Hereke carpets, the oldest examples of which are found in palaces, are known for their fine texture and the knotting technique that makes it possible.
The oldest known carpet in the world is a square Pazyryk that was found in Central Asia. This carpet, which is preserved today in mint condition in St. Petersburg's Hermitage, clearly symbolizes the nomadic lifestyle of the Turkic tribes and their dependence on horses. From the Pazyryk to the present, life has defined carpets. Not only fulfilling everyday needs, they have at the same time reflected the full gamut of human emotions woven into their texture in colors of every hue.
Turkish 'Hereke carpets', which are regarded today as among the finest and most valuable carpets in the world, represent the apotheosis of the history of weaving. Occupying a central place in the 19th century art of the carpet, Hereke carpets were woven specially for the palace and its circle.
As an adaptation and extension of the traditional Anatolian carpet, they raised this art to even greater heights through their patterns as well as their weaving technique.
PALACE CARPETS FROM HEREKE
The history of Hereke carpets, the oldest examples of which are found today in the Topkapi Palace Museum and a few other palaces, begins with the establishment in 1843 of the Imperial Carpet Factory at Hereke, regarded as one of the first modern factories in Ottoman industry, during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecid. This factory was set up to provide fabrics, draperies, carpets and other textiles for the homes of contemporary notables, primarily the palaces. Damaged by fire in 1878, it was reopened in 1882 and in 1891 began carpet production to meet the needs of the imperial palaces during the reign of Abdülhamid II. Its first products were developed under the leadership of master weavers brought from the regions of Manisa and Gördes.
As the number and variety of carpets produced increased over time, Hereke carpets also became the Ottoman Empire's first export products. Adorning the palaces of Europe, they captured top place in every international competition they entered and received medals of success.
Another workshop developed by the masters of Hereke was that set up in the garden of Dolmabahçe Palace. Here, in a large building known as the 'Hereke Weaving Workshop' which operated as a special offshoot of the factories at Hereke, silk carpets were woven to supply palace needs.
100 KNOTS PER SQUARE CENTIMETER
Their weaving technique, in which the finest threads and silk are employed, is what distinguishes Hereke products from other carpets. The 'Gördes knot', which gives the Hereke its long life, is a technique known as 'double knotting', a technique which the Hereke masters invented following patient examination of all other carpets.
Increasing the number of knots per square centimeter also meant a further refinement of detail in the motifs used, with the result that virtual works of art emerge of astonishing refinement with motifs that stagger the imagination. The number of knots per square centimeter in a silk Hereke carpet confounds the human mind: on average 10x10, in other words 100 knots! This means ten vertical times ten horizontal knots in every square centimeter, which are impossible to discern with the naked eye. And in some Hereke carpets the number of knots goes as high as 12x12, 14x14, even 36x36, these latter of course being the finest carpets in the whole world. An experienced master weaver takes at least one year to produce a single carpet consisting of a million knots.
THERE'S NO MISTAKING THEM
Adorning palaces both Ottoman and European with their quality workmanship and unique designs, Hereke carpets continue to be preserved today.
Indeed, art lovers often judge the quality and richness of a collection by the number of Hereke carpets it contains. Perhaps there are fewer looms in use than before, but one thing never changes: "There is no compromising of quality," the Hereke carpet-makers assure us.
Gracing floors, tables and sometimes even walls like a painting, genuine Hereke carpets come with an unmistakable 'identity card', a hologram inscribed with their name and code. Even the packaging consists of a decorative cylinder stamped 'Hereke' in Ottoman script, which guarantees one hundred percent approval by experts of the Hereke Carpetmakers Association. This certification is tantamount to saying, "You can use this carpet for years in all its beauty. These are Hereke carpets, made at Hereke by the Hereke technique. Their guarantee lies in their past." The inspiration and purpose are always the same: a shared taste. Obliterating boundaries, the taste for Hereke's has survived for generations. And we can surmise that master weavers and art lovers will keep it alive for many more centuries to come.
We thank Turkish Grand National Assembly Department of National Palaces and Hereke Carpet Weavers Association for their kind assistance in compiling the visual material published here.
TEXT: ÇIGDEM ÖR
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