From Persia to France 

The Rugs by the Ysmailoff brothers 

From the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, a rocky bar rising over 5600 meters stretches over 1200 km. It is ancient Persia, one of the highest and least known mountain ranges in the ancient world. It is Colchis where the Argonauts searched in vain for the Golden Fleece. It is Persia where Noah’s ark has been stranded on the Mount Ararat.

Connecting between the countries of the East and the West, crossing point where all the great conquerors swept through, a melting pot of races and cultures, Persia saw the richest civilizations flourish and succeed each other. 

Ysmailoff, represents the source of centuries-old tradition of rug designers.  It was in Tabriz, in the north-west of this province, located in the heart of ancient Azerbaijan, on the crossroads connecting the Iranian platform to the Black Sea and the countries of Caucasus, how the founder of Ysmailoff was born. In the beginning, we understood that the first principles of making the rugs are a piece of art. We inherited these ancestral gestures that are unforgettable, in order to transmit them one day.  

Patiently, day after day, hour after hour, my brother learned in front of his craft to weave the thousand and one secrets of the art of rugs. Combined with his exceptional dexterity, this knowledge makes him an outstanding craftsman and artist. The restoration or cleaning of rugs, whether Oriental or Western, have no secrets for him. When he gets a rug of quality, damaged or torn, it is with the conscience or the courage of the one who knows himself, invested with the mission to save a unique work of art. Patiently, using exclusively natural materials and colors, chain after chain, he restores the missing patterns in the exact tones of those that survived. 
For my part, I acquired at the university the necessary knowledge to be able to transmit the image and the way of life representing my people. The history of the rug merges with the story and soul of this region of the world. In my opinion, the oldest knotted rug known is the famous rug discovered in Pazyryk in the Altai which was clearly realized in Persia. From the fifth century BC, it represents an important level of sophistication that postulates the existence of a tradition already well established.
Apart from the few fragments of knotted rugs found in the excavations of East Turkestan (third and fourth century AD), there is no other landmark until the medieval models of Minor Asia, probably thanks to migrations of Seljuk people. 

Although these migrations began in the eleventh century, the oldest rugs known of this period, numbering only a few, date from the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. They belong to two groups: a group with very stylish geometric and vegetal forms, a group with zoomorphic patterns known by contemporary Western paintings. Between the end of the fifteenth century and until the end of the seventeenth century, begins the era of “classic” rugs.  

In Minor Asia and in the Caucasus, in the continuity of the great Persian tradition, the patterns and designs that will cross the centuries are fixed.  Thus, with the zoomorphic patterns of the medieval rugs, succeed the “rugs of dragon” of the Caucasus. 

If you have the opportunity to visit the Staatliche Museum in Berlin, you can admire one of these magnificent Anatolian rugs of the fifteenth century, representing the fight of the dragon and the phoenix.  

Nowadays, such rare pieces are only available in museums or at some private collections. From the Safavid dynasty (1501-1721), the best artists and craftsmen are concentrated in large urban centers: Tabriz-Khorassan- Kâchan – Kirman -Hamadan and … Gouba – Shirvan – Ganja – Kazakh – Karabakh etc … 

During the eighteenth century, a multitude of small and medium-sized workshops were followed by the big manufactures, which led to an important dispersion of patterns and increased exchanges between the various production points. 

The creativity of craftsmen is manifested by the invention of new patterns such as the Mihrab whose success feeds on the growing importance of prayer mats.Throughout the nineteenth century, we find this diffusion of patterns and creativity that, today, are more alive than ever, through very great contemporary artists. What the rug represents for me:  

A message of Peace 

The rug has always been a message and a link at the same time as one of the most everyday and precious belongings of the men of our people. 

It is essential to use from the beginning as mediator and vector of peace.  When someone wanted to conciliate a person, a clan, a tribe, a sovereign, he would offer a rug. 

The magnificence of the room, its colors, its patterns and its inscriptions were representing as much an expression of the respect and honor conferred on the person who received it. This is how the rug has stopped many conflicts and still today it has its “diplomacy letters” 

 A spiritual testament 

Very strong message that these rugs made by some artisans and artists for themselves.They usually spent years on this work, the fruit of their own creation, in which they slept with love, poetry and strength what some writers have called “What I believe”. 

Most of these “paintings” represent a kind of spiritual testament where, through the drawing it creates, the colors and symbols they use, the artist transcribes his vision of the world, the ages and the trials – in their initiative sense – of life ….. 

The power of symbols 

The rug is totally part of the life of our people. It is found on the floor or on the walls, as a rug for use or decoration.The weaving also extends to the beautiful saddles, chests etc … which are so many everyday and precious objects. Therefore, introducing this object into its daily life, our people are exposed to bath every day and every moment in the universe of symbols. The rug is full of extremely diverse symbols and the child who begins his life close to the ground, will be from a young age confronted with the hourglass that measures the time, the dragon who protects his house, the cypress that whispers that the life is eternal. 

The colors remind him of the elements, “earth – fire – water – air“. 

He will discover the drawing through the delicate floral or elegant curvilinear, the more geometric forms, the animals that run on the carpets, without forgetting the vegetation and the tree of life. Shimmering colors, clever harmony and balance of design, reassuring strength of timeless signs… When I look at a rug that I love, it gives me peace, joy, strength and love. 

The duty of perpetuation 

Those who are deeply convinced that the rug is part of the soul and culture of our country have allowed this very strong craft tradition to continue to live. This is particularly the case of Master RASSAM ARABZADEH born in 1914 in Tabriz and whose 74 of his carpets, which are exceptional works of art never put up for sale during his lifetime, are now exhibited in a museum in Tehran.This art owes much to the designers, dyers, artists and craftsmen who have dedicated themselves, throughout their lives, to the service of this cause. It is also, with passion, that my brother and I gave ourselves this goal.  

To save endangered pieces so that these heritage and history elements can enthuse the next generations, make known and spread the taste of the masterpieces of artists and craftsmen of yesterday and today, but also, through this inseparable object of the life of our people, the rug, to discover and share with others a certain ancient art of living, a harmonious way of being and conceiving of existence: this is our mission. 

It is for this reason also that I chose to teach at the School of Arts and Techniques as well as at the Institute of Training in the Trades of Art.