The Agra / Mughal Rug

The art of rug weaving was brought to India during the reign on the Emperor Akbar of the Mughal dynasty during the 16th and 17th century. Akbar was a great patron of arts and culture; the Mughal reign is considered the golden periods for arts in India.

Persian designs, patterns and traditional colors heavily influenced Mughal rugs. This is the Sickle leaf Kerman sold by Sotheby’s for $33 million.

The Mughals, being of Persian origin, had rich heritage and interest in arts and fine oriental rugs. Fine rugs, besides being placed in the palaces, courts and homes of nobles, was also used for gift giving and trade. The oriental rug was an integral part of the Mughal culture.

During the 16th century, India already a rich tradition of weaving textiles and fabrics with various yarns. Emperor Akbar brought some the finest skilled weavers from Persian and used them to teach Indian textile weavers the art of rug making. Soon these weavers became extremely skilled, even outshining their masters.

The Mughals have a great love for Persian techniques, designs and motifs. These, with much influence from Indian art tastes, created unique, rich and colorful motifs that is only seen in Mughal and Agra rugs. During the 17th century, emperor Shah Jahan, keeping with the Mughal’s love for rugs and luxury, incorporated these beautiful designs into the lattice work and inlay of the Taj Mahal. The mausoleum features elaborate marble lattice work and inlays of many semiprecious stones in the same design as fine handwoven rugs.
Agra design rug fragment from during the reign of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. (https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/446644?pos=1 )
Another Mughal era fine oriental rug. (https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/446646?pos=7 )
Agra carpets combine the grandeur and grace of the well-known Persian antique carpet designs with their own original themes. There can be observed designs of spiraling vines, often combined with small organisms such as birds, elephants, and even people. Developed for the Mughal emperors, a popular Agra carpet design consists of rows of flowers in vases. In turn, this design was embraced by the Persians and can be found in floral Persian carpets. The whole artistic “cross pollination” between these two places, Agra and Persia, carried on until the end of the 19th century. Weavers of Agra were masters at vegetable dyeing and eventually created their own unique palette of color. Profusion of gold combined with soft mid-tone blues are often flaunted. The weavers furthermore used a range of soft rust-reds, pinks, and a quite appealing lavender tone. These combinations of color give many Agra rugs a light, ethereal appearance which is beautiful and stunning in any interior.
When European dignitaries and ambassadors visited the India, they received many gifts including fine Mughal carpets from India which ended up in fine places at major European cities. The arrival of the East India company in the 17th century created a huge demand for these fine woven rugs; soon the demand outstripped the supply of rugs. As East India company was mainly a trading organization for Brittan as with any trading company more profit was the goal. The production increased but the quality of the rugs began to reduce.