What are the meanings of animals in the symbolism of luxury rugs?
Along with floral patterns, animals are among the most common decorative elements in oriental luxury carpets. Local cultures, myths that have been passed down through generations and religions that have followed one another over the centuries have all contributed to the fact that each animal has a specific meaning. If you look closely at the details of a Persian, Turkmen or Chinese luxury carpet, for example, you will see the presence of various animals that have been chosen for good luck, wealth or happiness.
Why do animals feature so prominently in luxury carpets?
Animals were first used in the decoration of carpets by semi-nomadic tribes travelling from village to village in Central Asia with their caravans. When carpet production expanded to most Asian countries, reaching Persian, Turkish and Chinese cities, the tradition remained.
The reason why animals feature so prominently is quite intuitive: for the people who started weaving carpets by hand, animals were the main source of livelihood and an essential element of their lives. In weaving carpets, these peoples simply represented their world, and through the use of symbols and colours, they described their reality.
Alongside existing animals, mythical animals, such as the dragon and the phoenix, soon appeared. Religions also influenced the presence of animals in carpet decorations, contributing to the creation of a symbolism that has been passed down through the centuries.
Ancient luxury carpets that have survived to the present day and modern Oriental luxury carpets inspired by those of the past have a lot to tell. Knowing the meaning of the different elements in the carpet allows us to read the history of the carpet and to better understand why the craftsmen chose to represent certain symbols or animals.
What is the significance of the animals that appear in luxury carpets?
Birds, rams, camels and gazelles are among the animals most often depicted in luxury carpets produced in the Caucasus regions. Generally, animals symbolise positive values and in some cases are used as a kind of talisman to ward off evil and bring good luck.
Birds have often been used for this purpose. In several Asian cultures they are seen as propitiatory animals, able to protect the owner of the carpet from negative thoughts and influences. The two-headed eagle, for example, as well as symbolising power and royalty, is believed to protect against evil. The two-headed animal, with its four eyes, can in fact better control its surroundings and ward off negativity. In some cases the eagle is represented with pearls or pendants in its beak, to reinforce its function as an amulet.
The cock is another animal that is frequently used in the decoration of Oriental carpets. It is associated with the concept of awakening and symbolises commitment and dedication. It is also considered a symbol of good luck and has often been used as an auspicious symbol for plantations.
The peacock, a symbol of immortality and nobility, is one of the most common birds in Asian tradition. The figure of the peacock is found in many cultures and religious traditions. It is linked, for example, to the cult of the sun, but can also represent immortality.
The stylised gazelles, as well as being a decorative element of the carpet, represent the ability to face life's difficulties with grace and dexterity. Sheep and rams, on the other hand, are a symbol of renewal, while the lion represents strength and invincibility.
Dragon and phoenix are animals from Chinese culture. They are often represented in pairs and have a protective function. In the Chinese tradition, the dragon is the bringer of rain and protects waterways, while the phoenix is a symbol of prosperity and immortality.
The representation of animals in luxury carpets is therefore not only an aesthetic choice, but has a very precise symbology that recalls concepts attributed to animals by religion, from pagan cults to Islamic culture, and which derive from the mythology created by the Caucasian peoples.
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