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The scandal of false European rugs: Polonaise carpets

Posted on 16 September 2015

European rugs are famous all over the world. The magnificent and antique art of weaving peaks in Europe thanks to an abundance of skills and raw materials. Or so you might think…

However, this is not the reality. The truth is that we Europeans have simply imported precious rugs from Eastern countries and even stolen the copyright.

One particular act of intellectual theft was committed against the makers of what became known as Polonaise carpets.

european rugs -polanaise carpets

For years Polonaise carpets were deemed to be European rugs. Why? Because of the mere fact they were discovered by latter-day Europeans within the borders of Poland.

Without doubt, these beautiful handmade silk rugs are Persian, and not European, as we might wish them to be.

Polonaise carpets are not European rugs but we loved them like they were ours anyway…

european rugs - merchants venice

Polonaise carpets , or Polish carpets, were woven in Eṣfahān in Persia between the late Sixteenth Century and Seventeenth Century. They owe their name to a misinterpretation of their origin. The carpets came to Europe either through merchants or as royal gifts.

In fact, the manufacture of most Polonaise carpets was commission-based. Wealthy European men commissioned Persian weavers to create beautiful works of art according to their personal tastes and needs.

Despite not being European rugs, Polonaise carpets soon became trendy items to show off. In the Seventeenth Century many wealthy Europeans demanded Polonaise carpets to embellish their prestigious homes.

european rugs - polanaise carpets
Polonaise carpets are not only beautiful, soft and magnificent; they also have monetary value. The foundation is cotton and the weft is silk, but the most precious materials are the silver and gold threads. The latter serve as a natural means to enhance the colours and the brilliant look of the carpets.

The term ‘Polonaise carpet’ is used nowadays to classify a certain style of rug. They are also called Vase Carpets, named "AFSHAN" in Iranian, which refers to a carpet with a widespread floral design with no central medallion.

Why Polonaise carpets were so popular in Europe

The Seventeenth Century saw a huge influx of Polonaise carpets into Europe due to a series of historical facts explained here:

• Safavid dynasty: The Safavid dynasty was keen on actively promoting rugs and textiles as luxurious products; therefore, during this period Persia was truly devoted to the production and export of rugs to Europe.

• Trade situation: Trade between European countries and eastern countries (Iran, India, China…) was undoubtedly flourishing and the exchanges were fervent.

• New trend: New tastes and styles intervened during this period. In fact, Europeans became fascinated by the style of Polonaise carpets with their overall floral designs.


European rugs or not… Polonaise carpets remain items very dear to Europe and are the symbol of its close connection to Persia.

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