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.
Heriz Rugs: Captivating Geometric Designs and Bold Colors
Antique Heriz carpets are woven in village and towns in the East Azerbaijan region in the mountainout area around Tabriz in the northwest of Iran. The style is named after Heriz, the largest of these towns.
Traditional Heriz carpets feature distinctive large-scale motifs and a wide palette of warm colors, making the antique Heriz rug one of the most highly coveted Persian village carpet styles. Many Heriz carpets show the colors and design influence of Caucasian rugs due to the proximity of Heriz to that region. Persian Heriz rugs are instantly recognizable for their bold blues and rust red colors, with pinks, yellows, greens and ivory for contrast.
Unlike more traditional Persian rug styles such as the Kashan rug, which flowing, curvilinear arabesques and scrolls, Heriz Persian rugs are known for their rectilinear designs. The merchants of Tabriz sought to combine the elegance of traditional Persian carpets with the tribal charm of village weaving. Weavers adapted the geometric weave to create the signature Heriz style, typified by the classic “diamond on a square” medallion motif popularized in the late nineteenth century. In most traditional Heriz rugs, the design elements are outlined by two lines of contrasting colors.
The Abrash Color Technique is a Hallmark of Heriz Carpets
Modern Heriz rugs are often dyed using chemicals, antique Heriz rug makers were masters of vegetable dyeing. Vegetable dyes acquire a marvelous patina as they age. As is the case with Kashan rugs, Heriz rugs often feature a color technique called abrash, which varies the color from one end of the rug to the other through color shading or tone shifting. Heriz antique rugs, creates remarkable strength and depth of color and design.
The best antique Heriz rugs are woven with wool from the Shahsavan, a nomadic tribe residing in the Elbrus Mountains. Later, wool high in lanolin was imported from Tabriz.
A Heriz Persian rug is loosely knotted upon a thick, sturdy cotton foundation. The knots are tightly packed, giving the rug impressive durability.
Serapi Rugs and Gorevan Rugs Echo the Weaving Tradition of Northwest Persia
Popular variations of the Heriz rug are the Serapi and Gorevan styles. Heriz Serapi rugs, typically made before the 1900s, feature a finer a weave and curvier design. Gorevan rugs are known for their coarser grades. These carpet styles were originally developed in the town and villages neighboring Heriz, though today their names are used as a measure of a rug’s quality. In the United States, the best quality Heriz rugs are called Serapi carpets.
Handwoven Kilim Rugs: Turkish Weaving with a Storied History
Kilim rugs are a handmade, flat-woven carpet with no piles or knotted fluff. Although the word kilim is of Turkish origin, kilim rugs have been made in Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Morocco, the Balkans and Scandinavia, proving the flat-weaving technique spread far. Because these antique rugs are found across the globe, each region has a different pronunciation and spelling of the name Kilim.
Most experts believe kilims originated in the Anatolia region of modern day Turkey. The earliest examples of kilim rugs date back as far as the 4th century AD, although there is evidence the flat-weave technique probably began at about 1,000 BC in Egypt.
Qashgahii kilims from the Zagros region, along with Turkoman and baluch kilims from eastern Iran and central Asia, are among the styles now highly coveted by those who buy kilim rugs.
The techniques used to make vintage kilim rugs have changed little over the centuries. Whereas a pile rug is made by knotting short strands of different color onto warps and held together by pressing the wefts tightly against each other, the design of a Kilim rug is made by interweaving the variously colored wefts and warps.
The simple interlocking strands of wool, hair or fiber requires no backing, so Kilim carpets are thinner than traditional Persian rugs and Oriental rugs, making them popular as tapestries or use as bed coverlets.
The Distinctive Motifs and Colors of Kilim Carpets
Common motifs found in Kilim carpets include serrated leaf elements, zig-zag crenellations, shield medallions, diamond borders, and geometric designs. Many of the geometric motifs in kilims – “ramshorn” motifs and serrated medallions or “ashiks” – traveled with nomads as they spread to the Middle East. Elements such as perennials, pomegranates and fronds are popular in modern kilim carpets and vintage kilims alike.
The wide-ranging palette of reds, greens, oranges, and browns in antique Kilim carpets demonstrate the quality of dyes early Anatolian weavers had at their disposal. Many traditional kilim rugs feature warm, muted colors as the primary hues, with cooler tones used to create points of contrast.
The flat-weaving technique used to make Kilim rugs makes it difficult to produce continuous separations of color, so Kilims often have a stepped or crenelated appearance.
A Traditional Kilim Was Practical Before It Was Decorative
Woolen kilims are known for their strength and versatility. Long before Kilims became decorative pieces, tribal communities used them as floor coverings; as bedding or clothing; as horse blankets; for storage of grains; or draped as a shelter against the weather.
Lightweight and easy to transport, Kilims are especially popular in rug-weaving centers with warm climates, where shaggy rugs were not needed to keep warm.
Buying Antique Kilim Rugs and Contemporary Kilims
For many decades, antique Kilim rugs were considered artifacts of primordial tribal design unaffected by the influence of high art or foreign culture. Once overlooked as low status items, antique Kilims are now cherished as examples of the authentic weaving tradition of the Middle East.
We pride ourselves on a distinctive collection of Kilims. For those interested in buying vintage Kilim rugs, our collection of antique carpets offers an extraordinary range of designs and colors. We also carry a vast selection of more modern Kilims for the contemporary home. Shop online or contact us at our Charlotte, North Carolina location to shop for kilim carpets that reflect your style.