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It Doesn't take a Russian Spy to Find the Hidden Messages in Antique Rugs

07-26-2010  |  By: Amy |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »
It Doesn't take a Russian Spy to Find the Hidden Messages in Antique Rugs

The Russian spies found in American recently were known use many techniques for hiding information, but the meanings in antique rugs are often readily available. The spies were known to use stenography, that is hiding messages, with digital pictures.


Anyone who has read Tale of Two Cities will remember Madame Defarge who knit the names of those she marked for death into her knitting. She used a simple pattern of knits and purls which translate into ones and zero's which anyone with a computer or Morse code background will tell is the building block of any alphabet if the key is known. Neal Stephenson used the same technique with regard to cross stitch in his Baroque Cycle. The time and patience to create such a record must be considerable, but when it comes to gaining and concealing information spies lives do depend on it. Antique carpet makers can tell how that patience is certainly part of their job description.


Old rugs on the other hand put their messages in a code more readily understandable. The tradition began while pictorial representations were more important than written language. It was not until the advent of moveable type that printing was affordable enough that the masses could get access to the written word in sufficient quantities that it became practical to educate the average citizen to read or write. Until this time people were more able to understand pictures than letters.


The cross and fish were easily recognizable as symbols of Christianity. Boteh's were connected with Zorastrianism. The Cresent with a star was a symbol of Islam. The Swastika has had a place in Asian cultures since the 6th Millenia BC. It is a symbol of good luck in many Asian religions and was only corrupted by Nazi's. Due to that recent, in terms of Antique rugs, change in symbolism it might be found still on Old rugs out of India and China. Modern rugs with this symbol would not likely be exported to the Western regions.


Those are just the religious icons as well. Anyone can recognize a tree, a rose, a lily or pineapple. Coat of arms can easily be transferred to a Antique Persian rug. Any of those symbols placed delicately on a carpet could have told anyone walking into a room where the alliances of the owners stood as simply as a person today changes their profile of Facebook.


A person might want to imagine that a pattern could somehow be hidden under the piles of a Persian rug, but the rug would likely be destroyed in the reading. Today it is much easier to use a computer program to hide a message in an extra bit of a graphic and then post the photo to a blog. Antique rugs may once have been the greatest technology for hiding long messages in plain sight, but now they are more about their color and style.


Antique Persian Rugs: More Than Just Vintage Rugs

07-20-2010  |  By: Nicole |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »

There are old rugs.  There are vintage rugs.  Then there is the Antique Persian Rug. 


Old rugs would include all those shag carpets, sometimes known as wall-to-wall carpets laid over the sub-floors in the various sub-divisions and housing developments across the US these last fifty and sixty years.  Most of these old rugs would have very little value to a discriminating collector.  Stained and thread-bare from traffic, kids playing, juice and soda spills and all the other messes of todays life.  Maybe the type of rug that Russian spies used in their nefarious operations in the fifties.


Vintage rugs have more value as antique rugs than the plain old rugs in the previous paragraph.  Maybe the vintage rugs were woven by someones grandmother during long winter nights in times past in the US.  Vintage rugs might have been woven by the firelight during the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries and used next to the beds so folks didnt have to step out of bed on cold winter mornings on to a cold floor.


But it is the antique Persian Rug that is the work of art.  It may have been woven by an unknown weaver during the times of Cyrus the Great or Darius the Great.  Or maybe it was woven during the times when the stories of Sinbad the Sailor originated.  Or during the times of the Crusades, but whenever it was woven, it was and is a work of art.  That unknown weaver would be quite surprised at the value placed on his or her handiwork in todays marketplace as in the days when it was woven, it would have most likely been sold in the marketplace in Baghdad for a Daric or two (or whatever the ancient equivalent of a few pennies or nickels).


Today, collectors will pay thousands of dollars for authentic antique Persian rugs.    A fine antique Persian rug would most definitely fit in the category of fine art objects, a rug that could be used by spies in a James Bond movie.  These rugs are not only well-made (which has helped the rug to become an antique rug) but colorful and artistic patterns woven by the un-named and mostly unknown weaver allows these antique rugs to be used as more than just a rug; but possibly as a tapestry.  Which would also amaze the unknown weaver who most likely assumed that the purchaser of the rug in the local bazaar just wanted something to cover the floor.


It is possible that machine made rugs from today may at some unknown point in the future be declared vintage rugs rather than just old rugs.  However, it is doubtful that those vintage rugs will ever have the value, artistically and otherwise, as the very best antique Persian rugs.


Antique Rugs for Everyone

07-12-2010  |  By: Nicole |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »

Antique rugs are similar to most other antiques in that they are old.  They would most likely have to have been well-made old rugs, in fact.  Unlike other antiques though, antique rugs would tend to have seen a bit more use than maybe an antique dresser or table or chairs. Unlike the antique tables, chairs, dressers, and such, the antique rugs most likely got walked on.  A lot.  It may even have been used such that it could have had treatment similar to having a World Cup match played on it over the years.


Antique rugs, no matter where placed in the home, would have been the recipient of all sorts of dirt being tracked in.  The type of antique rugs most folks are probably familiar with would be the Persian rug.  These would have been hand-woven old rugs designed to stand up to the abuse of life.


Maybe the antique rugs were allowed to become old rugs because they were used as a wall tapestry.  Maybe the old rugs were allowed to become antique rugs by virtue of being stored in the attic (or warehouse or closet).  But however it happened, the old rugs were allowed to became old and thus, antique.


Antique rugs are not like that shag carpet the cheap developer installed over the sub floor in order to save a few bucks on the houses in the thrown together subdivision.  The antique rugs most likely would not be reaching the status of old rugs if theyd been installed like that.  If someone were to go back in time to meet the rug weaver, the weaver would probably be astounded that the handiwork theyd labored over could be considered so very valuable just because its old.


As antique rugs, the rugs would not have been subject to chemical cleaning as so many rugs are today.  The owner or a family member probably took the rug off the floor or dirt, hung it over a wire or rope and took a stick and beat it to clean it.  In fact, that would be the genesis of the phrase rug-beater.  Its doubtful that most folks actually think about the household staff that were responsible for their now antique rugs back in the days before it became an old rugs available to be called antique.  They just enjoy that they have an old rug that is old enough to be identified as an antique rug.  Antique rugs cant talk or sing or tell the tales of history.  


But wouldnt that be a tale worth hearing?


Deciphering the Code of Vintage Rugs

07-06-2010  |  By: Amy |  (0) Post comment »  |  Read comments »

Tapestries have been used for centuries to tell a story from history, but because of the Muslim prohibition of pictorial representation of a person Antique Persian rugs have to use patterns to tell similar stories. These stories could be documented in a pattern of pictures.


Woven into the old rugs using a pattern fortune and blessings could be spelled out for the room. This is very similar to how different varieties of flowers had different meanings. The various patterns evolved to represent different things. These patterns could be highly detailed, but some of them are of such age and distinction that they can be represented by basic shapes and straight lines.


The peacock, a symbol for immortality, at its most basic is a triangle, with a line for a tail, two for legs and a smaller triangle as a head. The Tree of Life, a symbol for the path between heaven and earth, was a rhombus with a series of lines below it as the trunk and branches. The dog, a symbol for protection and defense, could be created as a sort of stick figure with triangles for the head and feet. These basic styled symbols logically have a long history with in the culture and may date back to the earliest humans coming to grips with an object they created that could outlive them.


Other basic motifs like the Herati and the Mini-Khani were much more complex and evolved through style and practice. Over time certain patterns and combinations of shapes were seen as pleasing. They were complex enough to make the rug look interesting but the simple theme kept them organized.


Shapes like the Boteh, which is the ancestor of the more modern paisley, have been in use since the early 1500's. The Boteh was a Zoroastrian symbol for eternity. Zoroastrianism is the dominant religion in Persia before Islam. It is also viewed as a symbol for fire or water which are the agents of purity. These links to the 3000 year old religion help one to understand the deep seated iconography used in the Antique carpets.


The Gul and the Shah Abbasi are smaller motif's that are often used either in all over patterns or repeating elements around a central element. They are both representative of flowers, though the Gul has a more geometric, symmetrical shaping and the Shah Abbasi are more like cross sections of flowers. These flowers may be grouped to form or decorate a central medallion.


Rosettes are certainly the most thought of for a central medallion. They are a circular combination of other motifs that give it the illusion of petals of a rose. They can be as natural or geometric as the rugs style dictates. The motifs that are combined to create the rosette can, in fact, be Shah Abbasi, dogs, peacocks, Boteh or any other pattern. The rosettes are more a like a design element than representative of something else.


Understanding more about the design elements and individual motifs can help one to read and understand any antique rug. These are representative of a old and distinguished culture.