Art Deco Chinese

Art Deco Chinese: Art Deco was an international design movement of the 1920's and 1930's expressed through the decorative arts and architecture. There was no specific Art Deco movement in China, however, the disruption of carpet trading routes through Iran and Turkey following World War I left an opportunity for rugs imported from China to become popular during this time. American entrepreneur Walter Nichols provided the impetus for much of the weaving during this period, producing rugs for the American market in Tiensin, China. While Art Deco style is often defined by the influence of math and geometry resulting in highly stylized, architectural design elements, Chinese rugs of the Art Deco period are brightly colored with bold hues of blue, green, gold, and purple with open fields and patterns influenced by the natural world - flowers, plants, butterflies, and beetles. "In Search of Walter Nichols" by Elizabeth Bogen provides information specifically on the weaving of "Nichols Rugs."


China: New Chinese rugs became popular in the American market starting in the 1920's and 1930's with the Art Deco Movement. In the 1950's and 1960's state run weaving factories dominated the Chinese rug market and the style known as "Chinese Carved" came into prominence, featuring softer colors and classical motifs. Chinese Carved rugs often have thin architectural borders that feature fruit blossoms, glyphs, and curliques. Chinese rugs were not exported to the U.S. market prior to 1972, as they lacked "most favored nation" status. Contemporary handknotted rugs made in China based on traditional Persian designs have 160 or 200 lines (or rows) of knots per linear foot and can usually be identified by an overall appearance that is very precise. Unlike the Art Deco rugs and Carved rugs, which have a thick and relatively long pile, the pile of Chinese or Sino Persians is typically low, and their designs are finely rendered. Often some silk is used around design elements like flowers and leaves to give luminescence to their outlines. High quality, delicate Chinese silk rugs may be 230 or 300 lines and among some of the finest rugs ever made. China made Persian designed rugs from the 1980's through 2004, but due to the rising cost of labor, the Chinese priced themselves out of the market, which resulted in significantly reduced rug production. Western China still produces some rugs due to their labor cost being on par with a country like India. Due to the economic slowdown of late 2008 and early 2009, producing rugs in China has become more profitable and this may provide an enticement for the Chinese to increase rug weaving in their country.

Chinese Carved (90 Line, 5/8" Thick)

Chinese Carved (90 Line, 5/8" Thick): Chinese Carved rugs came to popularity in the 1960's after the communist revolution. Rugs with traditional Chinese motifs represented the nationalism of the time. Rugs are woven and sheared and then the designs knotted into the rug are accented by the addition of carving their outline, which gives the face of the rug texture and depth. Terms such as 80 Line (5/8"), 90 Line (5/8"), and 120 line (3/8") refer to the number of knotted rows per linear foot of rug across its width and the length of the rug's pile. Rugs termed "closed back" are made in China, and the Chinese Carved rug is an example of one of these. Warp threads in a closed back rug lie on two levels. The full loop of the Persian knot that is used to tie these rugs is wrapped around the lower warp thread. As a result, when looking at the back of the rug, all you see are rows of tied wool knots, with no visible warp or weft threads. A closed back rug has a slight stiffness to it and a firm body. These rugs are made in small, scatter sizes and large room sizes.


Tibet (& Nepal): Modern Tibetan rug-making started after the invasion of Tibet by Chinese Communist forces in 1950. Prior to that time, rugs made in Tibet were used by the people making them for floorcoverings, seat cushions, wall-hangings, and horse saddles. Rugs were woven for monasteries where monks used them to cover their prayer benches during religious ceremonies. During the 1950's, many Tibetans, including the wealthy, aristocrats who sponsored weaving activities, fled to India and Nepal, and the monasteries shut down. After 1959, when the insurrection against the Chinese Communists that began in 1956 was quashed, rural weavers remaining in the country were forced to participate in socio-economic projects created by the Communist regime which took them away from weaving to work in other industries. Tibetan refugees in countries like India and Nepal depended on the United Nations for their livelihood and protection. In order to create an industry for themselves, Tibetans began to make rugs in contemporary styles for export to the U.S. and Europe under the guidance of Western producers. Unlike rugs from countries like Iran and Turkey, Tibetan rugs did not display an indigenous style, but rather styles were created to cater to the growing export market. Some of the early contemporary Tibetan rugs were not particularly appealing, lacking good design schemes and attractive colors. As Tibetan rug weaving began to increase in the 1970's, production centered in India and Nepal. Due to the high demand for quality Tibetan rugs, rug-making has become one of the largest industries in Nepal. Over time, Tibetan refugee weavers were joined by native weavers to make rugs in the same style. During the 1980's and 1990's some weaving workshops were reestablished in Tibet, particularly in Lhasa, however, rugs made here are typically for the tourist market or for use in China as gifts to ranking officials within the government. Overall the quality of these rugs has been inconsistent. In Lhasa, there are government sponsored workshops making rugs from imported wool and synthetic dye. While the weaving is competant, the material quality is only fair. There are also independent workshops run by Tibetans who have returned to their country or by foreigners, and these producers are trying to utilize high quality local wool along with good natural or synthetic dyes to produce a high quality product. However, rugs made in both types of workshops struggle to compete with the higher quality Tibetan-style rugs made in India and Nepal. A modest number of rugs from the independent Tibetan workshops have managed to be exported to the U.S. and Europe. During the mid-1990's, Chinese exporters flooded the market with Tibetan-style rugs in an effort to put Tibetan rug makers out of business, however, the quality of these rugs was inferior, and the Tibetan rug makers prevailed. Some Tibetan rug types are referred to as 60 Line and 80 Line, meaning that they are composed of 60,000 and 80,000 knots per square meter, respectively. Modern Tibetan rugs are known for their silk accents and fine, low pile.


Aubusson: Aubusson is a town south of Paris, France. Aubusson rugs, emulating the look of Savonnerie rugs in a flat, tapestry weave, were made available to European nobility. (During the reign of Louis XIV, Savonnerie rugs were being woven only for royal commissions.) The Aubusson's flatweave is influenced by the Persian kilim, which has been in existence since at least 500 B.C. Slits between color areas in an Aubusson tend to be smaller than those in a kilim, giving it a more refined appearance. Like Savonnerie rugs, the designs tend to be ornate and often feature pastel florals and architectural borders in brown and gold hung with garlands. Today this style of rug is being made in China for the mass market, while the Aubusson rug-making tradition continues in France on a much smaller scale. The quality of a Sino Aubusson may be just as good as a French Aubusson for just a fraction of the price. Due to the rising cost of labor in China, these rugs are not being made in the same numbers as they were in the late 1990's and early 2000's. Some of the classic design motifs are recreated today with the permission of the major museums in France.


Mamluk: The Mamluk Dynasty of Egypt lasted from 1250 to 1517. Mamluk rugs have consistent patterns and construction that are unique to this place and time in history. The composition of a common design starts with a square or circle at the center of the rug, which is filled with a geometric motif such as stylized leaf forms in clusters with vines. Similar or complementary motifs surround the central square or circle radiating out towards the edges of the rug, creating the overall impression of a starburst. Colors most often seen are red, blue, and green with some yellow and neutral tones being used as well. Antique Mamluk rugs are very high quality and a bit of a mystery, since there are no known influences from other rug weaving traditions on these rugs; weaving is usually passed from one group to another through contact between weavers. Today Egypt produces some fine rugs, but they tend to be priced higher than rugs from other parts of the world, and in some cases they may even be overpriced. India reproduces rugs with Mamluk designs in a limited quantity, because the high level of detail in these rugs and their somewhat limited appeal to the export market makes them less desirable to make.


Savonnerie: Commercial carpet production facility south of Paris, France that resided in an old soap factory, hence the origin of its name from the French for "soap," which experienced its highest accolades in the latter half of the 17th century. Due to its prestige as a producer of carpets for diplomats and royalty, the Savonnerie name began to apply to a similar style of knotted rug from other makers. Early Savonnerie rugs were influenced by Persian designs, but they soon found their own style influenced by European tastes. The classic Savonnerie design features a floral medallion and architectural borders. New Savonnerie carpets that are styled after the Roccoco influence of the 18th century feature softer colors and their designs include sprays of flowers and curling leaves in gold on backgrounds of rose, blue, aqua, and cream with gold and brown borders. As French Savonnerie rugs became more expensive, Spain began to make them as well in the late 1800's through to the 1930's. Spanish Savonnerie-style rugs made on burlap foundations have fallen into disrepair over time. France also continued to make them at a very high cost that could only be afforded by the very wealthy. Savonnerie rugs have been reproduced in China since the early 1990's. Some of these rugs are of exceptional quality and replicate the French look reminicent of the Louis the XIV era.


Tapestry: Woven textile art, specifically for wall-hanging, where all the warp (vertical) threads are hidden and only the colorful weft (horizontal) threads are visible and form the design. There are old French and Flemish tapestries and new tapestries made in China. Perspective, proportion, and detail are important in the rendering of images. Preserved samples found in the desert provide evidence of tapestry weaving in Greece circa the 3rd century BC. In Europe, tapestry began its ascent as an art form in the early 14th century with the first tapestries being produced in Germany. The popularity of decorative tapestries may be attributed to their portability. Kings and noblemen would transport rolled tapestries from one residence to another and different tapestries could be displayed on different occasions. To some degree, these wall-hangings even provided a measure of insulation from the cold. In the 14th and 15th centuries; Arras, France was a thriving textile town where fine wool tapestries were made for the decoration of palaces and castles. Few of these old tapestries survived the French Revolution, when hundreds were burned for the gold thread used in their construction. By the 16th century, Flanders was the center of tapestry weaving in Europe, and in the 17th century Flemish tapestries were arguably the most artistically and historically important being made. Tapestries from this time generally depicted scenes from biblical and mythical tales. There were also Flemish Verdure or "greenery" tapestries, which were widely copied in France. Verdure tapestries depict thick vegetation, sometimes with a distant castle or animals and their hunter in the background. In the 18th and 19th century, tapestries provided a window to the outdoors where people and animals were engaged in activities like reading, dancing, and singing. Tapestry designs have even been styled after famous paintings. In the 19th century, William Morris, the English architect and designer, resurrected the art of tapestry-making in the medieval style at Merton Abbey (England). Today Chinese tapestries are well-made and a good value for the money. Tapestries are typically woven in wool or in wool and silk on a cotton foundation.

Baloch (Balochi, Baluch, or Baluchi)

Baloch (Balochi, Baluch, or Baluchi): Balochistan is a region in Southwestern Pakistan. The region is named after the Baloch people of Southeastern Iran on the Pakistan Border. The Baloch people moved into Pakistan around 1000 AD. Currently, about 25% of the Balochi people live in Iran and 60% live in Pakistan. Because this area is dry, particularly on the Iranian side of the region, the wool used to make Balochi rugs tends to be dry and low in quality. Goat hair is often used for the foundation and the overcasting around the edges of these rugs. Patterns are geometric and colors are generally dark and somber with many rugs woven in shades of brown, beige, and dark red. These tribal rugs are made by the people for their own use, rather than export, as a result, rug sizes are smaller, and there are many small Baloch prayer rugs exhibited and sold today.


Ghazni: The name of a region in Afghanistan which produces very good quality wool. The term has been overused and many rugs referred to as "Ghazni" are not actually made of Ghazni wool.


Lahore: Lahore is is the capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab and the second largest city in Pakistan after Karachi. Lahore is considered the cultural heart of Pakistan. During the reign of Akbar Shah in the 16th century, Persian master weavers were brought to Lahore. Lahore rugs attracted the commercial attention of England in the 17th century and were exported to England by the East India Company. This city is one of the places where prison weaving took place. The central jail held as many as 2,000 prisoners, and, in the prison "School of Industry," wool and cotton rugs were woven. The market for rugs from Pakistan cooled during World War II, but was revived in the late 1940's and weaving gradually increased in Lahore after that time. During the early 1970's Lahore began to weave the Pak Bokhara from Turkoman designs, and in the 1980's they started weaving Persian influenced rugs featuring motifs like the boteh (pear). The quality of new Lahore rugs could be considered passable as they are not very densely woven.


Pakistan: Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world and has the second largest Muslim population after Indonesia. Pakistan means "Land of the Pure" in Urdu and Farsi. Rug making centers in Peshawar and Lahore. Rug weaving began in Pakistan during the reign of Akbar Shah in the 16th century when Persian master weavers were brought to Lahore. Weaving as an industry in Pakistan was commercialized with the creation of the East India Company, which exported goods from the East to Europe. Pakistan has been weaving Oriental rugs for the American market since the late 1940's, following the 1947 partition of British India into India and Pakistan. After the partition, Muslim weavers migrated to Lahore where they undertook other trades. As the market for their rugs developed, weaving for export in Pakistan resumed. Today Pakistan weaves rugs in the style of the Turkoman Bokhara and the Turkish Ushak as well as rugs influenced by Caucasian and Persian designs. At present, hand-knotted carpets are among Pakistan's leading export products and organized rug weaving is the second largest "small" industry in the country.


Peshawar: Peshawar is a city northwest of Pakistan near the Afghan border. After the invasion of Afghanistan by the former USSR, many Afghanis moved there. Pakistanis who owned businesses in Peshawar provided employment to capable Afghani weavers. The fruits of this arrangement were rugs that have the faded colors and softly aged appearance of old Turkish Ushak rugs and those brightly colored rugs with geometric designs made to look like old Caucasian rugs. Generally, the colors of the Pak Ushak rugs are produced by using naturally dyed wool. Washing the rugs after finishing continues to accentuate their aged look. This style of rug became very popular starting in 1998, and the height of its popularity occurred around 2004. Weavers in Peshawar have done an admirable job of copying the style of old Persian rugs as well. Both Pak Ushak and Pak Caucasian rugs, have flat edges with a thin single or double row of overcasting. Fringe is often short and is left unknotted after the end of the rug has been bound. Rug foundations may be unbleached or gray cotton.

Click map to enlarge


Agra: A city on the banks of the Yamuna River in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India. Most famous in Western culture for being the location of the Taj Mahal. Agra was the seat of the Mughal Empire from 1526 to 1658, when it became a major center of carpet production. The Persians first introduced Indian weavers to rug-making, hence designs in these rugs will show the influence of classical Persian floral patterns. Motifs include the boteh (pear), pineapples, and modified cone shapes. Prison weaving took place in Agra and rugs woven in this setting were green or blue with cream while newer rugs include purple and brown shades. Shops selling rugs and carpets in Agra are mainly found near the commerce district surrounding the Taj Mahal. Many weavers who sell handwoven rugs today are direct descendants of the weavers who used to weave for the Mughal emperors. These rugs tend to be thick, of good wool, primarily using natural dyes, and antique and semi-antique rugs from 1900-1930 may be difficult to find. Sizes are 9' x 12' and larger. Today rug-making in Agra is a strong and thriving industry.


Dhurrie: A cotton or wool flat weave rug from India. Colors range from vibrant to pastel and patterns are geometric or floral. The design of the rug is created with the weft thread. A very practical rug that is suitable for a casual setting, like an eat-in kitchen or enclosed porch. Dense cotton Dhurries are very durable and are still seen in some of the palaces of India today. Dhurries are a good value for the money when it comes to handmade rugs.


India: Located in South Asia, the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Commercial rug making in India is about a 400 year old industry. Handmade rugs woven in India became popular in the 1990's, due to the demand for high quality, value priced rugs in the American market. The Iranian trade embargo, which did not come to an end until 2000 resulted in Iranian rug merchants in the United States, who could not import rugs from their own county, requiring a source for Persian designed rugs, and India and China provided the merchandise they needed. Handknotted, Indian wool rugs have an especially thick wool pile and may be just as high in quality as rugs made in other countries.

Mughal (Moghal)

Mughal (Moghal): Mughal rugs would be any of the handwoven floor coverings made in India in the 16th and 17th centuries for the Mughal emperors and their courts. During the Mughal period, carpets made in India became so famous that demand for them spread abroad. Rugs woven for the Mughal emperors, including Jahangir and Shah Jahan, who was responsible for building the Taj Mahal, were considered to be the finest. As the rugs were made for palace use, sizes could be very large and the quality would be exceptional. Aside from Persian influenced designs, Indian designs such as landscapes, frolicking animals, architectural lattices, and trailing flowers and fruit, such as grapes, were depicted in these rugs.


Varanasi: Also commonly known as Benares, Varanasi, is a city situated on the left bank of the River Ganges in Uttar Pradesh, India. Varanasi is considered one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world and is a major rug weaving center in India. It is possible that up to 50% of the rugs made in India originate from this area. Persian influenced hand-knotted rugs are made in Varanasi and the surrounding towns along with French-style Savonerrie rugs and flatweave Dhurries.

Hereke (Herekeh)

Hereke (Herekeh): Hereke is a city in Northern Turkey positioned between the Mediterrean & the Black Sea about 40 miles from Istanbul. Sultan Abdulmecid, Ottoman Emperor, established the Hereke Imperial Factory in 1843 to produce carpets, fabric, upholstery and curtains exclusively for the Ottoman Court. Master weavers from Kerman were imported to weave and supervise the weaving, resulting in almost half of the rugs woven featuring Kerman designs. Hereke production was interrupted in 1878, when the factory burned down. The factory was rebuilt in 1882 and during the late 19th and early 20th century, Hereke rugs were producted for aristocracy, dignitaries, and visiting heads of state. Rugs may feature intricate florals or have animal designs. Fine silk Hereke rugs are highly collectible and sought after by wealthy Europeans and Turks.


Melez: A Turkish prayer rug that is somewhat coarsely woven, featuring a unique geometric Mihrab (prayer niche) design. As a prayer rug, sizes are small, and a Melez rug woven prior to 1900 in good condition is considered "museum quality." The Art Institute of Chicago has a Melez rug in its permanent collection. The field color will be dark, like red or blue, surrounded by a dark border, followed by a light border in ivory or yellow, surround by another dark border at the very outer edge of the rug.


Sivas: Sivas is a city in North Central Turkey where rugs are produced based on Persian designs. Turkish Sivas rugs are rare on the market, and new Sivas rugs are being woven in India for export. Sivas was a city where rugs were woven by prisoners through jailhouse work programs. Sivas rugs, with their fine weave and closely sheared pile, are considered the best of the Turkish room-size rugs. Designs following after the Persian influence feature medallions and all-over patterns of palmettes with curving vines and flowers. Colors are generally soft ivory, beige, and gold with red and blue.


Turkey: Weaving in Turkey dates back to the 12th century, however rug making in Turkey did not reach its crest until the Ottoman Empire with the establishment of the court workshop in Hereke. Another court workshop was opened in Istanbul in the 19th century, and rugs made here were exported to Europe. Fine Turkish court rugs from the 16th and 17th century are seen depicted in some European paintings of the time. Turkey has a tradition of flatweave kilim rugs made by Yuruk nomads and the semi-nomadic Kurdish tribes. Rugs woven prior to the industrialization of Turkey in the early 1900's are superior to those woven after that time, when some of the best weavers turned to other sources of income that were more lucrative. Some of the most well known Turkish rugs are the Hereke, Ushak, Melez, Sivas, and Turkish Kilim. A lesser quality Turkish rug is the Sparta rug, which was made in the towns of Isparta and Smyrna during the 1920's and 1930's. Armenian refugees displaced during World War I wove thousands of these rugs. Sparta rugs were made to copy the look of a Sarouk rug with an all-over floral design on a red or blue field, however, they lacked quality wool, and, as a result their durability was compromised. Additionally, the design renderings had a mechanical look that lacked the appeal of a Sarouk rug. Turkey still weaves rugs today, however, they are less prevalent in the American market than rugs from other countries. In Eastern Turkey, near the Iranian border, where the labor cost is lower, Kurdish rugs and rugs for export are being made.

Ushak (Oushak)

Ushak (Oushak): Ushak is a city in Western Turkey that has been a major center of rug production from the beginning of the Ottoman empire. The height of rug production in Ushak was between the 15th and 17th centuries. A prevelant design from this era is referred to as the Star and Medallion. Rug production fell off in the 18th and 19th century and little is known about rugs produced during this time. Ushak rug production began again in the early 1900's with large, room-sized rugs more often featuring an all-over pattern intended for export to the European and American markets. Generally, Ushak rugs have a low pile and soft coloring in tones of apricot, cream, and gold, however, there are rugs woven in deeper shades. Ushak "style" rugs are woven in Pakistan and India today. Higher quality new Ushak rugs will be colored in most cases with vegetable dye and less frequently with good synthetic dye. Wool colors are selected to simulate the abrash of differing dye lots and the patina of age. Lower quality new Ushak rugs will be heavily chemically washed to create that aged appearance, which may negatively impact their durability.

Yuruk (Yoruk)

Yuruk (Yoruk): Yuruk are a Turkish people, some of whom are still nomadic, primarily inhabiting the mountains of Anatolia and parts of the Balkan peninsula. Their name derives from the Turkish verb yürü, which means "to walk", with the word Yuruk meaning "those who walk." Yuruk rugs were made in Eastern Anatolia, so they may bear a resemblance to rugs woven in the Caucasus region. The Yuruk make both flatweave and hand-knotted rugs. Designs are abstract and geometric like the oldest Turkish carpets. The rugs rarely display floral motifs and when they do, they are highly stylized. Colors tend to be dark and have a purplish hue; more varied colors appear in rugs woven in the early 19th century.