Design of Kerman Rug (Rugman)
|Original name||قالی کرمان|
|Alternative name(s)||Kerman Carpet|
|Common designs||Tree, Medallion, Boteh, Shah Abbasi, Farangi Gul|
|Common colors||Crimson, Begie, Ruby, Copper, Blue, Navy Blue, Pink, Green, Begie, Orange|
|Dyeing method||Natural, Synthetic|
|Pile material||Wool, Silk|
|Foundation material||Cotton, Silk|
|Knot type||Asymmetrical (Persian)|
Kerman rugs originate from Kerman (Persian: قالی کرمان), in southeastern Iran, is located just southeast of Tehran. This long time carpet weaving center is where the prized Kerman rugs is produced. Equal in quality to Tabriz and Isfahan, Kerman rugs has long been a favorite among western collectors who appreciate the superb craftsmanship and exquisite designs. Kerman rugs may be hand woven in both the city and surrounding villages, although those made in the city are though to be of a higher quality. Skilled artisans use Persian knots in order to create the intricate detail on these masterpieces.
Kerman, also spelled Kirman, is the capital city of the Kerman Province in southeastern Iran. It is an ancient city and an important trading center in southern Iran. Kerman carpets are found in museums and the market dating from the early seventeenth century. The city is famous for representing the fine woven art of Persia during the Safavid Dynasty. Kerman carpets have always been in demand for their pleasant colors and unique designs, and are woven in a high grade quality. Over the centuries it has been the pride of the Kerman people to produce very exquisite weavings. The ability of Kerman weavers is substantial, and their hard work, ambition, and dedication to their craft are respected worldwide.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, during the Safavid period, carpets with famous designs, including the allover Vase pattern and Shah Abbas palmettes with medallion, were made in Kerman. These carpets are held in the collections of respected museums around the world. Carpets woven in this period have a red, ivory, or blue background and were generally made twice as long as they were wide.
Carpet weaving in Kerman declined in the late eighteenth century, but the shawl industry, which originated in Kashmir, India, began to emerge. Shawls became fashionable as garments and as home decorations such as curtains, bedcovers, furniture throws, and Sofrehs (dining cloths).The famous Boteh (paisley) motif originated with the shawl. By the third quarter of the nineteenth century Kerman weavers started a limited production of carpets with Boteh designs. These carpets were made on a pomegranate-red cochineal field with additional traditional colors for the design elements. At times these weavings appear in the antique market. The sizes range from five feet by three feet to approximately fifteen feet by eight feet, as well as narrow gallery formats.
Beginning in the 1870s a small production of extremely fine rugs was begun in Kerman. These rugs are considered among the finest handmade antique rugs ever woven in Persia. In the Iranian market they are known as Kerman Ghargharehi. They were woven using the thinnest warp, called gharghareh, which means "tailoring thread." The rugs made were so fine that it is virtually impossible to count the knots per inch without a magnifying glass. These rugs have a dark blue background with an allover Boteh shawl design. The sizes measure approximately six feet by four feet. Today Kerman Ghargharehi rugs are considered collector's items and are occasionally found in the antique market and at auction.
By the second half of the nineteenth century Western countries recognized the artistic value of weavings from Persia and increased their demand, creating a boom for the carpet industry. Kerman became one of the largest Persian regions to produce rugs and carpets. Kermans were made with floral designs on a cotton foundation and a wool pile. Some examples made with a silk foundation and a silk pile have appeared in the antique market. The Persian (asymmetric) knot is universal.
During this period Kerman weavers mostly wove a center medallion, allover, tree of life, and pictorial styles. The allover pattern has traditional Lattice or vase designs with flowers, palmettes, leaves, and vines. The Tree of Life style features animals and birds. This carpet type was finely woven, and was even made with a silk foundation and a silk pile. Pictorial carpets of Kerman are well known in the world market. They are woven in a fine quality with artistically made designs, such as the Mashahir (historical world leaders) and those seen in the French Gobelins Royal Manufactory tapestries. Master weavers usually signed these carpets; some notable names are Abolghasem Kermani, Gholam Hossein Kermani, Milani, Mohammed Kermani, Ustad Asghar Kermani, and Ustad Hossein Kermani.
Kerman master weavers were known to sign their name on the top portion of carpet borders. It is interesting to note that all family surnames during this period were Kermani. Kerman residents before the Reza Shah Pahlavi regime (r. 1925-1941) used their birthplace as a family name. Under Pahlavi, Iranians were able to register and choose their own last name for identification.
The town of Ravar in the Kerman Province made fine carpets with pleasant colorations and designs. The town has been active since the 1870s and was a major production center for companies commissioning carpets. For years, carpets made here have been mistakenly called Lavar, and this designation is still used by dealers and consumers today. The origin of this error cannot be confirmed, but it is likely that it is the result of a European mispronunciation of Ravar. There is no location known as Lavar in Kerman Province.
Another error introduced by some American dealers is the naming of Ravar Kerman rugs Kermanshah for better marketing purposes. This term has caused confusion, since no carpets were made on a commercial workshop scale in the actual town of Kermanshah, which is in northwestern Kurdistan, only by the local Kurd tribes in the hinterlands. Recently, dealers have corrected this mistake and started using the proper original name.
It should be noted that Kerman Province also produces Afshar tribal rugs and carpets. These rugs are known in the market from the mid-nineteenth century. Early Afshars were made on a wool foundation with a wool pile. By the second quarter of the twentieth century most were made on a cotton foundation with a wool pile.
Buying agents from Western countries began to establish offices in Kerman during the last quarter of nineteenth century. In general, these companies bought Kerman carpets from the markets and retained their own weavers for specific commissions. Some notable companies that purchased and commissioned carpets were Castelli Brothers, Costykian, Gasparian, Ghazan, Karagheusian, Talfian, and, later, the Atiyeh Brothers in America, OCM of London, and Mehdi Dilmaghani Company. The carpet industry grew so large in Kerman that it was common for these companies to poach loom weavers from their competition.
Once the carpets were completed, however, the weaving companies had the difficult task of transporting them. The carpets would be rolled into bales, then put on camels or other animals, and sent south to the Port of Bandar Abbas, Iran, or the Port of Bombay in India. At the ports, the bales were placed onboard ships bound for Europe and North America. It would take approximately three months for the carpets to reach their final destination.
The early twentieth century brought a new era of color choices. Companies such as OCM, Ghazan, and Dilmaghani started using dark blue background coloration with traditional designs. They were successfully marketed in Europe and America. Kerman Province is one of the few places where dyers would color their wool before spinning it. This dyeing practice gives Kerman weavers vivid carpet coloration without Abrash, or color changes, in the carpet.
After World War II the French Savonnerie Carpets style of an open field with broken border pattern was created to satisfy demand by the American market. These carpets featured ivory or red backgrounds and were mass-produced in Kerman. During this period many famous local master weavers, such as Ajdari, Arjomand, and Rashid Farokhi, and manufacturers such as Sherkat Farsh had taken over the majority of the weaving production in the Kerman Province. Sherkat Farsh, a government-owned and -supervised carpet company, was weaving carpets and rugs in most provinces in Iran, including Kerman. The carpets were woven with high-grade quality wool with natural dyes and traditional designs. These carpets had two different grade qualities, very good or fine. Carpets produced by local Kerman companies in this era found success with new designs and color palettes. In addition to traditional designs, the allover Millefleurs pattern was made using different background colorations, along with miniature shrubs on grass designs—those with animals and birds are called Sabzeh Kahri and were a popular and particularly attractive pattern. Mosaic and panel designs were also woven during this time.
During the last quarter of the twentieth century approximately 80 percent of the families living in the Kerman Province had income related to the carpet industry. Kerman continues to be a major carpet producing region, with a high volume of product made for both domestic use and foreign export.
Kerman carpets and rugs range in size from small pillow sizes to large palace pieces. A small percentage of runners and gallery formats are also made.
- Moheban, 2015, 302-306
- Abraham Levi Moheban. 2015. The Encyclopedia of Antique Carpets: Twenty-Five Centuries of Weaving. NewYork: Princeton Architectural Press.