Kashan Rugs: A Tribute to the Safavid Dynasty of the Persian Empire
Kashan rugs are an export from one of Iran’s oldest cities, Kashan, dating back to the 17th century or late 16th century. Kashan was a hub of silk production beginning with the Safavid dynasty, a golden age of Persian weaving under the reign of Shah Abbas.
Contemporary Kashan rug sales began toward the end of the 19th century, when Kashan merchants hoped to replicate the success of weaving shops in Tabriz to the north. During this era, many antique Kashan rugs were commissioned for individual homes. The best Kashan carpets of the 19th-century and turn of the 20th century are formal, traditional and luxurious.
The warp and weft of Kashan rugs are usually made of cotton with the traditional asymmetrical Persian know. The thin double weft is often woven between 120 knots per square inch and 840 knots per square inch. The finished texture of Kashan rugs is soft to the touch. The best Kashan carpets use a superior quality of wool that sometimes has silk mixed in.
An antique Kashan rug was colored with vegetable dyes, which contribute to their unique texture, but
modern Kashan rugs (from the 1930s) use contemporary chrome dyes.
The highly sought after curvilinear designs of Kashan weaving was popularized by Kashan weavers in the early 1900s. The Kashan rug typically centers around a teardrop medallion, though intricately detailed motifs like palmettos, blossoms, leaves and arabesques are common, as well. The “Royal Garden” of Kashan is the source of a notable garden motif that is the archetype of Persian carpet designs. Another inspiration for many Kashan carpets is the “Garden of Paradise.”
Pakistani Kashan Rugs
When the Mogul empire spread through Iran to the Indian subcontinent, the work of Persian weavers was carried to modern day Pakistan. The city of Lahore today produces the vast majority of modern Pakistani Kashan rugs.
Like their Iranian forebears, Pakistani Kashans use a wool pile on a cotton base. Mogul Kashan rugs use the Senneh knot, an asymmetrical double knot that produces a dense, heavy weave, making them extremely durable. One of the main distinctions between Iranian and Pakistani Kashan rugs is the use of color. Pakistani Kashans feature predominantly pastel shades, whereas a traditional Persian Kashan carpet may include richer reds, greens and blues.
Motasham Kashan Carpets: Exceptional…and Exceptionally Rare
Motasham Kashan carpets are the rarest group of Kashan carpets. They feature non-traditional designs and color palettes and were woven with lamb’s wool renowned for its luminous, reflective sheen. True Motasham Kashan rugs are finely knotted and extremely difficult to find.
Dating from the middle of the 19th century, antique Motasham Kashan carpets are among the finest Persian carpets. Early Motasham Kashan rugs (pre-1850) use a technique known as abrash, marked by an emotive use of color shading and color shifts. They commonly feature an antique ivory or gold background and subtle pastel tones throughout the weave. Over time, the dyes in an antique Motasham rug will soften and acquire an earthy patina. The rich lanolin will rise to the surface of the wool fibers over time, given the rug an extraordinary luster.
Gabbeh Rugs are Part of a Rich Persian Tradition
The traditional Gabbeh Persian carpet – known as gava in Kurdish and Luri and called khersak in Bakhtiari – is a simple, hand-woven pile rug traditionally made by the nomadic Qashqai tribes who dwelled in the Zagros Mountains of southern Iran, near the city of Shiraz. Other tribes, such as the Lurs, the Kurds and the Bahktiari also weave these carpets.
In Persian, the word “Gabbeh” means “fringe” or “in the rough.” Gabbeh rugs are rough cut and long piled rugs of rich color and the best quality wool. Most Gabbeh carpets are medium size – up to 3’ x 5’ – and feature abstract designs where shapes and color dance playfully with one another.
Variations of the gabbeh rug – such as the “Loribaft”, “Amaleh”, “Kashkuli” – may reflect the heritage of the tribe by which they are woven or the name of the city in which they are most often traded, such as “a Shiraz Gabbeh.”
The 19th century gabbeh rugs were very coarsely knotted (40kpi or less), often with shaggy pile. The name of Gholam Reza Zollanvari is synonymous with modern Gabbeh rugs. Zollanvari learned the rug business from his grandfather, a merchant in the Shirazi rug bazaar. Zollanvari pioneered the construction of fine-weave gabbehs with knot counts of 200+ kpi. Today, Zollanvari rugs are among the most popular styles of Persian rugs.
The Making of a Gabbeh Rugs: A Craft Shared Across Generations
Most Gabbeh carpets are made by women, and many are one-of-a-kind works of art. Some patterns are passed down thru the generations as mothers and grandmothers teach their daughters the art of Persian rug making. Many patterns reflect the weaver’s observations of the environments through which the tribe has passed. Some rugs are even made by the hands of many weavers.
Traditional Gabbeh rugs were woven on makeshift ground looms. These looms are built with materials are carried long distances by the nomadic tribes, or materials found where the tribe settled. Since each loom is unique, each rug is unique; this is how Gabbeh rugs get their distinctive irregular in shape.
Woven with the Wool of Mountain Sheep
Gabbeh rugs are woven from high quality wool from the tribe’s own sheep. As the tribe herds its sheep over hundreds of miles, the nomads reach high altitudes. In the summers, they stay in the highland pastures north of Shiraz in the Zargos Mountains; by winter they sojourn to pasture lands near the Persian Gulf. Sheep grazed in high altitudes produce more lanolin, giving their wool a luxurious softness and resistance to stain.
Rich, Colorful Dyes Give Gabbeh Carpets a Remarkable Color
The Qashqai people find the dyes used in Gabbeh carpets or purchase them in towns where they trade their finished carpets. Often, they use all-natural vegetable dyes to give the wool vibrant color while retaining its lanolin.
Hand-Knotted Rugs with Turkish Symmetrical Knots and Persian Asymmetrical Knots
Most of the wool used in the construction of Gabbeh rugs is handspun using a drop spindle. After the wool has been dyed and handspun, the weaver uses the loom to hand-knot the rug using Turkish symmetrical knots or Persian asymmetrical knots, or even a combination of the two. Because the all the Qashqai tribes use both types of knots, it is difficult to tell from which individual tribe any one rug has come from.
Gabbeh Rugs Are Small – Often Just 3’ x 5’ in Size
A typical size for a Gabbeh carpet is 3 feet by 5 feet. It can take 18 to 25 hours to weave even a small Gabbeh rug. Tribal Gabbeh rugs usually have lower knot counts compared to other types of Persian carpet. This low knot count and the high quality of wool makes Gabbeh rugs famous for their exceptional durability.
Durable Floor Coverings, Wraps and Bedding to Protect from the Mountain Cold
Gabbeh rugs are often floppy because they have wider rows of multiple wefts. This made the soft, pliable rugs ideal as wraps or bedding to insulate against the bitter cold of the mountains.
Gabbeh rugs are often not symmetrical due to the nomadic lifestyle of their creators, and color variations within a rug are common. Often, the variation in color in a rug tells a story of the tribe’s migration, the climates and environments it encountered, and the tribe members who contributed to its creation.
Where to Buy Gabbeh Rugs
Unless you plan to travel to Iran to shop for Gabbeh rugs in the marketplace, we’d suggest buying a Gabbeh rug online from RugSource.com or visiting our showroom. We’re proud to bring these highly coveted rugs to you – please contact us if you’d like to know more.