Inspiration

Persian Carpets & Horses

In the Vienna Museum für angewandte Kunst is an exquisite hunting carpet dating from the 16th century. This fine silk carpet with golden background is a wonderful testament to the extraordinary craftsmanship during the Safavid Dynasty in Iran.

Another fine example from the same era is the hunting carpet in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum in Milan.  It is one of the rare carpets that is dated in an inscription that says: “It is by the efforts of Giyath-ud-Din ʿJami that this renowned carpet was brought to such perfection in the year (1542 AD)"; and is thus historically significant.

Archeaological finds date the domestication of horses to around 3,500BCE in the Eurasian Steppes and Kazakhstan, but a beautiful cave painting of horses found in Lascaux, France, dating to 17,000 BPE, might suggest a much earlier time that humans and horses lived closely together. Another great depiction of a horse dating from the late Bronze Age is the Uffington White Horse situated on the upper slopes of the White Horse Hill in the English civil parish of Uffington and is about 110 m long formed from deep trenches filled with crushed white chalk.

Throughout our history horses have played a pivotal role in our societies from being the main form of transportation to being an animal that we can play with. It is no wonder that we immortalized them in our arts and crafts. The dressing of horses were as important as the dressing of their owners and great craftsmanship were employed to make/weave unbelievable horse blankets and saddlebags for the horses. No expense was spared to ensure that the horses were dressed up from head to tail in the most elaborate of ways.

Horses were often featured in the Persian carpets as is evident in the Pazyryk carpet (oldest remaining piled carpet), but during the Islamic invasion of Persia the portrayal of humans and animals in art was forbidden. It would only again be revived by the Safavid rulers who were keen patrons of the arts and requested the great master weavers to create carpets that depicted the royal horses, hunters and sportsmen on horseback. Polo was a game used to prepare soldiers for combat and was a great source of entertainment together with hunting. It is often depicted in carpets and miniature paintings of the time.

Today hunting carpets are still produced mainly in Isfahan, Iran, and because of the fine detail required they are mostly woven with silk. Horse blankets and saddlebags are also still produced albeit mostly for the owner’s own use. Pictured here is an antique Kurd Khorasan saddlebag in the Ghorbany Private Collection.

Written by Vanessa Ghorbany

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Carpets & Wine

Persian carpets and Wine. Two cultures that have stimulated our senses through thousands of years. One stimulates our senses of sight and touch, the other our senses of taste and smell, but both also stimulate our sense of hearing because in both there is a symphony playing, audible to only those willing to hear.

We know that wine is very old. The first thing Noah did after he landed on Mount Ararat and the waters subsided was to plant a vine and make wine. Move on a few millennia and we have Joseph in jail with the baker and the wine pourer (sommelier) of the Pharaoh. There are many other Biblical accounts on the use and importance of wine and it is so suitable then that the earliest wine makers to meticulously document their art, were the monks toiling the lands of the monasteries and making really good wine that they eventually sold. We know the weaving industry is very old, from textiles to carpets. The nomads needed tents, bedding and clothing and weaving was developed to fulfil these needs.

What then make these two cultures survive through time?

Well, it is exactly TIME that gives it its longevity. Few items become better with time and these two cultures produce exactly such products that can only really be appreciated with the passing of time. There is some magical alchemy that happens when the grape leaves the vineyard and enters the barrel. The process of fermentation with the help of time transforms it into a liquid that captures the aromas and energies of the place in which it grows and ages. The same magical alchemy happens when the weaver takes each strain of meticulously dyed wool to create a whole masterpiece with each woven knot and it is only with the passing of time that the colours will settle into the intended colouring of the wool dyer.

If you could ever have a picture made of what a good old wine tastes like, there is no doubt that a Persian carpet would be it. The complexity of colour and design matches the complexity of flavours and aromas in a wine. Just as every bottle of wine holds its little secrets in the flavours, a Persian carpets holds its little secrets in the woven pattern that can be read like an old manuscript by those who know the language. The great difference between them is that when you open that bottle of wine and drank it, the taste and flavours can only live on in your memory; but a Persian carpet can be felt and touched and looked at for generations.

It seems as if an invisible power helps both these cultures survive and evolve through wars, invasions and changes of mankind, sometimes even pushed to the brink of extinction. That is possibly its’ greatest magic: that the people who make it come and go, but the art of transforming a grape into wine and wool into a Persian carpet survives from generation to generation, thanks to the farmers and weavers who pass on their skills. It links past with present, it transports us back to that exact moment when the wine maker dreamed of what this wine would become and the weaver envisioned cutting his completed carpet off the loom. Once the bug has bitten you, you will never get enough of either. The thirst for knowledge on it and the almost quasi-religious experience both gives you is what eventually turns a consumer into a collector, and a collector into a treasurer.