Posted by Steve Price on 01-07-2006 08:37 AM:

Uses of rugs in 14th to 17th centuries

Hi Louis

Many thanks for this interesting tour. One thing that strikes me is that only 5 of the 13 rugs in the paintings are being used as floor coverings. Most are table covers.

Interestingly, there are plain cloths covering most of the table-cover rugs; only their edges and ends are exposed. This suggests that they weren't being used to decorate the tables. What, then, was their function?

In Japan, and perhaps in other parts of the world, heavy cloths that drape over the legs of those sitting are sometimes used as table covers. They provide warmth, functioning more or less as blankets. I wonder whether the same was true for rugs covering tables in 14th to 17th century Europe.

Anyone have any information bearing on this?


Steve Price

Posted by James Blanchard on 01-07-2006 09:44 AM:

Interesting question, Steve.

Maybe the rugs on the tables were meant to be decorative, but were covered by another cloth to protect them at mealtime.

Having married into a Dutch family, I must say that I have found that they are much more inclined to put rugs or mats on tables, chests and other surfaces than are we Canadians. I think this is an interior decorating fashion, not related to maintaining body heat.

On the other hand, I suppose that if Canada had more sheep in the "old days" we would have been weaving all sorts of woolen things to try to keep us warm, instead of crudely using animal pelts.



Posted by Vincent Keers on 01-07-2006 08:07 PM:

Hi all,

Yes, this is Dutch cleanliness. Not only mealtime.
In those days everything became filthy because no eletricity or natural gas. People didn't wash in the morning. They perfumed themselves to death. The Dutch put rugs on tables because the upper class did so, to show their worldly knowledge whenever they had their painting shot for future generations.

Best regards,

Posted by James Blanchard on 01-07-2006 10:02 PM:

Thanks Vincent. I was hoping you would chime in and support my observation about the Dutch domestic customs. Round rugs are particularly popular for round tables...

Cleanliness, yes! I am told that many Dutch households insist on a spotless house every day in case the Queen drops in for a visit. Rugs don't show the dust much, do they?