Persian carpets are one of the most copied items in the world. Their distinctive motifs and colours are widely reproduced nowadays.
Indeed, low quality handmade Persian rugs are woven in many countries. Even machine made Persian carpets are available through various retailers, from Ikea up to John Lewis.
Despite this fact, ‘machine-made Persian carpet’ is something of a contradiction in terms. That is because Persian rugs stem from the ancient and culturally entrenched art of weaving.
As a result, many people prefer to call carpets made by machine in the Persian style something other than Persian carpets. Faux Persian, mock Persian and imitation Persian are all suitable names.
Make no mistake, genuine Persian carpets are masterpieces. Their beauty has inspired artists, fashion designers and architects. But not everyone knows that Persians also took inspiration from Western countries.
If everyone knows the importance of Persian carpets from an historical and cultural viewpoint, a lesser known fact is that Persians were fascinated by the popular paintings of Europe. What is more, there are carpets that bear witness to this admiration.
For example, Abdul Husain Mirza, the Governor of the Persian Province of Kirman, was astonished by the beauty and the delicacy of Eighteenths Century European art. In particular, he fell in love with the “Venetian Parties” (‘Fêtes Vénitiennes’, 1718-1719) by Antoine Watteau, shown here:
Fetes Venetiennes – persian carpets
As you can see, the scene is joyful, playful and refined. The artist, Watteau, even includes himself in the painting as a musician. But he is not the only well-known character… In fact, the woman in the middle of the composition was a famous actress and mistress of the Duc d’Orleans. The other dancing character is the Flemish painter Vleughels, Watteau’s friend.
Watteau really captures the spirit and vibrancy of the sumptuous parties of the Eighteenth Century. This peculiar example is held at The National Gallery of Scotland, in Edinburgh.
Anyway, coming back to our main point of interest, the Persian Governor of Kirman, was so fascinated by the painting that he wanted it reproduced in the form of a carpet. As a result, he promptly commissioned the workshop, Ustad Ali-yi Kirmani, to produce the work, which was eventually completed in 1327AH, also known as 1909AD.
The technique used to reproduce a painting on a Persian carpet is surprisingly basic. It consists of the use of a cartoon so the weaver can just weave the design onto the chart. This technique was used to communicate complex designs to the weavers and is still in use today.
Here is the finished carpet:
Persian carpet inspired by a painting
As you can see, the rug’s colours are stunning, vibrant and bold. The picturesque scene of the dancers and musicians is enclosed by a magnificent border of leaves and flowers in a Persian style. It also contains the name of the weaver and the year it was made.
You can see this carpet at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.