How to identify an oriental carpet by its design

How to identify an oriental carpet by its design

It must be emphasized at once that in the narrow sense one cannot identify an oriental carpet simply by its design. The classical method used by experts in the carpet trade is to study the weave. To the trained eye the source of any oriental carpet can be ascertained by a quick glance at a small area of the back — even to the extent of pinpointing the precise village it came from. In practice, however, most carpet dealers will tell a carpet’s origin by reference to the front — from the design and the colours. The dealer will turn to the back only for confirmation, or if the front foxes him. Thus, while the weave is the final arbiter, the usual guide is the design. The aim of this book is to place that guide in the hands of the non-specialist, whether his aim is commercial — the better to judge the value of what he buys — or intellectual, to increase his understanding and appreciation of an oriental rug. However, as in any other specialized field, a little learning is a dangerous thing, and even if one prided oneself on being able to distinguish, perhaps with the aid of this book, a genuine Persian Tabriz from a Rumanian imitation, one would be ill served if one did not also know that many a Balkan copy today is in fact of better quality than a Tabriz original. The prudent buyer — and it must be emphasized that care is always necessary when making a choice — should be advised by an expert retailer whose stocks are large enough to demonstrate all the different possibilities and whose taste and probity are beyond question. Even with such expert advice, however, the buyer will be better equipped to assess a carpet if he can distinguish a Persian original from a Rumanian copy than if he cannot.

The classification adopted here is different from that followed in most books, where the treatment is usually alphabetical or geographical, surveying the output of each place according to the characteristics of the place. Here, it is the characteris­tics of the design which are the key to the classification. The illustrations are grouped according to similarity of design, with the dual purpose of suggesting the complexity of the interrelationships between widely separated areas of production and of illuminating, for example, just what it is that distinguishes one village’s style from another village’s interpretation of the same design.

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