Vintage turkish rugs are prized for their rich ruby reds and misted blues, their entwined botanical patterns and rhythmic geometries. They are as loved today as they were in the thirteenth century, when the Seljuk Turks forged a carpet weaving tradition that came into its own under their rule. By the mid-nineteenth century the world caught a fever for all things oriental and Turkish rugs became particularly fashionable. Even rustic tribal rugs, like those produced by nomadic shepherds in the Anatolian peninsula, gained cache with Western consumers for their cultural verisimilitude.
The artisanal rug weaving industry in Turkey evolved along with the new styles of woven art. As the rugs passed through the hands of European and Asian traders they took on elements from both the local culture as well as its Eastern neighbors in Persia, Central Asia and Turkestan. The result was an incredibly diverse and flexible corpus of rug design.
One of the first signs of this flexibility was in the weaving technique known as kilim. As Milan based rug dealer Alfredo Levi explains, kilims are made with plain slit tapestry techniques that leave a gap between sections woven with different colored yarns. This creates a flat woven surface that is sturdy and durable. The kilims were so popular that they even appeared in Renaissance paintings.
Other rug weaving centers produced rugs with more structured constructions. Bergama rugs produced motifs that are often heavily influenced by Turkoman tribal art, Hereke rugs produced elegant curve-linear patterns worthy of Ottoman palaces and Oushak, one of the most important carpet weaving centers in the region, produced decorative room-sized carpets revered, above all else, for their soft pastel coloration.
As the demand for Turkish rugs waxed and waned over the centuries, rug weaving in the country also adapted to the changing tastes of consumers. In the 19th century, for instance, a trend toward more geometric designs developed in the village of Ushak. In addition, the use of fine silk in these rugs allowed for a greater range of color tones and a more sophisticated design vocabulary.
Today, the resurgence of interest in antique and vintage rugs has led to an active rug production in Turkey that is as varied as its heritage. While many rug weavers stick with traditional styles, others reinterpret their cultural heritage in contemporary terms, often incorporating synthetics into the weave for cost-effectiveness and a durability that better suits modern lifestyles. Whether in the style of the regal Oushak, the colorful Bergama or the floral Hereke, you will find many fine examples of traditional Turkish rug design on 1stDibs.