Oushak rugs are from the town of Oushak in west-central Anatolia, an area south of Istanbul, Turkey. Production of these rugs began in the 15th century and took advantage of the superior quality wool and abundant vegetable and plant dyes available to inhabitants of the region. Designs were initially primitive and geometric in nature but later expanded to include motifs reminiscent of the Persian tradition.Oushak rugs from the 15th to 17th centuries were masterpieces of the early Turkish carpet weaving tradition. The nobility of the Ottoman Empire treasured these rugs for their high quality and beautiful designs. Meticulously detailed Oushak rugs often appeared in the interior and still life paintings of Renaissance masters such as Vermeer, Velasquez and Holbein because they were recognized as symbols of status and wealth.Interest in Oushak rugs declined in the late 17th century as the market turned to European-produced rugs, particularly Savonnerie and Aubusson. The Oushak region became a major weaving center again in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when it began producing room-size rugs that graced many fine homes and institutions during that time period.
Early Oushak rugs were known for incorporating star and medallion designs, and these motifs carried through when the tradition was revived in the 19th century. Additionally, 19th century Oushak rugs began to appear with floral and foliage patterns such as leaves, vines and palmettes in emulation of Persian designs. Color schemes for these rugs tend to be soft and muted, with pale peaches, dusty golds and soft ivories dominating, though it is possible to find some rugs featuring deep reds and blues.
When the Oushak tradition re-emerged in the 19th century, weavers were recruited from villages near Oushak and used tribal techniques such as wool foundations and larger knots. At 30 to 34 knots per square inch, Oushak rugs are loosely woven in comparison to a fine Persian rug, which usually employs close to 400 knots per inch. However, the use of fine, silky wool gives these rugs a sumptuous quality that exemplifies luxury.
While some of the earlier Oushak rugs do still exist, it is the 19th-century rugs that have become highly sought after for their size and decorative qualities. With distinctive designs and color palettes that complement even the most contemporary spaces, these rugs are a fine addition to any d cor.