Bessarabian Rugs in History
During the 18th and 19th centuries French Aubusson rugs and English needlepoint rugs had become highly fashionable amongst the Russian royal family. In time the fashion for these rugs spread to the nobility and large sums of money began to be flow out of Russia for the importing of these costly rugs from France and England. The later two countries were the 19th century imperial rivals of Russia in what was then known as the “Great Game” in which the imperial powers competed for the control of Persia, Afghanistan and Central Asia. In order to stop the drain from the Russian treasury to it’s rivals, it was decided to make copies of Aubusson rugs and English needlepoint rugs in Bessarabia a province of south western Ukraine where there was an indigenous rug weaving tradition. However the rug weavers of Bessarabia made rugs according to their folk traditions. The French Aubusson and Savonnerie rugs on the other hand were made from paintings made by fine artists. These paintings were converted to very precise loom drawings which the French weavers had to follow precisely. The Bessarabian weavers being unfamiliar with such a planned method wove the French and English patterns in their own spontaneous way. The Bessarabian rugs began to take on a warm less formal look which was quite distinct from the French and English rugs.
After the Russian Revolution many of these Bessarabian rugs found their way to Europe and America where they soon became the favorite of such legendary decorators as Renzo Mongiardino, John Fowler, Nancy Lancaster, Sister Parish, David Hadley, Stéphane Boudin of Maison Jansen, McMillen, Inc., Mario Buatta, Lee Radziwill, David Easton, Bunny Williams, Ferguson & Shamamiam and Charlotte Moss. Their timeless interiors with Bessarabian rugs provide us a precious learning resource.
1. John Fowler created this living room in 1969 for the London apartment of David and Evangeline Bruce. John Fowler chose an Aubusson rug that has the naive and relaxed style of a Bessarabian rug. Image courtesy Architectural Digest.
Another view of John Fowler’s living room for Mr. and Mrs. Bruce. The yellow walls and curtains have become legendary. The dark brown in the border of the Aubusson rug is found in some antique Bessarabian rugs as well and here it brings out the beauty of the yellow and cream of the wall and fireplace. Image courtesy Peakofchic and John Fowler: Prince of Decorators
The Gothic chair in John Fowler’s living room for Mr. and Mrs. Bruce was previously owned by Nancy Lancaster. The bamboo pattern on the screen is influenced by Chinese and Japanese art. The mix of Gothic, Chinese and French Aubusson styles creates a beautiful energy. Image courtesy Architectural Digest.
2. Renzo Mongiardino selected this cream, black, gold and green Bessarabian rug to anchor the floral wall coverings in the entrance of Turville Grange, the English county manor house of Jackie Kennedy’s younger sister Lee Radziwill and second husband, Polish nobleman in exile Prince Stanisław Albrecht Radziwill. Lee wanted a house filled with flowers. According to the New York Times Renzo Mongiardino did some of his most creative residential work for Lee Radziwill. Image courtesy Cote de Texas
3. Lee Radziwill’s apartment in New York as featured in Elle Decor. This Bessarabian rug in black, cream, blue and gold has been in several previous homes of Lee Radziwill over the last 30 years. Today it supports a clean and airy room with white upholstery and walls. The mirror above the fireplace has traveled with the Bessarabian rug. Lee Radziwill says that she starts her room design by first selecting the rug. This is proof that great rugs and great antiques work just as well with modern decor as they do with traditional. The second lesson is that when you buy good quality rugs, they will always be in style. Image courtesy Elle Decor.
4. Albert Hadley’s now legendary library for Brooke Astor was based on a Bessarabian rug in cream, red and dark brown. This Bessarabian rug inspired Asmara’s Hermitage Bessarabian rug shown towards the end of this blog post.
Another view of Albert Hadley’s oxblood lacquered library for Brooke Astor. The Bessarabian rug can be just barely seen.
5. Stéphane Boudin of Maison Jansen chose a cream Bessarabian rug with a pattern of repeating dark brown medallions for the decoration of the White State Dining Room during the John F. Kennedy administration. Image courtesy the White House.
6. Bunny Williams living room with a cream Bessarabian rug with a pattern of repeating floral wreaths in green, yellow and red. The clear, fresh colors of this Bessarabian made it very popular with interior decorators and inspired Asmara’s Moldova Bessarabian rug shown towards the end of this blog post. Image courtesy House and Garden magazine.
Another view of Bunny Williams living room with the fresh colored Bessarabian rug. Image courtesy House and Garden magazine.
8. Ferguson & Shamamian’s Park Avenue, New York living room with a Bessarabian rug with a pattern of repeating medallions in cream, dark brown, red and green. Image courtesy Ferguson and Shamamian.
9. Eric Guenther’s guest bedroom in Southern California has the Canterbury Bessarabian pile rug in vibrant blue, red, green, yellow and dark brown. Rug Design © Asmara, Inc.
10. Charlotte Moss’s etherealy beautiful and romantic bedroom with a rare paisley Bessarabian rug. The layering of paisley fabrics on the bed, canopy and walls is masterful.
The Hermitage Bessarabian pile rug is inspired by the Bessarabian rug in Albert Hadley’s library for Brooke Astor above. Rug Design © Asmara, Inc.
Asmara’s Hermitage Bessarabian needlepoint rug. Rug Design © Asmara, Inc.
The Asmara Moldova Bessarabian needlepoint rug was inspired by the antique Bessarabian rug in the living room designed by Bunny Williams above. Rug Design © Asmara, Inc.
Asmara’s Moldova Bessarabian pile rug. Rug Design © Asmara, Inc.
The pattern of Asmara’s Canterbury Bessarabian pile rug was inspired by antique English needlepoint rugs. Rug Design © Asmara, Inc.