THE designs of Eastern rugs are often the spontaneous outcome of the fancy of the weaver. Sometimes they are handed down from one generation to another ; in some cases young girls are taught the design by an adult, who marks it in the sand ; at other times a drawing of the rug is made on paper, the instructor showing her pupils the arrangement of every thread and the color to be used. When all this has been done, the pupil must make the rug without looking at the drawing.
Persian rugs excel those of other countries in artistic design as well as in harmonious coloring. The Persians seem to have a natural intuition in the use and blending of different shades, and in the designs that contain these colors they achieve the happiest results. It is really wonderful what exquisite fabrics these people, born and reared in ignorance and poverty, produce.
The designs in Persian rugs are generally floral ; and in some districts, especially Fars, the women weavers invent the designs, varying them every two or three years. The Mohammedan religion does not allow any direct representation of animal forms ; consequently rugs woven under its influence take floral, geometric, and vegetable forms. The Shiah sect of Moslems, however, numbering about fifteen millions, — of which eight mil-lions are Persians, — do not regard representations of animals as unlawful. By the industry of this sect, and that of all who disregard the law of the Koran, animal forms are seen on some Persian rugs.
Among the good antique Persian rugs there are about thirty designs, all having different borders. Each design is the peculiar work of a family or tribe, and is produced continuously, from generation to generation without noticeable change, except in compliance with the demand of a buyer, or by a weaver who carries out some special fancy. Many buyers select the color, design, and size, leaving their orders with an importer or a manufacturer.
In the modern Oriental rug the designs are not to be entirely depended upon. They are apt to vary at the will of the weaver ; and moreover, Occidental designs are now sent to the Orient to be woven into rugs by the native weavers of the Eastern country. The designs sent to India, to be reproduced by the different European and American firms having factories there, are almost universally strictly Oriental in character, being copies from fine old Persian pieces, or rearrangements of Oriental forms. When the design reaches India, it has to be re-drawn to the exact size of the rug that is to be made. From this is copied what is called a talim, which is the only direction the weavers have. This talim, or guide, shows the weavers exactly how many knots of a color are to be tied ; and when these different colors are put together, the design is formed. These talims are carefully kept, and as they are records of the designs, can be reproduced at any time.
Large rugs show best in large and bold designs, for small and crowded designs would not be artistic. Small designs are, however, preferable on small rugs ; a bold design on a small rug is inappropriate. The finer the border of a rug of whatever size, the more beautiful and costly the rug.
An average size for a large rug is six yards by four, and for this a bold vigorous design would be suitable.
Some designs found in rugs are here reproduced.
I. Five Forms of the Palmette.
a. With sharply marked outlines this palmette is a characteristic of the Djushaghan rugs.
b. This is a geometrical form of the palmette, frequently met with in modern Caucasian rugs.
c. This form of the palmette has an oblong central nucleus, surrounded by wreaths of leaves. To the right and left lancet-shaped leaves nearly encircle the whole. This design is most frequently seen in old Persian rugs.
d. In some old Persian rugs this form of the palmette with its diagonal projections is seen. It tends toward the geometrical, although its centre contains a small floral spray.
e. This palmette, with its two flanking lancet-shaped leaves, is frequently seen in modern Feraghan and Kurdistan rugs.
II. The Herati Border, or some form of it, may often be seen in Herat, Feraghan, Khorassan, Kurdistan, and Sinna rugs.
III. The central design is formed by eight valvular or four heart-shaped leaves. This form is often seen in Kirmanshah and Shiraz, and sometimes in Caucasian rugs.
IV. The Running Hook design found in the Daghestan, Shirvan, and Soumak rugs.
V. Pomegranate. The fruit is often depicted on ancient Assyrian and Egyptian sculptures. It had a religious significance in v connection with several Oriental cults and was early introduced into rug designs.
VI. A palm leaf with regular contour, its centre containing a small floral design. This form of design is found in more or less detail in the rugs of Persia and India.
VII. A palm leaf formed by a floral branch and without distinct outline.
VIII. Cloud bands, seen in Chinese and old Ghiordes rugs.
IX. A lozenge surrounded by the Hook design. This is found in rugs made by nomadic tribes of Asia.
X. A continued wave like design with rosettes attached. At intervals a delicate tendril effect is interposed on either side of the wave-line.
XI. A continued wave-like design interrupted by a two-cleft figure.
XII. A rosette, the tips of its leaves bending backward. The rosette is often met with in old Khorassan, Herat, Feraghan, and other Persian rugs.
XIII. Reciprocal trefoil, or spade design. Found as a border design in many of the Caucasian and some Persian rugs, especially the Saraband.
XIV. The central design holds a rosette, to which are joined four blossoms resting in valvular calyxes, the complete design forming a cross.
XV. Four designs characteristic of the Caucasian rug.
XVI. The Fylfot is in the form of a Greek cross with each arm continuing at right angles. It is also known as the Swastika, and is the symbol of good fortune. It has been a favorite design in the rugs of Greece, and of the Orient, while it predominates in the Navajo rugs of the United States.
XVII. The Guli Hinnai is a decorative floral design found at its best in the old rugs of Feraghan. It is copied from the flowers which grow in small clusters on the henna-plant, from xvll which it derives its name.
XVIII. The Lotus is the water lily of Egypt. In various forms it is found in antique rugs of Persia.
XIX. The Medallion, in both floral and geometrical designs, is seen in many rugs of all rug-weaving countries.
There are many more designs which by careful investigation can be found. Among others the Arabesque, Chinese fret, Circle, Comb, various forms of the Cross, Mina Khani, Octagon, the S form, Scroll, Serrated leaves, Shah Abbas, the Star, — six or eight pointed, — the Tarantula, Triangle, the Y form, and the Zigzag.
( Originally Published Late 1900's )