Handweaving was a highly regarded art form in the ancient Persian kingdom, where Persian carpets originated. Greater Persia covered Caucasian, West Asian, Central Asian, and South Asian territories. Today, it is connected most closely with Iran. The world's oldest carpet is a Persian rug dating back to the fifth century BCE. Due to the isolation imposed by the region's geographical peculiarities, several types of Persian carpets arose in various regions, each with its own distinctive themes. Based on the symbols that occur in the design of ancient Persian carpets, historians may determine the places the rugs are from.
There are two broad categories of hand-knotted Persian carpets:
- City Rugs - City carpets are Persian rugs produced in organized workshops according to a paper pattern plan.
- Tribal or Nomadic Rugs - In tribal and nomad carpets, the designer and weaver are one and the same. Consequently, the weaver crafts a Persian rug based on a mental vision. The outcome is a more flowing and unstructured design.
Image source:- Union of Indo-Iranian Nations
Persian carpets from urban areas such as Esfahan are flowery and detailed, using up to 15 colors in a single rug. Those from distant rural communities have a more symmetrical appearance. Even though they are almost a century old, antique Gabbeh rugs are simple and have a very high pile, making them a natural fit for contemporary settings. The significance of a combination of geometry, symmetry, patterns, and symbols may be deciphered. For instance, the presence of a peony on a Persian rug signifies authority, whilst the presence of pomegranates symbolizes fertility. Heriz carpets, also known as Serapis, are among the most renowned rugs produced in Iran. These Persian carpets are woven at Heriz, an important rug-weaving hub, and often include enormous geometric medallions.
Types of Persian rugs include Bakhtiari, Bijar, Eshfahan, Farahan, Gabbeh, Heriz/Serapi, Kashan/Mohtasham, Kerman, Khorassan/Mashad, Persian Kilims, Malayer, Sarouk, Senneh, Sultanabad/Mahal and Tabriz.
Ancient Bakhtiari carpets were woven in the Zagros Mountains of Iran, mostly by local nomads and villages. Bakhtiari carpets have geometric, semi-geometric, and seldom curved designs. The patterns were often complex, and vivid hues such as deep reds, brilliant blues, navy, greens, brown, and beige were frequently used. The most prevalent Bakhtiari pattern is the garden pattern, which consists of square, rectangular, diamond, or hexagonal compartments filled with floral motifs, such as a willow tree, a cypress tree, a grapevine, a vase, or a bird perched on a branch. Each compartment has a unique color and design compared to its neighbors.
Bakshayesh is a tiny hamlet situated southwest of Heriz in the Iranian Azerbaijan province. The region is well renowned for its creation of big carpets with either a Herati or center medallion design in the late 19th century. Rugs commonly replicate old Heriz patterns and methods, notably geometric motifs. Bakshayesh rug weavers choose brownish red, light and dark pink, light and dark blue tones, and white as their preferred hues. Typically, blue is utilized to create contrast.
The majority of Bijar rugs are produced in Bijar and the nearby communities. Bijar is situated in the Kurdistan region in northwest Iran. Bijar rugs are often referred to as village rugs because, whether they are woven in the town of Bijar or in the villages around it, they are made in homes rather than workshops. Since several patterns were used, Bijar rugs are often distinguished by their weave rather than their pattern. Bijar weavers continually smash the weft threads against the rows of knots until the weave becomes incredibly dense. Consequently, Bijar carpets are thick, hefty, and very resilient.
Esfahan is situated in central-western Iran. Esfahan carpets have been and continue to be renowned globally. Since Esfahan has been the capital city of numerous kings, notably Shah Abbas of the Safavid Dynasty, many mosques, palaces, and other magnificent structures have been constructed in Esfahan, particularly during Shah Abbas' reign in the 16th and 17th centuries, when Esfahan was a major artistic centre. These structures have had a significant impact on the rug patterns of Esfahan. Sometimes based on Safavid miniatures, Esfahan carpets typically include geometric medallions, trees with animals, or portraits of people and nature.
Esfahan carpets almost never have less than fifteen colours. The most prevalent hues include turquoise, blue, red, beige, and light mushroom. Another distinguishing feature of Esfahan rugs is the frequent usage of a particular shade of terra cotta red in the field, border, and accents. This distinctive crimson-colored pigment is obtained from the Cochineal bug.
Farahan is a town in west-central Iran, north of the city of Arak, famed for its intricately woven carpets from the late 19th century. There are few carpets with a curvilinear design made in the Farahan area, although geometric patterns predominate. These premium carpets may be separated into two distinct categories. The first style is distinguished by an all-over or endlessly repeating design with motifs such as the herati or boteh. Herati, the most common motif, has several versions, while boteh motifs are often weaved into hexagonal panels.
The second kind, known as Sarouk-Farahans, is defined by its medallion pattern and traditional Persian design. The medallions may be shaped as a huge hexagon, diamond, or oval with massive embellishments. The field of these carpets often has the herati and gul hannai designs.
Gabbeh are antique tribal and rural Persian carpets with a basic geometric design and a very thick pile. The carpets are woven by nomads of the province of Fars, in the vicinity of the renowned city of Shiraz. Although Antique Gabbeh are not much older than 100 years, the presence of Persian Gabbeh was documented during the reign of Shah Tahmasp, the second king of the Safavid dynasty who governed Iran for 53 years (1502-1736). To welcome and respect King Homayun of India, who sought safety in Iran, he authorized the usage of Gabbeh carpets in addition to other rugs.
Gabbeh, like many other Persian carpets, is crafted using hand-spun local wool and natural dye. Gabbeh weavers often use simplified human, animal, and tree motifs, using their creativity and the surrounding surroundings to weave these patterns. Although tribal, the abstract and cubist patterns of Persian Gabbeh seem rather contemporary and complement the décor of contemporary dwellings.
Heriz / Serapi
Heriz carpets are among the most well-known rugs from Iran due to their distinct and distinctive design. Heriz is a city in the northwestern region of Iran, close to Tabriz, which is an important rug-weaving hub in Iran. Heriz carpets often have enormous geometric medallions that are sharply outlined on bright red, rust, or dark blue ground. The pattern is usually typically geometric, however, some Heriz carpets include an all-over design that commonly includes geometric floral motifs and less frequently curvilinear floral motifs. Due to the proximity of the Heriz area to the Caucasus, many Heriz carpets have similar colors and designs to Caucasian rugs. Common hues include brownish red, light, and dark pink, light and dark blue, greens, yellows, and ivory. Typically, blue and white are used to improve contrast.
Serapi is the trade term for Heriz carpets of superior quality said to have been produced before 1900. In the United States, Heriz carpets of the greatest quality are known as Serapi. The origin of the name Serapi is the hamlet of Serab. It is also found in northwest Iran and has absorbed certain Caucasian carpet features.
Read more about Heriz Serapi rugs and how to identify:- Persian Rugs Heriz And Serapi - How To Identify Them
Kashan / Mohtasham
Kashan carpets from the past are among the best Persian rugs. They are weaved in Kashan, a city in north-central Iran, at workshops. Since the Safavid period, Kashan has been a center of silk manufacture and has produced some of the finest Persian silk carpets. Towards the end of the 19th century, weavers also started to manufacture high-quality wool rugs and carpets, retaining the Safavid period's high standards for technique and design.
Mohtasham carpets are among the finest Kashan carpets. They are generally referred to as Kashan-Mohtasham carpets, and they typically have a deep and rich color palette as well as a classic blue medallion, however, all-over motifs are both unusual and not unheard of.
Kerman is a historic city with an extraordinary history dating back over a millennium. Marco Polo was among the first Europeans to see Kerman carpets. The city is situated in the province of the same name in the central-southeast region of Iran. In the area of ancient Persian rugs, Kerman rugs and carpets are possibly the most recognized. Kerman rugs and carpets often include a floral or architectural motif in the main border and a center medallion in the field. Other patterns include the refined Kerman Lavar style with garden, tree-of-life, vase, and all-over Mille fleur motifs, as well as the many pictorials depicting historical figures or events. The earliest examples of the vase design carpets date to the Safavid period and are among the finest examples of Persian weaving.
Khorassan / Mashad
Famous Khorassan rugs and carpets date back to the Timurid dynasty in the late Middle Ages. The area is located in northeastern Iran, and Mashad, its capital, is one of the most significant rug weaving hubs in the world. Backgrounds of Khorassan carpets are renowned for their brilliant purplish-red, crimson, or red hues. The natural red hue is derived from a plant with red granules that grows only in the province of Khorasan. Other common colors seen in Khorassan and Mashad rugs and carpets are vibrant red and purple tones, blue tones, navy, brown tones, and an assortment of green hues. In addition, it is typical for certain Khorassan rugs and carpets to have a softer and more colorful hue. There are several notable patterns, ranging from allover designs to arabesque medallions with corner elements. Additionally, the Herati border is commonly utilized. The very soft and glossy wool used in the manufacturing of Khorassan and Mashad carpets is another notable feature.
Ancient Khotan rugs and carpets were manufactured in the oasis town of Eastern Turkestan, which is now a part of Xinjiang in Western China. Since the 17th century, this region has consistently produced carpets, with a peak during the 18th and 19th centuries. Khotan rugs and carpets are often geometric and abstract, with color palettes ranging from deep hues to pastels.
Antique Malayer carpets were woven in the little village of Malayer, which is situated on the route to Arak south of Hamedan. Malayer rugs contain traits of both Hamedan and Sarouk rugs and carpets, making their position relative to both cities relevant. Designs vary from diamond or hexagon-shaped medallions to allover patterns such as the traditional Herati motif. Although Malayer carpets were derived from traditional Persian roots, their designs are often geometric and abstract. The majority of Malayer rugs and carpets are single-wefted, resulting in visible white cotton warps on the rug's reverse. The combination of gentle hues with occasional dark blues and reds makes Malayer carpets wonderful ornamental elements for opulent settings.
Sarouk is the name of a community located around 40 kilometers north of Arak (Sultanabad). From the late 19th century through the early 20th century, this area became one of the most prolific carpet-weaving locations. Farahan was the most prominent designer in the city. To compete with Kashan in the rug market, Farahan developed carpets with central medallion patterns. Today, these rugs are known as Antique Farahan Sarouks from the nineteenth century.
Today, antique Sarouk rugs and carpets are among the most opulent room-sized Persian carpets of classical origin.
Produced in northwest Iran, antique Senneh rugs and carpets are highly regarded and cherished for their beautiful, delicate pattern and weaving skill. They are among the "thinnest" of all Persian carpets and are available in a variety of medallion or all-over designs with Herati repetitions on a tiny scale. Due to their single-weft construction, they tend to wear less than identical carpets manufactured in neighboring towns. Senneh rugs and carpets always have a precise geometric design that correlates to the weave's perfection. Richer to softer color tones are often present.
Some of the best Senneh rugs and carpets were knotted on silk foundations that were often colored in a spectrum of colors, giving their fringes a rainbow-like look. Although the majority of Senneh rugs were created in smaller or runner sizes and make wonderful ornamental accent rugs, several room-sized carpets were also manufactured.
Sultanabad / Mahal
The region around the city of Arak, which has a tradition of rug weaving reaching back to the mid-17th century, is where Sultanabad and Mahal create their carpets. The city was created in 1808 under the name Sultanabad, but in 1930 it was renamed Arak. The city is far older than these dates suggest. The title Sultanabad has come to designate the oldest and finest Mahal carpets, also known as Ziegler Mahals, named after a British business created in Manchester in 1883 that oversaw the manufacturing for sale to the West. The majority of Sultanabad and Mahal carpets have dramatic and flowery patterns, using either classical medallions or general motifs of vine scrolls and palmettes. Historically, typical hues were dark reds and blues with accents of gentle green and white.
Tabriz is the second-oldest city in Iran and was the dynasty's first capital. Since the 18th century, the city has been the leading producer of Persian rugs and the heart of the global weaving community. Weavers of Tabriz carpets are among the most competent manufacturers of high-quality rugs with the highest technical requirements and the most diverse repertory. Additionally, Tabriz carpets are the most widely trafficked rugs in the world. The designs are the most diversified of all Persian carpets, and weavers utilized a wide variety of motifs, ranging from traditional medallions to all-over patterns, in every conceivable hue, from brilliantly rich tones to subtle pastels. Interior designers who seek the finest beautiful Persian rugs and carpets are keenly interested in Tabriz rugs.
The Lori, also known as "Lor" or "Lur," is a large Iranian tribe residing in the Lorestan Province and throughout the Zagros Mountains. They are Iran's oldest known tribe. The Lori tribe has migrated from Lorestan to the Khuzestan Province in southern Iran, close to the Persian Gulf, throughout the years. The Lori tribe now resides among the Afshar, Bakhtiari, Kurd, and Qashqai tribes and only a tiny minority of them still live as nomads.
In the mid-nineteenth century, the weaving of Lori carpets started. Prior to the 1920s, rugs of this era feature a wool basis. Beginning in the 1920s, weavers mostly used cotton basis. Lori weavers are renowned for creating flatwoven carpets for private use. Some weavers add an additional weft to their flatwoven patterns that resemble Soumal techniques from the Caucasus. The majority of pile rugs are woven using Turkish (symmetric) knots, however, others are woven with Persian (asymmetric) knots. Lori patterns are geometric, combining Kurdistan and Turkmenistan tribal elements. Typically, Lori rugs feature an allover design consisting of diamond-shaped lozenges with or without Hook motifs, horizontal and vertical stripes, Turkmen Gul (flower), Shrub, Star, and S patterns, as well as foliage, animals, birds, and other tribal motifs. Tribal migrations and intertribal marriages led to design combinations.