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  • 2/23/2005

A brief history of Persian Carpet and its patterns

The history of Persian Carpet-a culmination of artistic magnificence - dates back to 2,500 years ago. The Iranians were among the pioneer carpet weavers of the ancient civilizations, having achieved a superlative degree of perfection through centuries of creativity and ingenuity. The skill of carpet weaving has been handed down by fathers to their sons, who built upon those skills and in turn handed them down to their offspring as a closely guarded family secret. To trace the history of Persian carpet is to follow a path of cultural growth of one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever seen.

Pazyryk Carpet, 5th century BCE

From being simple articles of need, floor and entrance coverings to protect the nomadic tribesmen from the cold and damp, the increasing beauty of the carpets found them new owners - kings and noblemen, who looked upon them as signs of wealth, prestige and distinction.

Russian archaeologists Rudenko and Griaznov in 1949 discovered the oldest known "knotted" carpet in the Pazyryk valley, about 5000 feet up on the Altai Mountains in Siberia. Dating back to the fifth century BCE the Pazyryk carpet is of rare beauty and woven with great technical skill. It was found preserved in the frozen tombs of Scythian chiefs, which were 2400 to 2500 years old, it is now kept in the Hermitage Museum of Leningrad. Another rug found in the same area, dates back to the first century BCE.

When Cyrus the Great conqueredBabylon in 539 BC, he was struck by its splendour, and it was probably he who introduced the art of carpet making into Persia. However, historical records show that magnificent carpets adorned the court of Cyrus the Great, who founded the Persian Empire over 2,500 years ago. It is also said that the tomb of Cyrus, who was buried at Pasargadae near Persepolis, was covered with precious carpets. Even before his time, it is very likely that Persian nomads knew about the use of Knotted carpets. Their herds of sheep and goats provided them with high quality and durable wool for this purpose.

The first documented evidence on the existence of carpets came from Chinese texts dating back to the Sassanid Dynasty (224 - 641 CE). In 628 CE, the Emperor Heraclius brought back a variety of carpets from the conquest of Ctesiphon, the Sassanian capital. The Arabs also conqueredCtesiphon in 637 CE, and among the spoils brought back were said to be many carpets, one of which was the famous garden carpet, the "spring time of Khosro". This carpet has passed into history as the most precious of all time. Made during the reign of Khosro I (531 - 579 CE) the carpet was 90 Feet square. The Arab historians' description is as follows: "The border was a magnificent flower bed of blue, red, white, yellow and green stones; in the background the colour of the earth was imitated with gold; clear stones like crystals gave the illusion of water; the plants were in silk and the fruits were formed by colour stones" However, the Arabs cut this magnificent carpet into many pieces, which were then sold separately.

After the period of domination by the Arab Caliphates, a Turkish tribe, named after their founder, Seljok conquered Persia. Their domination (1038 - 1194 CE) was of great importance in the history of Persian carpets. The Seljuk women were skilful carpet makers using Turkish knots. In the provinces of Azerbaijan and Hamadan where Seljuk influence was strongest and longest lasting, the Turkish knot is used to this day.

Turkish Knot

In the Turkish (or Ghiordes) knot the yarn is taken twice around two adjacent warp threads and the ends are drawn out between these two threads.

Sinneh Knot

In the Persian (or Sinneh) Knot, the wool thread forms a single turn about the warp thread. One end comes out over this thread and the other over the next warp thread.

The Mongol conquest and control of Persia (1220 - 1449) was initially brutal. However, they soon came under the influence of the Persians. The palace of Tabriz, belonging to the Ilkhan leader, Ghazan Khan (1295 - 1304) had paved floors covered with precious carpets. The Monghol ruler Shah Rokh (1409 - 1446) contributed to the reconstruction of much that was destroyed by the Mongols and encouraged all the artistic activities of the region. However, the carpets in this period were decorated with simple motifs, which were mainly geometric in style.

The Persian carpet reached its zenith during the reign of the Safavid Dynasty in the 16th century. Indeed the first concrete proofs of this craft date back to this period. Approximately 1500 examples are preserved in various museums and in private collections worldwide. During the reign of Shah Abbas (1587 - 1629), commerce and crafts prospered in Persia. Shah Abbas encouraged contacts and trade withEurope and transformed his new capitalEsfahan, into one of the most glorious cities ofPersia. He also created a court workshop for carpets where skilled designers and craftsmen set to work to create splendid specimens. Most of these carpets were made of silk, with gold and silver threads adding even more embellishment. Two of the best know carpets of the Safavid period; dated 1539 come from the mosque of Ardebil. Many experts believe that these carpets represent the culmination of achievement in carpet design. The larger of the two carpets in now kept in London's Victoria and Albert Museum while the other is displayed at theLos AngelesCountyMuseum.

The court period of the Persian carpet ended with the Afghan invasion in 1722. The Afghans destroyedEsfahan, yet their domination lasted for only a short period and in 1736, a young Chieftain from Khorasan, Nader Khan became the Shah of Persia. Through the whole course of his reign, all the country's forces were utilised in campaigns against the Afghans, the Turks, and the Russians. During this period, and for several turbulent years after his death in 1747, no carpets of any great value were made, and solely nomads and craftsmen in small villages continued the tradition of this craft.

In the last quarter of the 19th Century and during the reign of the Qajar ruler’s trade and craftsmanship regained their importance. Carpet making flourished once more withTabriz merchants exporting carpets to Europe through Istanbul. At the end of the 19th Century some European and American companies even set up businesses in Persia and organised craft production destined for western markets.

Today, Carpet weaving is by far the most widespread handicraft in Iran. Persian carpets are renowned for their richness of colour, variety of spectacular artistic patterns and quality of design. In palaces, famous buildings, mansions and museums the world over, a Persian carpet is amongst the most treasured possession.

Major Weaving Centers:

Arak,Ardebil, Bijar, Hamadan, Esfahan, Kashan, Kerman, Mashhad, Nain, Qom, Sanandaj, Shiraz, Tabriz, Tehran, Yazd, Zanjan.

Other Centers:

Abadeh, Afshar, Ghotloo, Ahar, Amol, AnjelasAradkan, Baft, Bakhtiar, Balouch, Bam, Bandar Turkman, Behbahan, Bidgol, Borcheloo, Broujerd, Chenar, Darab, Darjezin, Farahan, Firouzabad, Garavan, Ghotlog, Golkhar, Golpayegan, Gonbad, Haris, Hosseinabad, Jourqan, Kaboudar, Ahang, Kashmar, Koliai Khamseh, Khoie, Khosrowabad, Lorestan, Mahallat, Makou, Malayer, Mahabad, Moshkabad, Moghan, Mianeh, Najafabad, Natanz, Nahavand, Neiriz, Neishabour, Qashqaie, Qazvin, qouchan, Rafsanjan, Ravar, Roudbar, Saman, Sarmilaq, Sarouk, Semnan, Senneh, Sirjan, Shahre Kord, Shahreza, Shahr Babak, Shahroud, Shahsavan, Tabas, Torbat Heidarieh, Tousirkan, Tajabad, Tafresh, Turkaman Sahra, Varamin, Vis, Yasouj, Zarand.

The Patterns

Antique Carpets

Eslimi (Arabesque) design rug, Safavid period, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Fragment of a Safavid carpet, Shah Abbassi design, Juseph V. Mcmullan collection, New York, size 119x106 cm

Old incomplete rug, Iran, Juseph V. Mcmulllan collection, New York, size 269x122 cm

Old rug, Floral and Animal design, Juseph V. Mcmulllan collection, New York, size 235x160 cm

Old Vase rug, Iran, Safavid period, Juseph V. Mcmulllan collection,New York, size 362x177 cm

Persian Garden design, Juseph V. Mcmulllan collection,New York, size 248x180 cm

Safavid Vase rug, Juseph V. Mcmulllan collection,New York, size 362x177 cm


Bakhtiari (Talkhuncheh) rug, Chahar Mahal, dated 1975, size 245x187 cm

Bakhtiari Bandi Luzi design, Chahar Mahal, probably Shahr Kord, wool, on cotton, early 20th century, size 423x310 cm

Bakhtiari carpet, Kheshti (Mosaic) design, Chahar Mahal, wool on cotton, mid 20th century, size 579x365 cm

Bakhtiari carpet, Shah Abbasi medallion corner, wool, dated 1900, size 405x305 cm

Bakhtiari carpet, Shalamzar, Kheshti (Mosaic) design, late 19th century, size 385x298cm

Bakhtiari Vagireh, size 170x120 cm, Turkish knots, 4000 knots per sq. dm

Shalamzar carpet, Chahar Mahal Bakhtiari region, Kheshti design (Mosaic), size 460x323 cm

Right -- Allover design, Chahar Mahal, second half of 20th century, size 493x192 cm Left -- A Bakhtiari Gol-Frang runner, Chahar Mahal, first half of 20th century, size 369x109 cm

“ESFEHAN” Carpets

(RECENT PATTERN)Click on Image to see Details

(Recent Pattern)Click on Image to see Details

Esfahan carpet, Eslimi medallion corner, dated 1940, size 329x213 cm

Esfahan Prayer rug, Mehrab, dated 1910, wool, size 226x147 cm

Esfahan rug, Allover Eslimi desgin, kork, wool, dated 1920, size 223x162 cm

Esfahan rug, Shah Abbassi medallion corner, dated 1940, size 329x213 cm

Esfahan rug, Shah Abbassi medallion, wool, dated 1920, size 222x150 cm

Fars Carpet

Fars Carpet

Fars Carpet 205 by 140 cm

Fars Carpet 255 by 165 cm

“KASHAN” Carpets

(Recent Pattern)Click on image to see more details

(Recent Pattern)Click on image to see more Details

Kashan Allover rug, silk, dated 1930, size 205x140 cm

Kashan Animal rug, wool, dated 1980, size 200x140 cm

Kashan carpet, Shah Abbassi medallion design, wool, dated 1910, size 225x142 cm

Kashan Pictorial rug, dated 1920, wool, size 209x131 cm

Kashan rug, Shah Abbassi medallion design, silk, dated 1910, size 205x139 cm

Kashan rug, Tree pattern, silk, dated 1860, size 149x99 cm

Kashan silk and metal thread carpet, size 259x162 cm

Prayer rug, Eslimi design, probably Kashan, early 17th century

“NAIEEN” Carpets

(Recent Pattern)Click on Image to see more Details

Modern Naieen carpet

Naieen Carpet

Naieen Carpet

Naieen Carpet Related to 1980 495 by 400 cm

Naieen CARPET (2002)

QOM Carpets

Modern Qom Carpet 236 by 140 cm

Modern Qom Rug 155 by 104 cm

Modern Qom Rug,Hunting Design, Pure Natural Sil 168 by 115 cm

Qom Carpet

Qom Rug

“SAROUGH” Carpets

Sarough carpet, size 562x360 cm

Farahan rug, Geometrical design, size 194x136 cm

Mir rug, Brudjard, size 128x215 cm

Mushk-abad carpet, Arak region, late 19th century, size 381x319 cm


Sarough rug, 19th century, size 188x124 cm

Sarough rug, boteh design, size 195x127 cm

Sarug carpet, Arak region, size 309x211 cm

Sarug rug, late 19th century, size 132x192 cm

 “TABRIZ Carpets”

(Recent Pattern)Click on Image to see more Details

Tabriz Animal carpet, last quarter 19th century, size 302x231 cm

Tabriz Animal carpet, circa 1890, size 755x454 cm

Tabriz Allover Boteh, wool on cotten, mid 20th century, size 408x298 cm

Tabriz carpet, Allover Mahi design, wool on cotton, 20th century, signed Ijadi, size 384x298 cm

Tabriz carpet, Eslimi medallion design, size 480x338 cm

Tabriz carpet, Moharramat design, wool on silk, 20th century, size 396x301 cm

Tabriz pictorial carpet, wool, dated 1890, size 135x91 cm

Tabriz Shah Abbassi, medallion carpet, dated 1910, wool, size 209x132 cm

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