Design of Isfahan Rug (Rugman)
|Original name||قالی اصفهان|
|Alternative name(s)||Isfahan Carpet|
|Common designs||Medallion, Tree, Islimi, Shah Abbasi|
|Common colors||Crimson, Cream, Navy Blue, Ruby, Begie, Blue|
|Dyeing method||Natural, Synthetic|
|Foundation material||Silk, Cotton|
|Knot type||Asymmetrical (Persian)|
Isfahan rugs originate from Isfahan, located between two mountain ranges just south of Tehran, Isfahan is the capital city of the province. The weaving of Isfahan rugs dates back to the 16th century. During its peak in the 17th century Isfahan became the capital of Iran. The most sought after Isfahan rugs are made by the very famous master weaver, Serafian. These rugs are in such great demand that a whole industry of counterfeit Serafian traditional rugs now exists. Buyer beware. The best protection is to purchase Isfahan rugs only from a reputable dealer who will provide a certificate of authentication. The skilled artisans of authentic Isfahan rugs ply their trade using Persian knots with varying KPSI (knots per square inch), depending on the quality of the rug.
Isfahan, also spelled Esfahan, is an important city and province located in central Iran. It is the capital of the province and is one of the largest cities in Iran. Isfahan is a historic city and is regarded as symbolic of culture and art dating back to the Safavid Dynasty. Isfahan became the capital city beginning in the late sixteenth century, and the School of Art was established there during this period. Under the Safavids the Islamic Shia sect was established in Persia, and famous mosques and palaces were built in the capital and other cities. Today these buildings are considered some of the finest examples of Persian architecture. In Isfahan the Safavid court also established and supervised the handcrafted art forms of carpet weaving, ceramics, miniature painting, metalwork, velvet manufacturing, and garment printing.
In the late sixteenth century Isfahan became famous in Europe for the art of carpet weaving. The carpets were woven for the Safavid palaces in Isfahan and used as gifts for foreign royal palaces. Isfahan carpets became extremely popular with European royalty and were soon purchased and commissioned by their personal agents in Isfahan.
Beginning in the seventeenth century Isfahan carpets were recognized not only for their beauty but also as signs of wealth. The nobility of Europe began purchasing carpets from Isfahan as floor coverings and gifts to family members. In this period Isfahan carpets were in demand and had reached their height in popularity in Europe, which continued up to the mid-eighteenth century.
Isfahan carpets of the Safavid period usually have a cotton foundation and a wool pile. Some other notable materials used for the woven foundation are a silk warp and cotton weft foundation with a wool pile; a cotton warp and silk weft foundation with a wool pile; and an all-silk foundation with a silk pile. A few Isfahan wool pile carpets were woven with silk highlights. There are some Isfahan rugs brocaded with gold or silver metallic thread, silk warps, and areas of silk pile. The Persian (asymmetric) knot was used for all Isfahan pile carpets and rugs during this period. In addition, a number of tapestry-woven Isfahan carpets were created with a silk foundation of high quality.
In 1722 Afghan armies overthrew the Safavid Dynasty, and carpet production slowed in Isfahan and other Persian weaving cities until the last quarter of the nineteenth century. By the turn of the twentieth century Isfahan began to reestablish its carpet weaving tradition, inspired by Safavid classical designs. Two important master weavers known from this period are Ahmad and Shoreshi, who were credited for their artistically drawn design cartoons and high-quality rugs and carpets.
Shoreshi's popular designs are the Shah Abbas style, the Shrub, and the Tree of Life. The shrub and tree of life designs are truly special and present the great art of Isfahan. These designs have several different garden shrubs with beautifully woven animals and birds in the field and border. Another Shoreshi design is the allover or center medallion with Shah Abbas style in the background and borders. Shoreshi used popular Safavid motifs in a more refined and delicate format and displayed them on an ivory background. This creative style greatly influenced Isfahan weavers, who continue to manufacture the style up to this day. The town of Nain, located sixty-two miles (too km) away from Isfahan, widely produced this Shoreshi style and became an important weaving town for domestic needs and foreign export.
Ahmad also made a number of designs. One popular style is the medallion with a delicate Shah Abbas palmette with flowers, leaves, and vines. Another well-known Ahmad rug style is the beautiful tree of life, featuring birds and animals in the design. The tree of life rugs by Ahmad are high in grade quality and are valuable in the antique market today. The field color of Ahmad rugs is mainly dark blue; ivory and red were also made. The Ahmad Isfahan rugs are known for the smaller sizes, which range approximately five feet by three feet to seven feet by four feet six inches.
During the second quarter of the twentieth century many Isfahan weavers switched the foundation from cotton to silk and continued to make high-quality carpets in the traditional style. Two notable master weavers were Hekmat Nejad and Serafian. Hekmat Nejad was a fine weaver known for producing high-quality rugs on a limited scale in Isfahan exclusively for the Pahlavi dynasty, for use as royal gifts for foreign ambassadors and officials. His carpets are signed with his name in Farsi. Hekmat Nejad designs are considered an art form and are prized in the market today.
Mohammed Reza Serafian was a master weaver well known for making high-quality rugs and designs. His weaving quality was extremely fine compared to other weavers of the era. Besides traditional designs, Serafian made landscape, Hunting, and pictorial styles for his rugs. His work is signed "Serafian Isfahan Iran," with an Iranian flag each side of this signature. Serafian rugs are world-famous and are appreciated as valuable art and as an investment.
After World War II the city of Isfahan and the surrounding suburbs continued the use of cotton foundation with traditional Shah Abbas styles. The quality of these carpets ranges from good to fine in grade, and the rugs are made for budget-conscious consumers for domestic use and foreign export. Many Isfahan carpets are on an ivory background with various shades of reds, blues, greens, gold, cinnamon, and browns for the design elements, medallion, and borders.
During the last quarter of the twentieth century some examples of silk pile on silk foundation carpets were produced in Isfahan, similar to other Iranian weaving cities, such as Kashan, Qum, and Tabriz which were largely producing this quality type during that period.
The carpet weaving industry in Isfahan has had a positive financial impact on the people living in the region. Isfahan has an important bazaar for marketing new, old, and antique Isfahan and Bakhtiari carpets. However, most finely woven Isfahans, which are made by master weavers, are traded at the home residence of the master by appointment. The sizes of Isfahan weavings range from small pillows to large palace dimensions. Safavid-period Isfahan weavings were made in sizes ranging from approximately three feet square to forty-five feet in length carpets, with most originally made in long and narrow gallery formats.
- Moheban, 2015, 252-256
- Abraham Levi Moheban. 2015. The Encyclopedia of Antique Carpets: Twenty-Five Centuries of Weaving. NewYork: Princeton Architectural Press.