IRAN

Ardebil

This is a new name and has only been appearing in conjunction with carpets for about the last twenty years. The type of carpet called by this name has absolutely no connection with the famous sixteenth-century Ardebil carpets discussed above. Modern Ardebil carpets are in fact very Caucasian in character (the town itself is only a few miles south of the border of the Soviet State of Azerbaijan), with geometric borders and large fields covered with geometric shapes, often octagons. The Turkish knot is used, and the warp and weft are of cotton.

Bakhtiari

These have been available since the early part of this century and are woven by Kurdish tribesmen who, although originally from the region of Hamadan, have now settled in many villages not far from Isfahan. The designs are that mixture of floral geometricity associated with Hamadan fabrics, frequently using a tile pattern and often a pear-design field. Yellow is predominant. Most of the older pieces use the Turkish knot but in more recent examples the Persian knot appears to predominate.

Bakshaish

Bakshaish is a town in the Heriz district, and a number of differently designed carpets appear to have been made there. The antique pieces have fixed all-over floral patterns, usually the herati and the Shah Abbas designs. In the twentieth century, Bakshaish motifs changed completely to imitate the geometric, medallion-centered pieces made at Heriz and the neighboring town of Gorevan. Today it is extremely difficult to decide on stylistic evidence alone what was made where. The Persian knot is usually employed, and the warp and the weft are of cotton.

Bidjar

These are woven by Kurdish tribesmen around the town of Bidjar, tribesmen who are thought at one time to have moved west from Saruq. The Turkish knot is used. Whilst the warp and weft of antique examples were usually of wool, the weft was frequently of camel’s hair which was often used in an undyed state in the fields of these pieces. Modern examples made in the last twenty years usually have a cotton warp and weft and the Persian knot is now frequently used. Antique and semi-antique Bidjars are amongst the finest of all Kurdish tribal fabrics; a thick wool was used and although rather coarsely woven, the best carpets were very durable. The herati design was particularly favored and the field was usually red and woven with a central floral medallion. The modern pieces are generally very heavy and, although keeping to traditional designs, tend to have very garish colors.

Gorevan

Gorevan is a town in the Heriz district. Antique and semi antique pieces occasionally have the Persian knot, but the Turkish is now almost always used. The warp and weft are always of cotton and the carpets are generally very coarsely woven. They are, however, extremely hardwearing. The predominant colors are blue in the borders with a red field whilst the designs closely follow those of Heriz; there is usually a large geometric medallion center. Although these carpets are marketed in Tabriz they are generally sold in the West as Heriz, since they are so close in design. Dealers use the word Gorevan as a generic term for all lower-grade Heriz carpets.

Hamadan

Although Hamadan carpets are named after the city, many different types, which can be separately identified by experts, are woven in small villages in the vicinity, which is one of the most important and largest carpet producing areas of Persia. Types such as the Bibikabad, Ingelas, Borchelus, Dergezin, Kabutarhang and Husianabad are just some of the many which tend to be known generally as Hamadans. The Turkish knot is usual, but the Persian is not infrequently found. The carpets are mostly woven of goat’s or camel’s hair mixed with wool and cotton. They usually have hexagonal or diamond shaped designs, especially pole medallions with a field of floral patterns, and few colors are used. The best carpets, however, especially the Bibikabad, Ingelas and Borchelus, are more colorful and are known as Seneh-Hamadans or Senneh-Kurds.

Heriz

Heriz is a western Persian city which not only produces carpets itself but also lends its name to the many different types of carpet which are woven in the region. Four of these, Bakshis, Gorevan, Serapi and Tabriz are important enough to be discussed individually, whilst others include Ahar, Bilverdi, Kurdkendi, Mishkin, Jamalabad and Mihriban. Heriz pieces are finer versions of the Gorevan (see above) whilst the best carpets of this type, those woven at Ahar, have only been made since 1958. There are also extremely fine silk carpets from Heriz. In certain old books the name Serapi, after the town of Serab, was given to Heriz and Gorevan pieces of fine quality. Most modern authorities agree that there is no factual evidence for assuming that these carpets were made in Serab; they are more likely to be the best pieces produced in the other two towns mentioned here. Stylistically, they are indistinguishable.

Kurdistan

This is a slightly misleading description. Strictly speak cypress in, every type of carpet made by nomadic Kurdish 2 tribesmen should be so described, but so many are marketed under the name either of their particular place of manufacture or of the particular Kurdish tribe which made them that Kurdistan now has a more specific meaning and refers to those pieces woven west of Hamadan on the Turkish border. The Turkish knot is used, and the carpets have geometric designs.

Mosul

The town of Mosul is in fact in Iraq and apparently has no connection with the carpets of this name. These are made by nomadic tribesmen on the Turkish border and in the vicinity of Hamadan where they are marketed. They are rather poor-quality versions of Hamadan carpets.

Senneh

The city of this name is about a hundred miles north-west of Hamadan and is in fact populated by Kurds, although the characteristics of the famous carpets made there are serrated leaves unlike most fabrics produced by Kurdish tribes. It has given its name to the Sehna or Persian knot which is always used. The finest pieces have a silk warp and weft although cotton is more normally used. Almost all Sehna carpets have an all-over pattern, usually intricately woven, such as the herati and the pear designs; a few examples will have central pole medallions or diamonds. A really fine Senneh carpet is amongst the most densely woven of all Persian fabrics having anything up to a thousand knots to the square inch; needless to say, an antique example in good condition is extremely valuable.

Souj-Boulak

This is a Kurdish town north of Tabriz and a few miles east of the Turkish border. As far as is known, no carpets are exported from this town today and the pieces available on the Western market are all more than thirty years old. The Turkish knot is used and whilst the warp and weft are usually of wool, an equal mixture of wool and cotton is fairly common. There is usually an all-over herati pattern on a blue, or occasionally red, field although the Shah Abbas design is also employed. These carpets are generally of a very high standard.

Tabriz

Tabriz, the second largest city in Persia, has long been renowned as one of the leading carpet-weaving centers of the world. The Turkish knot is used today although the Persian knot is extensively used in antique pieces. The warp and weft are of cotton with the exception of a few outstanding pieces which use silk. Tabriz is also famous for its silk prayer rugs and for its copies, finely executed in the nineteenth century under European influence, of famous old hunting carpets. Secular pieces will usually have a medallion center and a tree-of-life design is common. Antique Tabriz carpets are much sought after by collectors.

Birjand

Herat border heratiThese are made in the city of Birj and, three hundred miles south of Meshed. Antique carpets were also woven at the village of Daraksh, a few miles to the north-east of Birjand. They have traditionally been woven with the false Persian knot (utilizing four rather than two warp threads), thus producing a coarse and loosely woven carpet. They are not considered of good quality even though they are often attractively designed.

Herat is the name of a city now situated in Afghanistan but which was until the eighteenth century part of the Khorassan district of Persia. The design invariably used, a small rosette within two lancet-shaped leaves, is known as the herati design. This much is certain, together with the fact that the Turkish knot was used.

There is some doubt as to whether the antique carpets were ever woven in Herat itself. The great authority, A. Cecil Edwards, in his book The Persian Carpet published in 1953, suggests convincingly: . . . because the Persians used the name Herat in referring to some of these carpets, they did not necessarily mean that the carpets were woven in Herat city the wealthy inhabitants of Herat . . . must have needed carpets for their homes. So, the merchants of the city ordered them from the weaving districts of Qainat. When, in time, some of these carpets were sold and found their way to the West, they were called Herat carpets, because they had come from Herat; and not because they had been woven there.’

Another part of the controversy concerns whether any weaving ever has taken place at any time in Herat itself. Edwards states: R As far as man can remember, no carpets have been woven there; nor does any tradition of weaving exist there. And I know of no locality in Persia where carpets were once produced, and which today is producing none.’ On the other hand other authorities state that Herat was the seat of a great carpet-weaving industry, and that carpets are still being woven in Herat today. There certainly seem to be two distinct and diametrically opposed schools of thought concerning antique Herat carpets, and two totally contradictory sets of Tact’s about the present-day situation.

Khorassan

This is used as a general term for the two types of carpet woven in this area, Mesheds and Birj and (although Turkbaffs are also woven here they are considered separately). Indeed, Khorassan is the name of a province rather than a city. Although we discuss each of these types separately it is worth remembering that a Khorassan can be either one of them; the exact names of the carpets are used mainly to denote quality.

Meshed

Meshed is the capital city of the Khorassan province and one of the Holy Cities of Islam. The tomb of the greatest of the Shea sect saints, Imam Reza, is to be found in the Mosque. Meshed carpets are not actually made in the city itself but in the surrounding villages and, like the Birj ands, use a four warp Persian knot although they are of a slightly higher quality. The all-over pear design is the most-used pattern, though a central medallion is often used.

Turkbaff

These carpets, made in the city of Meshed, are the only ones from this region of great quality. Turkbaff means Turkish knot, which is employed in the carpets, the looms having been set up at the beginning of this century by weavers from Tabriz. Until the recent import of synthetic dyes from Switzerland, these were some of the few remaining vegetable-dyed carpets. The all-over pear design is used on the majority of pieces and the field, as on Khorassan carpets, is a purplish red.

Farahan

These carpets are made on the plains of Farahan, to the west of Teheran. The finest antique examples are amongst the most sought-after of all Persian carpets and are very rare; traditionally the Persian knot has been used although more recently the Turkish knot has been employed. The warp and weft are nearly always of cotton. There are basically two types of Farahan: the all-over pattern and the center medallion. The former usually has the herati design which because it is so often found on these carpets, is sometimes known as the Farahan pattern. The medallion-centered pieces are rarer and more valuable. One distinguishing characteristic of these carpets is their frequent use of an unusual shade of apple green especially in the borders.

Isfahan

Isfahan, the old capital of Persia, is one of the greatest weaving cities of the world and the carpets produced there during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are probably the most magnificent ever made. The city itself with its two great Mosques, the Shah and the Lutfullah, is a worthy setting. The Persian knot was and is used whilst the warp and weft have always been of cotton and occasionally silk on the finest pieces.

Probably the greatest existing carpet from Isfahan (or possibly Kashan) is the Austrian royal hunting carpet in Vienna, although some authorities claim that Maqsud or no, the Ardebil Mosque carpet was woven there also. Apart from this type, two other kinds, the animal carpets, like hunting carpets but without human figures on horseback, and vase carpets, so-called because a motif resembling a vase of flowers is repeated in the field, are representative of the famous antique pieces which may or may not have been woven at Isfahan.

If they were not woven there, the two most popular alternatives would seem to be either Tabriz or Herat. There are approximately 1,500 carpets surviving from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Between approximately 1722, when the city was overrun by Afghan tribesmen, to the beginning of this century, no carpets were produced at Isfahan, or at least no carpets were exported. The carpets produced early on in

this century was not of particularly good quality, but in recent years the standard has improved considerably and modern Isfahan pieces, using traditional designs, are much in demand.

A type of carpet associated with Isfahan, and which indeed is often called by that name, is made in the village of Joshagan a few miles west of Kashan. This type was made during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and is still made today. The main design used has remained the same and consists of small floral shapes in diamond patterns over the field, in the center of which is usually a diamond medallion, whilst each corner of the field has a triangular medallion. The fields of the older pieces are invariably ivory or blue whilst the modern ones, which are very fine, are red. Another type of carpet thought to have been woven here is the so-called tree carpet in which the wide field is covered with a variety of trees and ferns.

Kashan

Kashan, about 150 miles south of Teheran, is another of the great carpet-weaving cities of Persia and it was here that the Ardebil carpets were almost certainly made. As with Isfahan, no carpets were woven here during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for export, and indeed the best carpets woven there today are not exported, much to the chagrin of European and American dealers. The floral carpets made at the beginning of this century are generally very large and of very fine quality. The field is covered with swirling flowers with a central, diamond shaped medallion. Kashan is also famous for its silk prayer rugs which are often woven with columns on each side of the mihrab and bouquets of flowers or the tree of life, and the mosque lamp hanging within the niche itself. The Persian knot is used, and the warp and weft are of either cotton or silk. It is also worth noting that a few carpets woven at the beginning of this century use superb merino wool.

Lilihan

NainAlthough made in the town of Lilihan mid-way between Sultanabad and Isfahan, the carpets are in fact woven by Persian Armenians who probably entered the country in flight from the Turks during the First World War and settled in and around Lilihan. The carpets are Turkish Caucasian in character, usually have a floral field in a geometric style and are generally bleached and painted. They began to appear in the West in the mid 1920s but apparently ceased to be woven around the beginning of the Second World War. They are not generally of very good quality although they can be attractive.

The town of Nain lies half-way between Teheran and Kirman in central Persia and about eighty miles east of Isfahan, of which city it is considered a suburb. Most authorities agree that the finest carpets being woven in Persia at the present time come from here. The design most frequently used is the Shah Abbas on a cream ground with a central circular medallion and triangular corners. The main border is usually on a blue ground. These carpets are of modern production.

Qum

Qum is the name of a town ninety miles south of Teheran and approximately 180 miles from Nain. The carpets made here are very similar in design to Nain pieces and like them have only been in production for a few years. The quality is almost equal, and it requires an experienced and expert eye to tell them apart.

Saraband (and Mir-Saraband)

These are named after the district of Sarawan not far from Sultanabad. The antique carpets from this district were woven in the town of Mirabad and are known as Mirs or Mir-Sarabands. The antique piece is very distinctive for several reasons. Firstly, the weft thread is always dyed blue. Secondly, the borders almost always have a vine or Mir pattern on an ivory ground. Thirdly, the field is almost always red or deep blue; and finally, the field is invariably covered with rows of pear designs in either blue or red depending on the field colour. Indeed, there is a tendency for any carpet which bears a superficial resemblance to a Mir to be called a Saraband. The only variations on the pear design are an all-over herati design or the herati design with the center medallion.

The modern Saraband follows the Mir design, although it always uses the pear pattern and always (at least for the past fifty years) has a red field. It is not, as is usual with modern pieces, so finely woven. It should be remembered that certain Saruq carpets are today woven to the Saraband pattern and are possibly superior. An expert can tell them apart by the finer weave of the Saruq. The warp and weft of both old and new pieces are of cotton, and the Persian knot is used. A further distinguishing characteristic of Mirs is their odd weave, which admittedly can only be deciphered by an expert, where every alternate knot is doubled under the other.

Saruq

The real antique Saruqs were woven in the town of that name twenty miles north-west of Sultanabad. However, the majority of the thousands of rugs woven this century which are called Saruqs were certainly not woven there but in Sultanabad itself; they bear only a superficial resemblance to the earlier carpets. The antique has a cotton warp and weft, usually has a medallion center and is very finely woven.

The maj ority of the twentieth-century so-called Saruqs have an all-over detached floral design on a rose ground and can be very attractive. They were particularly popular in America and vast quantities were imported to that country before the Second World War. Unfortunately, a high percentage of these were chemically washed and then painted in order to give them a mellow look, a process which has had over the years a serious effect on the condition of the carpet.

It should be noted that to the west of Sultanabad lies the Malayer area in which two important carpet-weaving towns, Josan and Malayer itself, are situated. These types both have the Turkish knot, unlike the Saruq which has the Persian, but their designs are based very closely on antique Saruqs. Josan carpets are considered amongst the finest being produced in Persia today. Most of them, like old Saruqs, are in rug sizes.

Sultanabad

The town of Sultanabad is the center of one of the largest carpet-weaving areas of Persia. Within its boundaries, the following towns are situated: Malayer, Muskabad, Qum, Kashan, Mahal, Lilihan, Khussar and Saruk. The plains of Fereghan are also part of this area. We have discussed Fereghan, Kashan, Lilihan, Qum and Saruk pieces separately. Here we will examine Sultanabad carpets proper and Mahals. We shall also discuss the fact that in the trade today Muskabad, Mahal and Arak are words denoting the quality of carpets made here.

The principal carpet woven in this area is the Saruq, discussed in detail above. In general, all other carpets made in the vicinity are copies of, or variations on, this design. The main variation is called Sultanabad, was made in that city and was at one time a distinctive type. The carpets usually referred to by this name were made about twenty or more years ago and have floral, especially the Shah Abbas, designs. In recent times, the carpets carnation border produced in Sultanabad and in the surrounding villages and towns have become more dependent on the Saruq designs, although there is a wide variation of quality.

Quasi-Saruq carpets are therefore graded into three qualities which are Arak, called after the modern Persian name for the city of Sultanabad, Mahal, meaning village made (tribal), and Muskabad, the poorest of all the carpets made in this vicinity. It takes an expert to tell the difference between the various types of Saruq-Sultanabad pieces and the average student should not bother himself too much with something about which even the authorities are none too sure.

Tehran

Teheran is the capital of Persia and has given its name to the carpets which are woven in the suburbs of the city; it is probable that the finest of these, equal in quality to the Isfahans, are not exported. Teheran carpets have been produced only since the beginning of this century; the warp and weft are of cotton and the Persian knot is used. The herati design is frequently employed whilst prayer rugs woven with the tree of life are not unusual.

Yezd

Although made in central Persia, Yezd pieces are described by different authorities as being allied either to those made at Tabriz or to those at Kirman, even though Tabriz is just over seven hundred miles from Yezd, Yezd is two hundred miles from Kirman and Tabriz is nearly a thousand miles from Kirman. There is, however, no doubt that antique examples can often be mistaken for Tabriz carpets with their use of the herati design on a blue field. Warp and weft are of cotton and the knot is Turkish, the same as that used at Tabriz. It is interesting tree Of l ife to note that Yezd was a renowned silk-producing city whilst Tabriz was famous for its silk carpets.

The modern Yezd pieces, however, are different. The influence is now solely Kirman, a style which was probably copied for economic reasons early this century when Kirman carpets were one of the most popular of all Persian carpets on the Western market. Yezd carpets now usually have a red field with a floral medallion and matching floral corners. They also now employ the Persian knot which is used in Kirman pieces.

Kirman

The city of Kirman is the center of a large and important weaving area. Several villages and small towns, apart from the city itself, are engaged in this industry, the most important of which are Ravar, Okalat-Dehzanuw, Anaristan, Mahan, Saidabad, Anar, Zarand, Khanuk and

Chatrud. An interesting historical note is that Paisley shawls, employing the pear design found on so many Persian carpets, were woven in Kirman amongst other places for the European market during the nineteenth century.

Kirman is an ancient city (Marco Polo commented favorably upon it) and carpets have probably been woven in the area for centuries; it was only during the second half of the nineteenth century, however, that any were exported and those were new. Indeed, the oldest Kirman carpets have generally been made within the last hundred years.

The earliest Kirmans were woven with the most naturalistic designs of any Oriental carpets. They usually have an ivory field and depict well-drawn animals, birds, human figures, and flowers. A frequently used design was an all-over pattern of baskets of roses, again very realistically delineated. The colors on old Kirmans are usually soft pastel shades; the Persian knot is always used, and the warp and weft are of cotton. A very small number of silk pieces were woven, and these are now of course extremely valuable.

Modern Kirmans are very different. The colors still tend to be pastel shades with a predominant use of the ivory ground but the carpets made in the 1920s and 1930s up to the present conformed to the prevailing American demand for floral carpets similar in design to French eighteenth- and nineteenth-century examples. This tastes the Kirmans successfully satisfied with floral borders and medallion centers. Since the Second World War a third type, utilizing the bright reds and blues so much admired by the Persians themselves, has been woven specifically for the domestic market.

Kirmanshah

This is a name which has caused and still causes considerable confusion and is only included here for curiosity’s sake. Kirmanshah is a Kurdish town in northwest Persia, about 650 miles from Kirman and 280 miles south of Tabriz. Many books simply point out the distances and blindly state that for all that Kirmanshahs look very like Kirmans. The indications are, however, that Kirmanshah carpets as we know them have no connection with the remote Kurdish town of the same name. It may be that Xirmanshah’ was originally a word meant to denote a superior kind of Kirman, although, according to Lewis in The Practical Book of Oriental Rugs, Kirmanshah was a great caravan centre whence these carpets were shipped west. They have the Persian knot and a cotton warp and weft, none of these being Kurdish characteristics, and the designs are usually intricately floral.

Niris

These carpets are made by the hill tribes in the province of Laristan. Niris is the name of a salt lake in the area, which is dominated by the great carpet-weaving city of Shiraz. The Persian knot is generally employed although on older pieces the Turkish knot was sometimes used; the warp and weft are of wool. Niris carpets are overall more tightly woven than Shiraz pieces and they are distinctively designed and colored. The pear design, woven in rows and usually in green, is found on a madder red field. There are approximately five border stripes which mainly employ the barber-pole design. The wool is almost always of very good quality and these carpets are greatly respected by collectors.

Shiraz

The city of Shiraz is the center of the great south-Persian carpet-weaving area, which includes pieces woven by the Kashkai and Khamseh tribes and those woven around Beshir and Lake Niris. Amongst the individual names given to Shiraz-area carpets, apart from Shiraz itself, are Niris, Faristan, Kashkai, Nifliz and Afshar. Shiraz is the capital of the province of Faristan or Fars and is the marketplace for all the carpets woven in the region, with the exception of the Afshars which are marketed at the city of Kirman.

Antique Shiraz carpets used better wool than just about all other Persian carpets, and those woven today still employ wool for the warp and the weft. The pear pattern was frequently used, as well as pole medallions and diamond medallions into which were woven stylized birds and animals (the bird is said to have represented the nightingale, a symbol of peace). The Persian knot is generally used but the Turkish knot is occasionally found, an interesting complement to the slightly northern geometricity of some Shiraz designs. Old books often refer to the prayer rugs from here as Mecca Shiraz since they were apparently favored by pilgrims to the Holy City.

We have now conclude our individual examinations of the thirty-two main kinds of Persian carpet. Before making some general points about these different types, we must mention a variety of Persian carpet which does not fit into any category.

Polonaise

In the Paris Exhibition of 1878, Prince Czartoryski, a Polish nobleman from Warsaw, showed some floral carpets superbly woven with silk and gold and silver threads. They did not appear to resemble any known type of carpet, although they were clearly of Persian inspiration. They were therefore called Polonaise, the French word for Polish. It is now known that several silk carpets were presented by the Persian Shahs to various European rulers, and it is interesting to note that the majority of the 350 or so surviving examples of these carpets are now in European museums. Obviously, a gift from one monarch to another would have to be something of great value, a fact which explains the magnificent quality of these pieces. Modern scholars generally accept that they were woven on the royal looms in Persia, probably at Isfahan, and that they were all made in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. There is no evidence to support the theory that they were woven in Poland by Persian weavers sent there by request of the king and this idea is now disregarded by all authorities.

 

 

 

 

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