Oriental rugs never reveal themselves all at once. In Western culture, it is common to use even beautiful rugs as mere floor coverings. They are often overshadowed by paintings, wall hangings, and other furniture. In Eastern life and particularly in traditional Oriental furnishing, the emphasis shifts as oriental carpets are used not only underfoot but also to adorn the walls.
Whether an oriental rug is obscured with furniture or placed proudly on display, it never shows you all of its shades and intricacies at once. Over time, handmade oriental rugs untangle before your eyes with details and nuances you might have missed the first time. As you draw closer to and become more aware of their delicate details and beautiful stories, each oriental rug will continue to inspire and interest you in evolving ways.
While oriental rugs are often thought of as primarily decorative with meaningless patterns and designs, they are often rich with meaning and history. Families of weavers would record their family history or commemorate special occasions with the rugs that they designed and labored over.
Rich symbolism abounds in Oriental rug making. While Persian rugs may not depict humans and animals, they often consist of carefully chosen colors which infuse meaning into these works of art. Just as you can tell where a rug is probably from based on its knot and technique, you can also learn and guess a lot about the rug maker, their family history, and the purpose of the rug by examining common symbols used in handmade oriental rugs.
For example, various animals represent certain meanings. Deer represent well being, dogs are protectors of noble places, and camels stand for wealth. The use of a lion symbolizes victory and may be used to commemorate a great battle. Colors also play a part in the rug’s design. Red stands for joy, blue for solitude, and green for paradise. White is a purifying color and is used to depict peace or even grief.
As you examine antique oriental rugs, pay attention to the colors chosen and if any animals and symbols are portrayed. By doing so, you can catch a glimpse of the designer’s intention and guess at the story they may have been trying to tell as each oriental rug’s story unravels before your eyes.