Moroccan carpets may date back centuries, but their primitive, abstract patterns can appear distinctly modern and elegant. Their great demand in Western culture has made these rugs prized possessions, elevating them to contemporary folk art status.
Before they were rugs…
Originally woven by North African tribal peoples in the high Atlas region for their utility rather than for decorative purposes, these creations were used as bed coverings, sleeping mats, saddle blankets and burial shrouds, as well as shawls.
The Moroccan rug weaving tradition is passed down from generation to generation. Designs are determined by tribes; each having its own geometric patterns, symbols and colors significant to the group’s day-to-day life, as well as weaving techniques. Although a weaver’s designs usually honor her tribe, she works at her loom without a set pattern to follow. The result is a unique creation.
While extremely diverse, Moroccan flat woven and knotted pile rugs almost without exception have bold colors and lively patterns. Historically, these rugs were produced in the urban areas of old Morocco, which were important trading centers visited by African, Anatolian and Ottoman merchants, so they tend to boast a cosmopolitan and international aesthetic. Moroccan carpets from cities such as Rabat, Medina, and Salé often feature design elements demonstrably inspired by foreign visitors. The Moroccan rugs produced in Rabat after the 18th century bear a particular resemblance to Turkish rugs, emphasizing floral elements on a sparse field.
Rockin’ your Moroccan
If there was one center of Moroccan rug production that was more important than the rest, it was Fez. Since at least the 13th century, Fez was a Mecca of dye workers, and boasted numerous embroidery studios. In Fez, traditional tribal Moroccan designs combined with international influence to create a distinctive aesthetic: provincial and cosmopolitan, traditional and modern. No wonder it captured the imagination of Le Corbusier, who throughout the early 20th century, had a passion for modern architecture. The freeform designs and wild colors combined with the abstract asymmetrical patterns found in these carpets seemed the perfect foil to a clean unadorned interior. Le Corbusier’s admiration of Moroccan rugs created a vibrant international market for the pieces that exists to this day.
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