In the 8th century A.D., the Turkish Azerbaijan Province was among the largest centers of carpet and rough carpet (ziloo) weaving during the period of the Abbasid Dynasty. The Abbasid Caliphate, which ruled the Islamic world, oversaw an era of stunning cultural and intellectual achievements in philosophy, science, mathematics and architecture.
The Province of Tabarestan, sent 600 carpets to the courts of Caliphs in Baghdad every year along with taxes. The main items exported were carpets and prayer rugs. Also, the carpets of Khorassan, Sistan and Bukhara, because of their prominent designs and motifs, were in high demand. The industry thrived until the Mongol army attacked in the mid-thirteeneeth century and brought a halt for some time to all artistic and industrial activities such as carpet weaving and dyeing.
During the reigns of the Seljuq and Ilkhanate dynasties, in the 13th and 14th centuries, carpet weaving was still a booming business. Sheep were specially bred to produce fine wool for weaving carpets. Carpet designs depicting miniature paintings belonging to the Timurid era lend proof to the development of this industry at that time. Also, Oriental carpets depicted in Renaissance paintings from Europe are often detailed enough to fill the gaps in the record of surviving carpets.
One of the world's most historically important and the most famous of Islamic carpets, the "Ardabil Carpet", was made during one of the great political dynasties of Iran, the Safavid Dynasty (1501–1736). This was one of the most important periods for Islamic art, especially for textiles and for manuscripts. The Ardabil carpet takes it's name from the town of Ardabil in north-west Iran which was the home of the shrine of the Sufi saint, Safi al-Din Ardabili, who died in 1334. The carpet is in fact two original carpets – a matching pair that were woven for the shrine in 1539-40 according to the four-line inscription placed at one end. This short poem is vital for understanding who commissioned the carpet and the date of the carpet.
The first three lines of poetry reads:
"Except for thy threshold, there is no refuge for me in all the world.
Except for this door there is no resting-place for my head.
The work of the slave of the portal, Maqsud Kashani."
The fourth line contains the date AH 946 in the Muslim calendar, which is equivalent to AD 1539 – 1540.
One of the carpets can be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The second is displayed in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The foundation is of silk and the pile of wool with a knot density of 300-350 knots per square inch. The original size of both carpets was 34 1/2 feet x 17 1/2 feet. The immense size of the Ardabil Carpet along with it's detailed design of rich geometric patterns, vine-like scrolls, floral flourishes and cartouches are indicative of the legendary craftsmanship and skill of the artisans of the period.
In the 16th and 17th century, there were numerous sub-regions including Tabriz and Lavar Kerman, that contributed distinctive designs to Turkish and Persian carpets of this period. Common motifs included scrolling vine networks, arabesques, palmettos, cloud bands, medallions, and overlapping geometric compartments.
Antique Persian and Turkish Oriental Rugs are beautiful works of art. They feature a tremendous variety of styles and design that include everything from elegant medallion and corner designs that reflect domes of mosques to fantastic hunting rugs and pictorial patterns that depict scenes from everyday life. Each one tells a different story of origin, craftsmanship and culture. See Silk Road Collections Featured Rugs to read some of the stories.