Independent research project for a better understanding of the origin and history of carpets and rugs.

RugHistorian looks for contradictions and loosely supported statements in existing carpet history concepts and challenges them by introducing factual evidence from deeply hidden and hard-to-access, newly uncovered and yet unresearched original sources. The project aims to detect any new sources and connections that can help better understand the origin and history of textiles.

Historical research and data.

The research covers areas and uses methods from history, art history, ethnography, anthropology, literature, and economics; studies archive documents and modern scholarly literature; visits natural features and building heritage; analyzes human-made symbols on different natural and hand-made surfaces in the context of the users’ geographical, historical, and social situation and heritage, and religious faith.

Research areas

Surviving carpets in Transylvania

Research in the context of the use and the users of the carpets.

Carpets in churches, and church carpets

Research of carpets used in Christian churches.

Carpets in paintings

Research the meanings and reasons for the carpets in paintings.

Carpet scholarship

Research the history of carpet scholarship and methodology.

Carpet collecting and forgery

Research the carpet collecting and forgery in the 20th century.

Carpet philosophy

The “carpet” in the antique carpets.

After spending many years on research, writing thousands of notes, and studying hundreds of books and documents, together with personal and professional experience in Hungarian and Transylvanian handweaving, a new carpet history concept has been traced. A carpet history, that is based on historical facts and data and the surviving carpets, instead of inherited personal opinions and beliefs. The project is led by Nikoletta Sinko-Toth, a historian by degree, and an expert on weaving techniques. Awarded Young Master of Folk Art for ‘outstanding artistic performance in carpet weaving’ (2001, Ministry of Culture, Budapest).

“But there is another, more important reason, which commands a certain hesitation on my part, and that is this: our exhibition is like a chapter in a book on the history of the carpet, opened for the first time today, which, if we examine it more closely, we find more question marks, more lines crossed out, more data recorded in cryptic writing, than clear text. And when one speaks of a so-called place of authority, when one is responsible for what one says to the public, one cannot be too careful, one cannot easily make a statement, without risking scientific seriousness one must neither make statements, nor theorize, nor draw conclusions, unless one is in possession of indisputable data and evidence. (…) Future research will have to make use of this material to fill in the gaps that still exist in the history of carpet in this chapter.”

J. Radisics, 1914 Budapest, on the exhibition of Transylvanian carpets

Studies, case studies, research papers

Research-based studies

Transylvanian, Persian and Turkish Carpets in Transylvania in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.

Basic research on Transylvanian historical records to explore the meaning of contemporary carpet usage and carpet-making terms and to bring them into line with the terms used in international carpet literature today.

After analyzing the sources, the meaning behind the historical carpet names and terms can be identified, resulting in a more accurate interpretation of the historical terms of Persian carpets and Turkish carpets. Among the sources, church records are directly related to some of the surviving carpets, and their combined analysis provides the means to identify the contemporary term referring to the carpet-type of ‘knotted carpet’. The most important indirect result of the research is that, as a result of the collection and analysis of the sources, traces of local carpet making can be identified in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries in both Hungary and Transylvania.

A Career ‘Unmasked’. An Extended History of Tuduc.

The study uncovers the career path of Tivadar Tuduk, a successful carpet dealer in Budapest, who absconded from Hungary to Romania after embezzling the carpets of his Hungarian customers in 1925.

The similarity of the business activities, the overlapping dates, the similarity of the signatures, and the mirror translation of the Hungarian and Romanian names all suggest that Tivadar Tuduk, the Budapest carpet dealer, and Teodor Tuduc, the Romanian carpet dealer known in carpet literature as the world’s most skilled carpet counterfeiter, were the same person.

Teodor Tuduc started and established his carpet business in Hungary as Tivadar Tuduk. The study provides valuable information on carpet counterfeiting in Hungary and Romania, on the role of Károly Layer, Director of the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest, in uncovering carpet counterfeiters in Europe, and on Tuduk’s Hungarian and Romanian activities.

An important result of the research is that the newly discovered facts about carpet making and counterfeiting, including the activities of Tivadar Tuduk / Teodor Tuduc, shed new light on the origin of the fake whiteground rug purchased by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in 1933, which made Tuduc famous.

Summarizing papers

Transylvanian Carpets – The Question of Origin. Made in Anatolia or in Transylvania?

Summary and comparative table of historical facts and records on carpet trade and carpet-making.

Research papers

C. G. Ellis and the Historical Records on Transylvanian Carpet Making.

In 1956, Attila Szabó T. (1906-1987), a researcher born, lived, and worked in Transylvania, formulated his hypothesis that, based on historical records, knotted carpets were most probably made in Transylvania, and it could serve as a reason for the high number of the surviving carpets.

Charles Grant Ellis (1908 – 1996), based on the differences in the structure of the weaving technique and design between Transylvanian and Anatolian carpets, concluded that the surviving carpets were made either in Transylvania, in Wallachia, or in other European part of Turkey. In 1974, in his study Lotto pattern as a fashion in carpets, and in several subsequent papers, he argued for the origin of carpets outside Anatolia and encouraged the search for sources on carpet making in the Balkan, Transylvania and Hungary. Ellis’s hypothesis was not supported by any corroborating sources, but he nevertheless advocated his theory.

Their separate hypotheses could have complemented each other.

Theoretically, the two scholars could have met, since they were contemporaries: Attila Szabó T. lived in Transylvania (after WWI belonging to Romania) and was known in Hungarian and Romanian academic circles. However, in post-WWII Romania and Hungary, the research and publishing possibilities were largely dependent on the political and ideological situation and expectations, and since the question of the origin of the surviving carpets was directly involved, Szabó’s publishing opportunities in Romania were limited, and in many cases, heavily censored. Attila Szabó T. had very restricted opportunities to advocate his claim, his research and theory weren’t published to the international carpet community until now.

In progress

Kilims with dovetailing – Kilims from Sweden and Transylvania (Maramaros / Maramureș)

The whiteground rug in V & A Museum, London

Please send your questions and comments: