This article has been taken from International View (Spring 2011 edition), and can be found on pages 18-19.
The name Ushak (or Oushak) is derived from a town, Usak, situated in the middle of the carpet weaving districts of the western Anatolian uplands. The area has been a centre of carpet making since the 15th century. Bu the 16th and 17th centuries Ushak carpets, with their distinctive star and medallion features, were being exported in large numbers, carried by the Venetians and other seafaring traders from the port of Smyrna, to the European markets. Earlier types are often referred to as “Lottos” and “Holbeins”, in reference to their depiction by the artists Lorenzo Lotto and Hans Holbein the Younger as a way of introducing colour and status to a scene.
Many of the carpets that made their way to Europe during this period can still be found in reasonable numbers. However, after the 17th century the market waned and carpet production in the Usak area went into decline. Then in the late 19th century demand returned, with a European fashion for all things “Orientalist”. This time the market was much larger than previously, with a burgeoning wealthy middle class and new American buyers on the scene.
The export business led to a boom in production to keep up with the fresh demand the skilled workers of Usak turned to the traditional weavers of surrounding villages and towns for support. Pieces for this period of production are distinctive in their more tribal style, which saw the use of larger knots and longer pile on an all wool foundation together with the fusion of older Ushak designs simplified Persian style floral patterns. The typical colours employed at this time were red, blue and green, although among the more prized today are those woven in softer pastel colours. Ushak carpets had often been large, but now they were woven to fit European and American room dimensions.
(*to view a similar rug to the one seen in this article (above), please use the following link to Rahmanan’s website: http://www.rahmanan.com/inventory/show/40-1164/)
Highly prized over their 500 year history, from the palaces of Venice to the new wealth of the great American cities, Ushak carpets still prove popular today. Their pleasing colours, bold patterns, and good proportions continue to find favour with today’s home furnishers.