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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Before buying a Persian carpet


The

labour involved in their manufacture is enormous, and some carpets take several years to manufacture. The children employed are made to work very hard at the looms--seldom less than twelve or fourteen hours a day--and the exertion upon their memory to remember the design, which has taken them several months to learn by heart, is great. The constant strain on the eyes, which have to be kept fixed on each successive vertical thread so as not to pick up the wrong one, is very injurious to their sight. Many of the children of the factories I visited were sore-eyed, and there was hardly a poor mite who did not rub his eyes with the back of his hand when I asked him to suspend work for a moment. The tension upon their pupils must be enormous in the dim light.

Although made in a primitive method, the carpet weaving of Persia is about the only manufacture that deserves a first-class place in the industries of Iran. The carpets still have a certain artistic merit, although already contaminated to no mean extent by European commerciality. Instead of the beautiful and everlasting vegetable dyes which were formerly used for the worsted and silks, and the magnificent blue, reds, greens, greys and browns, ghastly aniline dyed threads--raw and hurtful to the eye--are very commonly used now. Also, of the carpets for export to Europe and America the same care is not taken in the manufacture as in the ancient carpets, and the bastard design is often shockingly

vulgarised to appease the inartistic buyer.

But even with all these faults, Persian carpets, if not to the eye of an expert, for all general purposes are on the whole better than those of any other manufacture. They have still the great advantage of being made entirely by hand instead of by machinery. It is not unwise, before buying a Persian carpet, to rub it well with a white cloth. If it is aniline-dyed, some of the colour will come off, but if the old Persian dyes have been used no mark should remain on the cloth. However, even without resorting to this, it must be a very poor eye indeed that cannot recognise at once the terrible raw colours of aniline from the soft, delicious tones of vegetable dyes, which time can only soften but never discolour.

To manufacture "ancient carpets" is one of the most lucrative branches of modern Persian carpet-making. The new carpets are spread in the bazaar, in the middle of the street where it is most crowded, and trampled upon for days or weeks, according to the age required, foot-passengers and their donkeys, mules and camels making a point of treading on it in order to "add age" to the manufacturer's goods. When sufficiently worn down the carpet is removed, brushed, and eventually sold for double or treble its actual price owing to its antiquity!

There are some thirty different types of carpets in Persia. The Kerman carpets are, to my mind, the most beautiful I saw in Persia, in design, colour and softness. They seem more original and graceful, with conventional plant, flower and bird representations of delicate and very varied tints, and not so much geometrical design about them as is the case in the majority of Persian carpets.


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