are 8/2, 16/2, and 20/2, the latter two most often as mill eds.
Mercerization is a chemical treatment primarily applied to cellulose yarns, especially cotton, but sometimes linen and hemp.  Yarn is held under tension and treated with lye, then neutralized with acid.  The process makes mercerized cotton yarn (often called pearl or perle cotton) smoother, stronger, easier to dye, and much more lustrous than untreated cotton yarn.  The luster, ease of weaving, ease of care, and relative affordability make mercerized cotton an excellent choice for iridescent fabrics.  It is commonly available in four sizes.  3/2, 5/2, 10/2 and 20/2.
My favorite yarn for lightweight clothing fabrics that are affordable and easy to care for is 20/2 pearl cotton. Unfortunately, the primary source for 20/2 pearl cotton in North America is no longer selling that size in dyed colors except black.  A couple of other companies still offer 20/2 pearl cotton in a limited range of colors, and mercerized 16/2 cotton (available from at least one European source) can be a suitable substitute.
Although there are slubby, dull silk yarns made from short fibers, weavers can also choose more lustrous yarns from a number of sources and in an excellent range of colors. Silk is expensive, and some companies sell it in relatively small quantities, making it more affordable to purchase in a variety of colors. Fine silk is always an excellent choice for iridescent clothing fabrics.  It is strong and easy to weave, and a small amount of fine silk goes a long way.
Numerous sizes are available in plied silk yarns, the most practical sizes ranging from 20/2 (approximately the same diameter as 10/2 cotton) to 60/2. The finest and most lustrous is reeled silk, which is the most expensive and hardest to find. Spun silk is what most companies sell, most of which has very good luster.  Almost all silk comes from Asia.
Although wool is often considered to have little luster, some types from sheep breeds with longer fibers have considerably more luster than others. Fiber from angora goats (mohair) and llamas, generically categorized as wool, can also produce yarns with good luster.  You are more likely to find luster in wool yarns that are spun worsted-style rather than woolen-style.  With most commercial wool and related yarns, a strong color contrast will give more opportunity for iridescence than analogous colors.
A recent introduction, particularly in knitting yarns, is mercerized wool.  Mercerization adds loft, strength and some luster to certain yarns, and some commercial brands are said to produce good iridescence.  A color contrast is probably beneficial and may have more effect than the mercerization process itself.  The mercerized wool I have examined does not impress me as having much luster, and it is more expensive than other wool yarns.



The Persian carpet, it seems, is an endangered species. Persian carpets, beautiful, detailed, and sometimes years in the making,  hold particular significance for the nomadic, pastoralist Qashqa’i tribe of southwestern Iran, near the city of Shiraz. “Iran’s carpets,” The New York Times reported, “are among the most complex and labor-intensive handicrafts in the world.” However, Qashqa’i carpets have had trouble keeping pace with broader global trends, both aesthetic and economic. Demand for them simply isn’t there, and the cost of manufacturing them is extremely high. Droves of carpet weavers are now looking for jobs with better security and better wages elsewhere.
“The personal selection, the proximity to ‘nature’ and the locality of origin are seen as essential in both guaranteeing the provenance and authenticity of the woven carpet,” design historian Patricia Baker writes in the Journal of Design History, describing how the creation of these carpets falls completely in the domain of Qashqa’i women. “It is these elements… which directly contribute to the woman-weaver achieving individuality and authenticity in design and colouration in her work.”The craft and expertise associated with weaving these carpets tells a tool-based story: fleece to fiber to finished rug. Touted as the most authentic of Iran’s many varieties of carpet, a Qashqa’i weaving begins with turning a sheep’s wool into fiber. Once the sheep has been shorn, its wool is collected, cleaned, and spun into yarn. The yarn, in turn, is dyed with vegetative materials that weavers have gathered during their travels. They then weave the dyed yarn into carpets, composed of hundreds of individual knots per square inch, and featuring geometric designs and a plethora of decorative motifs.


Turning fleece into fiber requires the use of a spindle–a long, straight rod, usually made of wood, that gathers the spun thread. A spinner will take small chunks of a clean, shorn fleece and have the spindle pull the fleece ever-so-gently into a narrower and narrower string. This narrow string is then carefully gathered along the end of the spindle. A spinning wheel then pulls the fleece evenly, turning turn it into thread. The spindle typically sits above the wheel. Historically, however, the more common form of  spindle is the kind that dates back to the Neolithic, called a drop spindle. The drop spindle hangs in front of the spinner, allowing a person to move about and keep spinning. The spinning wheel, which spins thread more quickly, requires the spinner to sit in front of it. The drop spindle, by contrast, uses gravity to pull the fleece into the thread. The drop spindle is usually weighted by a whorl.

Whorls are among the most abundant artifacts in the archaeological record. Unlike spindles, they are made from a variety of materials that do not deteriorate over time. The whorl is a cylindrical disc-shaped object that fits over the spindle, giving it more weight. As the wool is pulled downward by the combined weight of the spindle and whorl, the spinner can start to swing the spindle. This weighted momentum helps pull the fleece into the desired fibrous string.

For thousands of years, spinners have used everything from antler bone to ceramics to polished rocks to create whorls. Some whorls are small, measuring just a few millimeters in diameter, and some span almost 30 inches. Some are lavishly decorated; some are but re-purposed bits of broken ceramics with a hole drilled in the center, giving archaeologists little doubt about their purpose. Since the spindle is generally made from materials that do not preserve well, the whorl is often the best proxy in reconstructing a culture’s the fleece-to-fiber technology.

With automated spinning and weaving, rugs can be produced more quickly and at much less expense than the conventional Qashqa’i ones. But the tools traditionally associated with Qashqa’i weaving speak to the cultural durability of the weaving process. Qashqa’i carpets tell a powerful story of a complex technology that women have employed to create their crafts.



Islamic Carpets in European Paintings


The popularity of what we call oriental carpets—pile-woven carpets from the Islamic world—in Europe from the fourteenth century onward is reflected in their frequent depiction in European paintings. Indeed, European paintings are a primary source for scholarship on early carpets, and many groups of Islamic carpets from the Middle East are today called by the names of European painters who depicted them: Lotto, Holbein, Ghirlandaio, Crivelli, and Memling are among the artists whose names are now used to describe certain groups of carpets woven in Ottoman Turkey.

From biblical times onward, the concept of having an expensive textile underfoot has been associated with wealth, power, and sanctity; when the Sienese painter Duccio depicted the story of those who spread their garments under Christ’s feet on Palm Sunday, he was simply renewing an age-old cultural concept. By the time Sir Walter Raleigh put his cloak on the ground to help Queen Elizabeth over a mud puddle, the mystique of textiles underfoot had been around for millennia.

A fifteenth-century painting by Giovanni di Paolo, Madonna and Child with Two Angels and a Donor, depicts under the feet of the Virgin Mary one of the earliest and rarest types of carpets from Turkey to be exported in quantity to Italy; the design consists of highly stylized animals in octagons (41.190.16). By the sixteenth century, carpets were frequently depicted in portraits as a signifier of sophistication, education, and high social and economic status; an anonymous portrait by Moretto da Brescia shows at the very bottom a minor border of a contemporary Anatolian rug from Ottoman Turkey; the design of the rest remains an enigma (28.79).

By the seventeenth century, depictions of carpets were widespread throughout Europe. The Museum owns several Lotto carpets; the earlier and larger examples have a border of stylized strapwork recalling squared-off kufic Arabic writing (08.167.1), while borders of later examples have small medallions, such as those shown in the painting by Jan Brueghel and Peter Paul Rubens entitled The Feast of Acheloüs (45.141). Here, we see a story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses portrayed as a contemporary Flemish outdoor banquet, with a beautiful Lotto carpet with red and yellow arabesques from central Turkey shown on a table partially protected by a linen tablecloth. The pattern was a favorite in Europe; the seventeenth-century painter Nicolaes Maes depicted a young girl peeling apples, seated next to a table covered with a sumptuous Lotto carpet (14.40.612).

Carpets woven in Syria were extremely rare in Europe: a painting by Gabriël Metsu entitled A Musical Party shows a so-called chessboard carpet with a design of geometrical stars from early seventeenth-century Syria over a table (91.26.11); the Museum owns an actual carpet of this design, given by Joseph V. McMullan (69.267).

Medallion carpets woven in Ushak in west-central Turkey were also depicted frequently in European paintings. Metsu’s sumptuous Dutch interior scene The Visit to the Nursery shows a large Ushak medallion carpet draped over a table (17.190.20). The Metropolitan has several Ushak carpets of this type in its collection (08.173.13). The attractive genre scene by Gerard ter Borch, the Younger, entitled A Woman Playing the Theorbo-Lute and a Cavalier depicts a small west Anatolian medallion carpet with an unsual design on the table in front of his musical couple (14.40.617).

Although Johannes Vermeer‘s lifetime output of paintings was very small, a large portion of them contains depictions of oriental carpets. Two in particular feature carpets prominently: the famous A Maid Asleep depicts two different seventeenth-century Anatolian carpets (14.40.611), while Young Woman with a Water Pitcher shows a soft and thickly textured Persian carpet, again on a table, with a design of floral arabesques on a red ground (89.15.21). The tradition of showing carpets on tables in upper-class interiors continued well into the eighteenth century; Pietro Longhi’s The Visit shows a West Anatolian prayer carpet from the Gördes district draped over a table in an elegant Italian interior (14.32.2).

As carpets became more affordable in Europe, very large examples were imported for use as floor covering. Francis Wheatley’s The Saithwaite Family, for example, presents an aristocratic British couple and their daughter on a very large eighteenth-century carpet from Ushak (2009.357).

In early nineteenth-century France, Jean August Dominique Ingres, a great admirer of Italian Renaissance art, self-consciously referred back in time to earlier portraits in his well-known portrait of Jacques-Louis Leblanc (19.77.1). The carpet-covered table shown with books, a handwritten letter or manuscript, and an inkwell (a concept that horrifies today’s textile conservators) refers to a long tradition in European painting, in which carpets are associated not only with economic and social status in general, but also with learning and literacy. The small carpet on the table, of a well-known eighteenth-century type from Anatolia, is strikingly similar to an actual example from the McMullan collection in the Metropolitan (1974.149.15).

Depictions of carpets in European and American paintings continued throughout the twentieth century, in works as diverse as the Orientalist paintings of Matisse or American interiors by artists such as William Glackens; the colors, textures, and patterns of carpets continue to fascinate patron and painter alike into our own time.

Walter Denny
Department of Islamic Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

October 2011


Kilim Motifs


Indigo - Indigofera Tinctoria

Motifs are derived from symbols that were used in ages gone by to inform, communicate and to convey ideas. Over time, some of these signs merged with myths, acquired hidden significance and moved into the world of esoteric symbolism. In this context, their use may not be limited to decorative purposes. Due to the hidden forces they are believed to imply, their primary purpose may well be psychological rather than aesthetic. Here is a comprehensive list of commonly used motifs.

Please click on the links for variations of each motif and their meanings.

Hands on Hips – Elibelinde

Although the basic design is a stylized female, this pattern is known by various names in Anatolia. Some of which are gelin kiz, cocuklu kiz, aman kiz, karadoseme, seleser, kahkullu kiz, cengel, sarmal, cakmakli, eger kasi, turna katari. It is the symbol of motherhood and fertility.

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Ram’s Horn – Kocboynuzu

This motif is used as a symbol of fertility, heroism, power and masculinity. It is also called boynuzlu yanis, boynuzlu, koclu yanis, gozlu koc basi.

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Fertility – Bereket

Hands on hips and ram’s horn motifs used together denote a man and a woman. The fertility pattern is composed of two ‘elibelinde’ motifs indicating the female and two ‘kocboynuzu’ motifs indicating the male. The eye motif in the middle of the composition is used to protect the family against the evil eye.

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Hair Band – Sacbagi

Anatolian women express many of their feelings by their hair style. The newly married young women plait their hair and tie threads of different colors at the end of each plait called ‘belik’. Hair band motif indicates the desire to get married. If the woman uses some of her hair in weaving, she is trying to express her desire for immortality.

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Earrings- Kupe

Earrings are indispensable as a wedding present in Anatolia. A girl using this motif is trying to inform her family that she wants to get married.

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Fetter – Bukagi

Fetter is a sort of cuff placed on the front legs of horses to keep them from running away. The cuffs are connected to each other by a chain of 60 centimeters. It is also called ‘kostek’.

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Chest – Sandikli

This motif in general, symbolizes the trousseau chest of a young girl. Since the material in this chest is to be used in the husband’s house, the expectations and hopes of the young girl are reflected in the pieces she has woven, knitted and embroidered.

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Love and Unison, Ying-Yang – Ask ve Birlesim

This is a symbol of dualism, inherited from the Far-East and imported to Anatolia where it suggests the harmony between a man and a woman.

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Star – Yildiz

The star motif on an Anatolian weaving generally means happiness and does not imply heaven for which a cloud, a dragon or a phoenix is used in many works including miniatures and other textiles.
The six pointed star generally known as the Solomon’s Seal is being used in Anatolia since the time of the Phrygians who lived long before the time of Solomon.

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Running Water – Su Yolu

Since it has a great importance for mankind, the theme of running water is widely used on works of art. The pattern varies according to the material on which it is applied. When carved on stone, it assumes an angular shape, while it is curvilinear or triangular on weaves.

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Burdock – Pitrak

Burdock is a plant with burrs which stick to the clothing of people and the hair of animals. It is believed to be capable of warding off the evil eye. On the other hand, the fact that the term “like a burdock” means full of flowers, accounts for the use of this motif on flour bags as a symbol of abundance.

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Hand, Finger, Comb – El, Parmak, Tarak

The number of fingers on the hand, which is five, is used as a protection against evil eye.
In Anatolia the concepts of fertility and motherhood which implies birth are closely related. This relation can be traced back to Kybele and Virgin Mary. During the Islamic period it was symbolized by the name of “Mother Fatma” or “Mother Fadime”. The motif called “Hand of Mother Fadime” is widely used in Anatolian weaves.

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Amulet, Evil Eye – Muska, Nazarlik

It is believed that some people possess a power in their glance which causes harm, injury, misfortune and even death. Evil eyes are various objects that reduce the effect of evil glance, thus protecting the ones who carry them. Blue beads, wild mustard, garlic, sea shells, old coins, lead, mercury, the shell of a small turtle, silver and gold ‘Masallah’ motifs (inscription of the word meaning ‘God save him’ on gold or silver) are used with this purpose.

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Eye – Goz

The source of an evil glance is the human eye. It is believed that the harms it may cause can best be prevented again by a human eye. A diamond divided into four is quite a common representation of the eye as used on weaves. A triangle is a stylized form of the eye.
Some eye motifs are formed of squares and rectangles.

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Cross – Hac

Another motif used against evil eye is the cross formed of a vertical and horizontal line.
According to the Anatolian belief the cross reduces the power of the evil glance by dividing it into four pieces. The motif dates back far before Christianity. There are crosses in the wall painting of Catalhoyuk. A variation of the cross, known as swastika is also being used since very early times.

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Hook – Cengel

Another Anatolian motif used against evil eye is the hook. It is also called “cakmak”, “egri ala”, “balik” and “kucuk kara balik”.
The variation called “gonul cengeli” is mostly used on stockings and implies marriage.

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Snake – Yilan

The history of mankind is closely related with snakes. All the stories of existence include the theme of a serpent offering Eve the forbidden fruit. Black snake is the symbol of happiness and fertility.

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Dragon – Ejder

Dragon is a mythological creature whose feet are like the lion’s, whose tail is like a snake and who has wings. The Turks of Central Asia stylized the dragon with a beak, wings and a lion’s feet. The dragon is the master of air and water. The fight of the dragon and the Phoenix is believed to bring fertile rains of spring.

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Scorpion – Akrep

Due to their fear of its venom, people used to carry jewelry in the form of a scorpion or decorated with the tail of a scorpion in order to protect themselves against this animal. The scorpion motif used on weaves, illustrated below, seek the same purpose.

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Wolf’s Mouth, Wolf’s Track – Kurt Agzi, Kurt Izi

Kurt agzi, also known as dove tail, is a term used in joinery to indicate the triangular fittings connecting the corners of various woodwork. In this context, the motif expresses, like in the fetter motif, the wish for solidarity. But its use on weaves serves a different purpose.

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Tree of Life – Hayat Agaci

The tree is the common theme for all religions believing in a single god. Its fruit which is believed to bring immortality, is forbidden to all mortals when the serpent waiting the tree had convinced Eve to eat it. Mankind, unable to eat the fruit of immortality, put all their hopes on the life after death symbolized by a tree of life.

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Family Signs – Im

Throughout the history, Turks have used specific figures as a family sign. They have used their mark on their weaves as well as their grave stones.
Mogul historian Residuttin, in his book Cami-ut Tevarih and Kasgarli Mahmut in his dictionary Divanu Lugat-it-Turk state that each Oguz tribe had a different sign. Those tribes should have continued to use their sign even after migrating to Anatolia, because many of the weaves bear motifs similar to those signs.

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Bird – Kus

In Anatolia there is no other motif carrying so many different meanings than the bird motif. While birds like owls and ravens imply bad luck, doves, pigeons and nightingales are used to symbolize good luck. The Bird is the symbol of happiness, joy and love. It is the soul of the dead. It is longing, and expectation of news. It stands for power and strength. It is the imperial symbol of various states founded in Anatolia.

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Oriental Rug Glossary

Abrash: Tonal variations that is characteristic of vegetable dyed rugs. This is a very desirable characteristic for collectors. Today, Oriental rugs have Abrash deliberately woven into their rugs.

All-over pattern: A term used to describe a rug that has an even repeating design throughout the field and does not have a central medallion.

Antique Wash: A chemical or natural process that tones down colors to simulate aging.

Arabesque: An ornate curving design of intertwined floral and vine figures often seen in intricate workshop rugs.

Asymmetric Knot: Persian or Senneh knot. A pile knotting technique where only one or the two warps is completely encircled.

Aubusson: Fine flat carpets woven in France from the 15th to the 19th centuries. The Aubusson rugs feature designs of central floral medallions, lovely floras, and graceful scrolls throughout. The designs of these rugs have also been adapted to pile carpets and are now woven in India and China.


Bakhtiari: The Bakhtiari confederation of tribes covers much of central and southwestern Iran. Small rugs and trappings are woven by migratory Bakhtiari, while large carpets of great magnificence are woven in the settled villages. The most classic pattern is the garden design of repeated squares or diamonds, each of which encloses a tree or blossom motif.

Baluch: A nomadic tribe living in Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Baluch weave many types of small rugs, animal trappings and tent furnishings. They favor deep tones of blue, dark brown, earthy red and touches of natural ivory.

Bergama: Bergama rugs are divided by Kazak type and Turkish type. Kazak type rugs have big geometrical designs. Turkish type usually have designs are very floral and embroidered with leaves of pine trees with evil eyes at the edges.

Bessarabian: Designs usually feature curvilinear floral patterns that are sophisticated and elaborate.

Bidjar: For many decades, the Bidjar has been called the “cast-iron rug of the East”. This style of weaving, combined with excellent, lanolin-rich wool, creates a rug of almost unbelievable durability.

Blocking: Stretching flat and tacking down a wet rug to bring it back to its original shape.

Bokhara: The capital of Uzbekistan and the traditional trading center for Turkmen tribal carpets. The pattern most associated with Bokhara rugs is that of rows of repeated geometric motifs, or Guls, woven on a red background.

Border: Bands of varying widths that runs around the perimeter of the rug.

Botech: A motif representing a pine cone, a palmetto, the sacred flame of Zoroaster, an ancient Persian prophet or a Cypress tree. Botech is sometimes called a Paisley Pattern.


Carpet: Any rug that is larger than 9 foot by 12 foot.

Cartoon: A diagram of design and colors drawn on paper used as a guide to weave a rug.

Carving: Handheld carving tools are used to accentuate details of hooked, tufted and hand knotted rugs, or to create a 3-D effect on solid color rugs.

Caucasian: A generic name describing boldly colored geometric designs originating from the Caucasus Mountains in Southern Russia.

Chobi Rug: Chobi refers to a rug whose color resembles wood. The majority of the Chobi rugs and carpets have light brownish color. Chobi rugs usually are chemically washed to achieve an antique look.


Derakhti: Iranian rug featuring a tree symbolizing life, wealth, health and Heaven.

Dhurrie: A reversible, flat-woven rug that is usually woven in India with either cotton or wool.

Donkeybags: Utilitarian Oriental rugs sewn onto bags used for carrying goods.

Dorokhsh: Rugs with floral motifs and medallions. Older rugs have wool foundations while newer ones have cotton.


Embossing: Carving around a design or symbol to enhance the look of the rug. This process is commonly used on some Chinese and Tibetan rugs.


Farahan: A region in Iran that is known for finely knotted late 19th century rugs. Most rugs have cotton foundation with wefts dyed in either blue or pink. Green color is commonly used. The rugs usually have a tight all over field pattern of tiny floral motifs.

Field: The main section of the rug that is surrounded by the border.

Foundation: The strands of warp and weft which make up the base of the rug.

Fringe: The excess warp threads extending from the end of the rug sometimes finished in a macramï style knotting.


Gabbeh: Thick, long-piled rugs produced by the tribes of Fars.

Genje: Long rugs, mostly 3ft or 4ft by 9ft or 10ft depicting diagonal and colorful bars throughout the field.

Ghiordes: A town in western Turkey where small prayer rugs were woven. The rugs have small geometric and pointed mihrab surrounded by three or more borders.

Gul: Octagonal or angular repetitive medallions usually elongated and divided into four. The word means “rose or flower”.


Hali: A Turkish word for rug.

Halicilik: A Turkish word for rug merchant.

Hamedan: Rugs made in Hamedan, one of the oldest cities in the world. Hamedan rugs have a geometric pattern with a single-weft medallion.

Handle: The weight and stiffness or flexibility of a rug.

Hatchli: An old rug design where the field is divided into sections by stripes or bars. Hatchli rugs were originally used to cover the entrances of Turkoman tents.

Herati Design: A design featuring four leaves woven around a diamond. This design is sometimes called the Fish design although it has no resemblance to a fish.

Hereke: The finest contemporary Turkish rugs are still made in Hereke. Wool, silk, and metallic threads are all used.

Heriz: Large bold geometric designed rugs that are firmly woven.


Inscription: Script which is woven into an oriental rug. The script can be a date, name or initials of a weaver, some religious or poetic quote or a name of a religious donor.


Kilim: A flat woven rug.

Kolyai: Rugs that have bright and lively colors, usually with a large central medallion in a hexagonal Herati diamond design. Many Koliai carpets are runners of great length, 20 to 40 feet being.

Konya: A famous Turkish city of rug production. Prayer rugs with red backgrounds are popular as well as Yastiks and mats.


Ladik: A famous Turkish carpet production area that is known for small prayer rugs primarily in red and blue with mihrab depictions.


Mafrash: Large bags used by nomads.

Medallion: A large design found in the center of some Oriental rugs.

Melas: Melas is a small town in Turkey. Melas rugs are very finely woven commonly found with the mihrab design.

Mihrab: A typical design in a prayer rug derived from the niche or chamber in a mosque.

Mina Khani: A rug with a design field that is covered with daisies and connected together with lines that form diamonds or circles in an all-over pattern.

Mordants: Metallic salts, generally of iron, tin, copper or aluminum, used to attach certain natural dyes to wool fibers.

Motifs: Single or repeated design elements found throughout a rug.


Namakdan: A woven salt bag used by nomads during their travels.

Navajo rugs: Navajo rugs are very famous for their unique flat woven design.


Oriental rug: A handmade carpet. Rugs that are Oriental design made by machine or any other method other than hand-knotting or hand-weaving are not considered authentic Oriental rugs.


Panderma: Panderma rugs have beige, coral and or light green coloration.

Pile: A rugs surface, formed by the creation of knots in the foundation.

Prayer Rugs: A small Oriental rug typically 2 -4 feet wide and 4-8 feet long.

Pushti: A small mat measuring about 2 x 3 feet.


Quashqai: A confederacy of tribes known for high quality antique tribal rugs.

Quatref: Round symmetrical ornaments with four lobes.


Raj: Number of knots per 7 cm.

Reciprocal design: A motif in contrasting colors but a consistent repeating pattern.

Rosette: A circular arrangement of motifs radiating out from the center of a rug suggesting the petals of a rose.

Runners: Rugs that generally measure not more than 3-4 feet wide and 8-20 feet in length.


Sardinian Rugs: Very precious rugs from Sardinia, Italy with the central section depicting figures or geometrical patterns.

Serapi: Serapi carpets are best known for their large, bold geometric patterns.

Sofreh: A small flat woven rectangular cloth used as a tablecloth.

Soumak: A flat-weave rug with a herringbone effect. This rug appears to resemble embroidery work.

Spandrel: An ornamental treatment located at the corners of a field.

Strap work: An interlacing design resembling straps.


Tabriz: Tabriz weavers are known to copy many designs that include medallions, hunting patterns, prayer and pictorial rugs.

Tapestry: A hand woven wall hanging with a flat weave.

Tea Wash: A procedure used to give an antique appearance to a rug.


Ushak: Ushak rugs generally have a medallion design or an all over pattern design.


Varamin: Persian carpets decorated with flowers in vases. Many Varamin rugs can only be viewed from one direction.

Vase carpet: A group of Persian carpets decorated with flowers in vases. Many Vase carpets can only be viewed from one direction.

Village rugs: Rugs that are made in villages or small workshops.


War rugs: Rugs woven during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. These rugs depict weapons of war, including tanks, guns and helicopters.

Warp: The lengthwise or vertical threads of yarn on which the weaver ties the knots.

Weft: Threads of yarn that run the width of the rug. The thread inserted across the width of the loom after each row of knots to hold them in place.


Yalameh rug: Village rugs typically with diamond medallions that are surrounded by geometric and animal motifs.

Yastik: A 3 x 1 foot Turkish rug usually used as a pillow or cushion cover.

Yomud: Yomud rugs are more colorful than any other Turkoman tribal rugs. Main field color is reddish brown while borders are frequently in ivory.

Yuruk: Turkish term for a nomad living in Turkey.


Zoroaster: An ancient Persian prophet.



Prayer rugs


Prayer rug, Arabic sajjāda, Persian namāzlik, one of the major types of rug produced in central and western Asia, used by Muslims primarily to cover the bare ground or floor while they pray. Prayer rugs are characterized by the prayer niche, or mihrab, an arch-shaped design at one end of the carpet. The mihrab, which probably derives from the prayer niche in mosques, must point toward Mecca while the rug is in use.

Mihrabs may appear in a variety of forms. Those on the prayer rugs of Anatolia, where the greatest number of these rugs have been made, are usually pointed and often have a step motif along their sides. Mihrabs on Persian rugs, however, are characteristically curvilinear and elegant, while those on Caucasian and Turkmen rugs are invariably rectilinear. Some prayer rugs have two or three mihrabs side by side and are known as “brothers’ rugs.” Ṣaffs, or large prayer rugs used simultaneously by a large number of persons, are subdivided into many small compartments, each of which has a mihrab.

Prayer rugs are often decorated with religious symbols that serve the worshiper as aids to memory. Lamps, for example, recall the lamps of mosques, and the comb and water pitcher are reminders that the Muslim is required to wash his hands and comb his beard before prayer. Often Caucasian rugs also show stylized hands on both sides of the mihrab to indicate where the hands are placed during prayer.