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Exploring the Legacy of Oushak Rugs: From Ottoman Masterpieces to Beloved Collectables – A Comprehensive Look at the History, Craftsmanship, and Timeless Appeal of Turkey’s Iconic Carpets

Discover the rich history and timeless appeal of Oushak rugs in this read. From their origins in the Ottoman Empire to their popularity in Renaissance Europe, explore how these Turkish carpets have influenced art and design for centuries. Learn about the unique craftsmanship, distinctive designs, and quality materials that make Oushak rugs so highly sought after. Whether you’re a collector, an interior design enthusiast, or a person looking to give a historical Oushak rug a place in your home, dive into their story… 

Oushak rugs, also called Ushak carpets, are Turkish carpets with a unique type of design because of the city Uşak where they were produced. Uşak was one of the largest towns in Western Anatolia, which was a popular place for rug production from the Ottoman Empire, into the 20th century. 

Anatolia literally translates to “land of the rising sun”, and historically the rugs were known as Anatolian Rugs. Today, experts know how to specify an Oushak rug, but if a rug is not able to be classified it will go by Anatolian rug, which refers to an antique rug made in Turkey.

What is an Oushak rug?

The history of Oushak rugs dates to the Ottoman Empire, during which the city of Uşak emerged as a major center for carpet production. The town's strategic location, just south of Istanbul, and along trade routes facilitated the exchange of materials, techniques, and artistic ideas. Early Oushak rugs were heavily influenced by Persian designs, yet they quickly developed a distinctive Turkish character. The Turkish style that developed with time is known for its large-scale floral motifs, medallions, and star patterns. Unlike many Persian carpets, which feature intricate and dense designs, Oushak rugs often showcase more open, spacious patterns. This aesthetic choice gives them a unique elegance and a timeless appeal.

Another interesting feature of Oushak rugs is their color palette. Traditional Oushak rugs often have soft, subdued hues such as gold, blue, green, and terracotta. These colors are achieved using natural dyes, which contribute to the rugs' rich and harmonious appearance.

The craftsmanship of Oushak rugs is a testament to the skill of the weavers, and like many other antique rugs, the rugs are hand-knotted using high-quality wool, and sometimes silk, which ensures durability and a luxurious texture. However, the difference in the weaving on Oushak is the knotting technique used results in a relatively loose weave compared to other Turkish rugs, which gives the rug a more plush feel.

Renaissance Reverence: The Rise of Oushak Rugs in European Nobility and Art

During the Renaissance period, Oushak rugs gained popularity in Europe. The European nobility discovered the rugs in the early 16th century, and they soon started to ship to countries such as Italy, France, and England. These rugs quickly became a symbol of wealth and sophistication, adorning the floors of palaces, castles, and grand homes across Europe. The demand for Oushak rugs led to increased production and the development of new designs that catered to Western tastes. The rugs were often featured in paintings by artists such as Hans Holbein and Lorenzo Lotto. This period saw the introduction of the "Lotto" and "Holbein" designs, today named after the artists who frequently featured them in their works.

Timeless beauty of Lotto carpets

Lorenzo Lotto (c. 1480 – 1556/57) was a Renaissance painter and illustrator born in Venice, Italy. He was known to paint altarpieces, portraits, and religious subjects. The first Lotto carpets to appear in paintings were around the year 1516, but the design of the rug itself is thought to be much older. Today you can view two very antique Lotto carpets and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London also has a particularly well-preserved Lotto carpet in its collection.

A Lotto carpet from the Met

 

Lorenzo Lotto, “Husband and Wife”

Lorenzo Lotto, “Husband and Wife”

“The Alms of St. Anthony”, a Lorenzo Lotto painting featuring a carpet similar to the Lotto carpet

“The Alms of St. Anthony”, a Lorenzo Lotto painting featuring a carpet similar to the Lotto carpet that you can today view at the Met Museum.

These carpets are as one can understand extremely rare to find, but even some of the reproductions of these carpets from the 19th century are considered valuable collectible antiques.

Hans Holbein the Younger - A Master Portraitist

Hans Holbein the Younger (c. 1497-1543) was a German-Swiss painter who is considered one of the greatest portraitists of the 16th century. Apart from portraits he also did satire, and religious art and made a significant contribution to book design.

“The Ambassadors” painting by Hans Holbein, 1533

“The Ambassadors” painting by Hans Holbein, 1533

“Darmstadt Madonna”, 1526

“Darmstadt Madonna”, 1526

 

So now, how to get your home to look like a Renaissance painting? With one of these beautiful antique patterned rugs, your home can transform into something spectacular this summer.

 

  1. This golden-yellow patterned Oushak rug with an overall design of delicate polychrome flowering plants will lighten up any room. Pairing a more yellow-toned carpet with the right interior is not too complicated, but you need to think about what energy you want the room to have. To keep the space calm and joyful, pair it with soft neutrals such as grey or cream. Think cream-colored linen window treatments and a more modern light grey couch. For a bold look, pair it with dark blue or deep green, such as a navy-blue side table.

OUSHAK ANATOLIA LATE 19TH CENTURY

OUSHAK ANATOLIA LATE 19TH CENTURY

 

  1. This antique Oushak, ca 1900 has similar colors as the ones we saw in the Renaissance paintings above. Imagine being welcomed by this beautiful runner in your entranceway. The broad outer terracotta border nicely frames the blue and the flower motifs. An antique walnut console table to place your keys, and you’ll be at home!