Rugs in Literature and Art: A Symbolic Journey

Art and literature as an expression:

Literature and other art are forms of expression that connect us to the time period when they were curated. From telling us about our history to preserving those moments forever in time, writers, poets, and artists of that time have helped us explore and value something that would not have been possible without their work. While paintings, content pieces, and artifacts say a lot about our culture and traditions, handmade carpets are underrated expressions of art. Weavers of the olden times used the carpet canvas in highly creative ways. Some carpets boasted of the beautiful motifs of Persia and our culture, some featured an actual pictorial depiction of scenes of war, the romanticism of the royal palace along the daily life instances of the locals. As carpets started to grasp the attention, the writers and artists incorporated these handmade wonders into their creations. This not only enhanced the beauty and grace of their work but also gave us a little more information about our past.

 Rugs in Literature and Art_ A Symbolic Journey

Expressionism is a concept that took a shine in the 20th century. It is nothing but a way of expressing your emotions and experiences in raw form through art. However, it is something we have caught on from the Stone Age. Our ancestors used to carve their hunting stories on cave walls, then came the time when they used weapons made with naturally occurring materials and the rest is history. On one hand, life has a unique way of influencing art, on the other, art has an uncanny approach affecting different aspects of life. From literature to paintings, transcripts to theater, vocals to crafts, everything is art.

Carpets in Art and Literature:

Carpets are another way of expression. The Pazyryk rug is one such example. The oldest rug in the world was found frozen in the tomb of a Turkish king. It is now in a museum telling the stories of history. Handmade carpets today are like prized possessions in many households. They are family heirlooms, passed down from one generation to another. But little do we know, from making a strong impact in the realm of decor, that carpets are an art form that influences other ways of expression.

Literature and paintings feature carpets. Apart from adding aesthetics to these, carpets act as symbols and depict the time and year of the work of art.

A major depiction of carpets in artworks happened in the Renaissance (The time in the 17th century when Persian motifs took over the art world). The 1st piece of art to feature a rug was a European creation, The Annunziata miracle painting, completed by Italian artist Fra Bartolomeo in 1252. The details in these paintings were so intricate that they strongly affected people and made them fall in love with rugs.

However, the feature of antique carpets wasn’t confined to Europe.  Our country’s diverse literary and artistic heritage had a strong impact on artists and an effect that spread across a multitude of cross-cultural influences. The carpets that adorned the royal palaces were also created into pictorial tapestries and miniature paintings that were even included in manuscripts between the 16th and 18th centuries. These works of art frequently featured elaborate rugs decorated with small surface patterns and lush textures.

The wave of Indian culture then hit the world again. In the 20th century, the French illustrator George Barbier, with his skill and love for art incorporated Indian and Asian intricate details as background decorations. He even created clothing inspired by these designs adorning the handmade carpets which eventually helped him enter the world of fashion.

In literature, rugs are often known as cultural markers. Rugs mentioned in literature embark on the switching of eras and depict stories of that particular period. From manuscripts to poems, long pieces of literature to short stories, writers and poets thoroughly described the decor of the area and specifically the carpet (if present). This not only embedded these rugs into our history but also added a sense of grace to the piece of content.

In "The Kite Runner," by Khaled Hosseini, the Afghan rug became a potent representation of symbolism. It also represents the protagonist's rugged homeland and misplaced identity. The intricate patterns picture an exact representation of the complexity of his relationships. The rug itself became a narrative device that embodied the struggles of a nation.

Just like this, the Persian rug in Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel "Persepolis" served as a bridge between generations. Through the scenic beauty of family stories and memories, the rug is portrayed as a silent witness to the changing socio-political landscape of the country.


Beyond cultural symbolism, rugs in literature and art often represent the various aspects of comfort. In Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway," the carpets represent a metaphor, when described, it talks about the stability and routine that the characters seek in the changing times of the world. The warm and soft canvas underfoot offers a sanctuary, a cloud-like base providing comfort in the tough times.


Rugs and carpets are more than just floor coverings. They are pieces of art and represent a variety of cultures and symbols. They have a high value ever since the discovery of the 1st rug in history. They tell stories act as markers in time and educate us a lot about the old era.