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The beauty of the Spanish rug, with its terra-cotta reds, tawny yellows, rich greens, blues that once were as deep as the skies of Spain, and black uniquely used, seems in its robust color effects to be especially adapted to American interiors eclectically furnished from the four quarters of the world. Spanish rugs combine the East and the West in their colors and designs. They are Eastern in origin, though later waves of Gothic and Renaissance art have left their mark on them.
The antique Spanish rug is becoming rare; Spain today, is weaving rugs copied from famous old specimens in private collections or in museums. Adaptations are also being made of the old designs to fit in more closely with the furnishings of today. Spain, like other great rug-weaving centres, is catering to American decorative needs.
The designs fall into two main groups. The first are typical of Moorish traits in Spanish life and art; these were woven while Spain was dominated by the Saracens. When the last of the Moorish artisans had been expelled from Spain in the first part of the seventeenth century, rug weaving ended there its period of finest expression. The second great group of Spanish rugs consists of those that were produced after the expulsion of the Moors. They include the rugs woven in the Near East to suit the tastes of Spanish grandees.
Through all the periods the most distinctive of Spanish rugs have borne coats of arms. In some examples the heraldic devices were an integral part of the design, but in most of the rugs the crest appears as if placed directly on the pattern. Some of the finest of the Spanish rugs were made for and given to the Church and the insignia indicated the donor.
To one who understands the language of textile decoration a Spanish rug tells an interesting story. In it one may find many of the decorative forms apparent in all our own textile patterns. From the Gothic period comes the fabled chimera; from the Renaissance the dolphins, the pomegranate, the wreaths and the acanthus; in rugs of the eighteenth century, when France was influencing Spanish furnishings, there is discoverable the light touch of the French court.
Now and then the Spanish rug weaver took a whimsical turn, as in a rug recently viewed in the private collection of a New York dealer. On the three oddly shaped panels that fill the oblong field is silhouetted the form of a longnecked goose, with roosters and wolf-like animals in smaller size woven in the surrounding spaces. In black and red, with accents of green and tawny yellow, the rug presents an almost primitive effect.
In the Metropolitan Museum is a wonderful HispanoMooresque rug of the fifteenth century that has in its borders a complete pantomime of swans, bears, stags, dogs, horses and other animals, with women in crinoline skirts, children in stiff little dresses and mighty huntsmen.