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Persian Rugs – History & Buyer’s Guide

On the second floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, living one wing over from European painters like Dutch Masters and the Impressionists, you’ll find a collection of Persian rugs. At first glance, they may look like the same floor decorations commonly found everywhere from recording studios to boutique clothing shops. Look a little closer and you’ll find a much higher level of detail and craftsmanship than anything you’ve ever stepped on. 

The Persian rugs on display at the Met are truly works of art. They represent the impressive mastery that was required to create astounding detail by weaving textiles. As representatives of the art form at its highest level, these particular examples are made from silk, and some of them even contain precious metals as they were created for nobles and royalty. For the most part, Persian rugs were made from wool and cotton and decorated the homes and public spaces of the common people. 


Details of a 17th-century Persian rug. Image via The Met.

All of the examples displayed in the Met are from the 16th and 17th centuries which are considered to be the golden age of Persian rugs. But how regional rug-making traditions evolved over thousands of years to reach this high point is a remarkable story of human artistic endeavor. How the designs created in 16th century Persia became a fundamental piece of Western interior design by way of 19th century England is a remarkable story of cultural exchange. While that story, unfortunately, begins with colonial raiding, it has the happy ending of keeping this remarkable art form alive and thriving through global demand. 


A 16th-century Persian rug. Image via The Met.


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