Volume VI Number 1
G. A. Olivier's
Voyage dans L'Empire Othoman, L'Egypte
et la Perse, l793--l797 (1) has the charm of being
the last of the grand old French accounts. Its itinerary is the
vintage Near East tour: the Levant, the Islands, Ottoman Turkey,
and Kajar Persia. The six volumes hold a considerable sprinkling
of information concerning textile production, marketing, and consumption.
Olivier makes the general observation that Persians, especially
those of Yazd, Cashan, and Isfahan, excel in the making of embroidered
silk, velvet, taffeta, satin, and "all the silk stuffs which
we know." (V, p. 86) The manufactures of Casvin and Teheran
serves as warehouse for the silks of Guilan and of Chyrvan, destined
for the interior of Persia, for Baghdad and even for Surate....
they make there silk stuffs, several fabrics of cotton and a great
deal of rugs.
"Up to today the industry of Teheran is very strongly limited:
they make there rugs of felted wool, which are in general use in
all Persia, and which serve the same functions as those handsome
piled rugs which we bring back with us from these regions. They
make them in all sizes, be it to furnish apartments, or be it to
serve as a bed for travellers or to make thereupon various daily
prayers. They don't last as long as the others, and also are neither
as costly, although made with the finest wool of the country. These
felted rugs are variously colored: the largest number, however,
is of a grey-reddish all over, with a design in the middle and about
the four corners." (V, p.93)
route role for nearby silk districts is plausible, and its rug-making
activity at this time is of interest. Teheran production bespeaks
a continuing manufacture of high grade felt. And felt prayer rugs
are still in use.
The text also
presents a generalized Persian apartment description in which felts
are prominent: "The first of the rugs which one puts on the
floor, is a very thick and sturdy felt; the second is that which
we know under the name of Persian rug. Often one puts [down]
only the one of felt: for this purpose they make them very fine
and very handsome." (V, p. 259)
Olivier portrays Cashan as a bustling, thriving city, describing
its products as ". . .a great amount of silk stuffs, many fabrics
of cotton: they make there all sorts of copperware; they work there
also exceedingly well [in] gold, silver and steel." (V, p.
169) Thus, possibly, no carpets.
He is inclined to place things in historical context: (1) Isfahan
saw an enormous weakening of its industry and commerce after Nadir
Shah and his successors; (2) the richer Armenians fled at the end
of Nadir Shah's reign, and Isfahan's commerce was "almost nil
today"; (3) "Although the royal manufactories stopped
working on those handsome rugs of silk and wool where gold and silver
played a part, the art isn't lost; it will reappear when tranquility
will be completely reestablished, and commerce will again take up
all its activities." (V. p. 180, p. 305) A faint inference
here may be that metallic thread might have been still employed
in the second quarter of the 18th century.
There is a good juxtaposition of Cashmere and Kerman shawls, including
the observation that every Persian wears one or the other for a
belt, with those of Cashmere qualitatively superior and costing
anywhere from two and a half to six times the former. (IV, p. 447;
V, p. 261) Baghdad is identified as a transshipment point for Cashmere
shawls (IV, p. 446) "which spread throughout Turkey",
at an annual valuation of a million piasters, which by his price
data is on the order of 13,000 pieces. Cashmere shawls are described
as being made of a mixture of belly wool (duvet) and Tibetan
camel wool (IV, p. 446) and those of Kerman and a lesser Yazd production
as being made of camel wool (V. p. 305).
Olivier also passed through West Persia. While Senna is termed a
considerable place, it is characterized as subordinate to Kermanshah.
Regrettably, these two locations and Hamadan ("one of the most
considerable [cities] of Persia") are unaccompanied by manufacturing
or commercial description. (V, p. 33, p. 46, p. 51)
For Turkey, there are limited woven product descriptions in and
around Constantinople. Both general and specific comments are made
which combine mats and rugs as standard floor covering. Some of
the mats come from Egypt ("a fine mat") and others from
Persia ("several small ones"). ( I, p. 150) "Rush
mats" from Ghilian and Mazanderan are identified as a Persian
export to Turkey. (V, p. 320)
Rug manufacture in the Konya area, population 10-12,000, is put
in Konya itself ("a few rugs resembling those of Persia");
at "Asheer" ("a few quite handsome rugs"); and
in a recently ("for a few years") revitalized Kara Hissar.
(VII, p. 393, p. 396) The rugs and other items are exported through
Smyrna, characterized as the principal point of trade with Europe.
Other place-specific data include a quite detailed Baghdad manufactures
listing: striped stuffs of silk and cotton, heavy silk stuffs or
filoselle coming from Gilian (for shirts), loose fabrics
of cotton (heavy, patterned materials); thick fabrics of printed
cottons (for mattresses), a few leather goods, and especially rectangles
of silk velvet, striped and with borders (for cushions and sofas).
(IV, p. 425)
In the Levant an Alexandria mosque is described: "The interior
was furnished in mats, rugs, and the periphery was decorated with
padding and cushions forming a Turkish divan". (III, p. 50)
This description is a close parallel of other mosque depictions
of 150 years earlier.
A felt industry is also cited: "They also make, in the surroundings
of Aleppo, some felted rugs, not colored, to which we helped ourselves,
on leaving this city, to wrap up our beds, our mules and all the
effects which we wanted to protect from rain; but they were not
comparable to those of Persia for fineness, suppleness and tightness:
it's the finest material next to the thickest calmouk [Kalmuk].
The ones cost from twenty to thirty piasters, and the others one
and a half or two piasters."(V, p. 93)
The Olivier account closes the 18th century. He -- along with such
predecessors as Tournefort, Chardin, Tavernier, and Thevenot --
has left the rug world a rich legacy.
G. A., Voyage dans L'Empire Othoman, L'Egypte et la Perse,
Paris, 1800. Text references appear by volume and page and are
inserted parenthetically. Research Report translations.
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