Turkish Rugs

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Turkish rugs are almost as steeped in tradition as Persia's. Since the 15th century, for example, its west central city of Oushak--convenient to the Mediterranean and the best wool of Turkey--has been a rug production center. One significant difference between Persian and Turkish rugs centers on a design element. Persian rugs feature both animals and geometric designs. Turkish weaving, however, uses only geometric motifs, because strict Muslim law forbids depicting people or animals in art. Turkish rugs also tend to be more coarse--fewer knots per inch--than Persian. Red and blue are the dominant colors. Green, a sacred color, is often used on prayer rugs, which usually feature a one-ended niche design.

Most Turkish weaving also features symmetrical knots. There are two types of knots in hand knotted rugs. All are knotted onto the cotton foundation of vertical warp threads and held in place by horizontal weft threads. Knots are made around pairs of warp threads. In a Turkish knot the wool lies across both warps, comes under each, and back up in between the two.

Substyles of Turkish Rugs

Turkey's three basic design groups correspond, conveniently, with the three geographic areas of Turkey--west, central, and east. Reds and yellows characterize the five main styles of western Turkey. These include Bergama, Ghiordes, Melas, Hereke, and Megri.

Central Turkey regions are Ladik, characterized by a stylized tulip, the purely geometric Konya, Kirsehir with its stylized carnation, and Mudjar. Rug making in eastern Turkey was heavily influenced by the Caucasus to the north and Persia to the east. Common eastern Turkish rug characteristics include elementary geometric decoration with two to five rows of polygonal medallions and subdued colors.

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