Category: persian

Rug of the Week Carpet #21055

Persian Rug #21055, size 18’0″ x 10’10”

Antique Northeast Persian Carpet

Khorassan Province

Later 18th Century

Khorassan was a truly enormous Persian province, once extending all the way to the Oxus River, bordering on  true Central Asia. Even After the eastern parts were lost in the Afghan invasion after 1722, the province still encompassed vast areas of desert and steppe with important cities like Meshed and productive farmland. Carpet weaving in the area goes back centuries with Herat, the old capital and now in Afghanistan, famous in the 16th century for its fine rugs. Our antique Persian carpet is not from Herat, but was probably woven in the area around Qain (the Qainat) or more likely in the town itself as it has, as we shall see, all the marks of an urban production of the period.

After the fall of the Persian Safavid ruling dynasty in 1722, there was a decided fall off in patronage as the nation descended into invasions and disorder.  As a result, the remaining carpet workshops cut costs to survive and this meant, among other things, the elaborate medallion designs and the designers who conceived them were replaced by repeating patterns derived from textiles which could be easily and elegantly executed in pieces of any size or format. Thus appeared the now iconically Persian Herati, Gol Hennai, Mina Khani and Boteh patterns. Our design is a particularly felicitous variant on the Gol Hennai pattern.  A primary diamond lattice is formed by a repeat of four cypresses or leaves framing a large rosette and smaller rosette bosses uniting the cypresses. A thinner, secondary lozenge lattice connects the cypresses and large rosettes. This pattern is found in both northeast and northwest Persian rugs, runner and large carpets.  As to where it originated, that is unsure, but by the early 19th century it was in use both in Khorassan and in Azerbaijan in early antique Heriz carpets. In both areas light grounds, ivory as here, were the preferred overall tonalities.

The red-orange main border with in and out main palmettes, sickle leaves and smaller rosettes, all linked by double angular vines seems to appear about the same time as the field pattern, and the navy blue connected “S” guards are frequent accompaniments in both weaving areas. In sum, our 21055 is a perfect embodiment of a period style. Khorassan would thus seem to be the place of origin for the field /border design combination around 1750 or so.

The size and perfection of execution as indicated by the pattern balance in all directions implies an experienced and highly professional workshop working for discerning patrons who expected an artistically and technically superior product. Although many Persian carpets of the period are long and narrow, there are certainly exceptions and 21055 clearly predates the period of Western export demand.

The foundation is all cotton and the woolen pile is tied with the Khorassan version of the jufti knot (on four warps rather than two), giving a lighter handle than usual. In a culture where only unshod feet touch a carpet, this still gives plenty of wearability. Our piece is in good condition for its age and proper care will give it many more years of attractive appearance. All the colours are from natural sources; indigo for the blue and either madder or cochineal for the reds. Yes, you can make oranges from cochineal.

There are very few carpets of this post-Classic period surviving, especially in this large size and ultra-desirable colour scheme. Our carpet 21055 is a particularly attractive solution of a perennial question: how to cover a large floor area without excess busyness, keeping formality without rigidity and authenticity without making an overt issue of it.


Rug of the Week: Sultanabad 21242

A Sultanabad Carpet that is truly wild and uninhibited. Style trends come. Style trends go. Great, individual art is forever. Art is not something that has to be hung on a wall and intently or idly contemplated. Sometimes it turns up elsewhere and it is no less creative because of it. Great art happens and it is up to us to appreciate it. Some rugs are great art, some are barely acceptable craft.

The Persian carpet revival began in the 1870’s and in the 1880’s the English firm of Ziegler established a substantial presence in and around the town of Sultanabad in Arak province in western Iran. Although a comprehensive firm in its provision of dyed yarn, other materials, designs and cash orders to a vast network of local village weavers, it never organized fixed workshops. Every Ziegler is a folk art production, some more regimented than others. Sometimes something truly exceptional comes through and this is one.

No cartoon, no design sampler here, just the work of a handful of true artists. The wild, eccentric design has no obvious center among the red and ivory escutcheon palmettes, or among the middle blue vertical pendanted cartouches. Everything tilts to one side, but not vertigo-inducing, just enough to give a sense of irregular motion. There is nothing like it in the vast corpus of published Ziegler Sultanabad carpets of the 1882-1930 period. There is nothing like it among Persian carpets period.

The rare yellow border takes as its pattern slices of the allover Herati field pattern omnipresent in Persian rugs, but here much less compact and structured, more crazy and informal. The jogs in the minor guard stripes indicate the “lazy lines” indicative of weaver changes and one day’s work. Who directed the artisans, or did they work on their own? Was eccentricity catching?

Although of carpet size (10.8 by 13.3) our Sultanabad occupies a firm place in the pantheon of true art, not just “carpet art”. Virtually all art is to some degree commercial. The question is not what is the art form, or what are the materials, or what is the originating culture or artist, or how old it is, but only how good it is. This carpet answers that question most admirably.

Sultanabad rug #21242, size 13’3″ x 10’8″