Oriental Rugs

Tabriz: Home of World-Renowned Persian Rugs

Tabriz is a large and active city in Iran on the Sahand range, which is located at an altitude of 1,000 meters and leads to Lake Urmia. The strategic location of this city, which is on the way trading routes, runs through Tehran, Istanbul and the Trabzons port of Turkey, making it one of the most important commercial centers of Iran. One of the primary exports of Tabriz has been Persian rugs, so named because Iran used to be called Persia. This area is well weathered, with moderate summers and cold winters, but it’s not too cold. This area is an earthquake-stricken area and has been destroyed five times by the earthquake.

The city of Tabriz has its ancient origins: it is mentioned in Assyrian sources, while the people believed it was built in 791 A.D by the caliph’s wife Harun al-Rasheed who tended to have a new city with a pleasant weather. At the time of Arab Caliphate, this city played a significant role and during the Seljuk Turks and Mongols period it was chosen as the capital of the government. At that time, mosque and magnificent buildings were built in the city, including the Kabood mosque which is also artistically important. This mosque had a valuable library and a famous painting school. As the beginning of the 16th century Tabriz was chosen as the first capital of the Safavids.

In the long period of conflict with the Ottomans, this city was a place of tension and it has intervened in the attempts of the northern provinces of Iran to join Russia from the late 18th to the early 20th. Accidents and wars didn’t cause Tabriz to lose its important role in business: Due to its neighboring with Turkish ports especially Trabzon, to European traders, it has always been considered an important city and they considered Tabriz as an important center for the production of handmade Persian rugs.

Rug weaving in this city has an ancient background and a long history. This city has been one of the main centers of rug weaving in the Safavid era. In subsequent periods, the demand of European companies operating in Tabriz also showed that rug weaving in high quality and special designs and styles has been widely common in Tabriz. In Tabriz Ziegler Company and an important German company PersischeTeppicheAktienGeSellschaft has branches in the field of rug weaving known as Petag, which were often adorned with classic designs. Persian rugs from Tabriz had a special elegance in the 19th century, and, alongside inspiration from traditional Iranian designs, they also used innovative designs. They were very careful in choosing the raw materials and its quality for Tabriz rugs.

These rugs are woven with symmetrical knots and often are made of cotton warp which is very compressed to the point that the back of the rug is prominent. Warps are composed of two or sometimes three strands of twisted array like (Z2S or Z3S). Occasionally, there are rugs which have silk fibers and are often colorful: in this case, these rugs are called seven-color in local dialect.

The weft goes through the knots twice, in the first row the weft is made of a strong and stretched cotton yarn which compresses the warp.

The second weft is thin and loose and it is made of a delicate cotton yarn which is usually azure or pink. In classic Tabriz rugs, woolen or silk wefts are rarely seen. Tabrizi weavers are among the fastest and most skilled weavers throughout Iran; traditionally, they have a hook to break knots in their rugs, which also has a blade to cut the knots. With this method, a weaver can do up to 12,000 knots per day, counting the time it takes to pass the wefts through warps twice. In Tabriz, the elegance of rugs is defined by the ridge: Each ridge is a unit with a length of about 7 centimeters. There can be 25 to 70 knots in a ridge. The elegance and the ridge count of Tabriz persian rugs is very different and the ridge count of 25, 35 and 40 can be seen from the old samples to the present. But ridge counts such as 50, which are more popular nowadays, are commonly used for export-oriented rugs and in this group ridge count of 60 and 70 are also seen. The excellent quality of Tabriz rugs is not only sue to the technical ability of the weavers, but also because of the possession of high quality raw materials, especially local wool, that was gotten from sheep which were bred in the mountainous region of Maku in the northwest of the province near the Turkey’s border and was often used for rug weaving but today, this process has changed a lot, the use of imported wool and spinning machine has greatly influenced the quality of this rug, especially in color shades that are affected by the raw materials. In Maku region, sheep’s wool is sheared twice a year. Spring shearing is happened in March, and an exceptionally elegant wool named KuzenjuniPashmy comes from the first shearing and it’s as delicate as Kashmir fiber. The strength of the used strands and the weft weaving method (LoolBaaf) caused Tabriz rugs to be durable and compact and feel a bit rough when touched. Among the woven rugs in Tabriz from the mid-nineteenth century to the first years of the twentieth century, there are countless silk samples which are rivals of the handmade rugs in Istanbul and Hereke. 

In these rugs which are weaved so accurately and nicely, sometimes traditional medallion designs and sometimes various and fresh designs are utilized and their tissue is often special for oversea markets. 

In the last decades, some inexpensive materials like tanning wool, which originate from sheep, were used in Tabriz rugs. In some cases, the double knots are used.  Sometimes you see a pair of similar rugs on a Tabriz loom and this causes a side of the rug undergo the binding process after the weaving ends.

The dimension of these rugs are so much various ranging from small to large size, even though there are some extra large rugs. Sometimes, some long rugs are weaved called running ones which are set on lateral sides of rugs and covers the floor. On superior part, another rug used to be weaved called “Kalagi” whose length was 2 to 3 folds of the width and lateral dimensions have 1-meter width and 3 or 4 meters length. The dimensions of the “Kalagi” is usually 4*1.5 or 4*2 m. once the coloring was totally botanical, but nowadays we use synthetic industrial colors.  A major feature of Tabriz rugs that have natural color and belongs to the last century, is less brightness of the piles, which is probably because of the water effect and a great deal of alkyne  in the dyeing process.

The used schemes  as before mentioned, are so various as “Janamazi”  and “TarheBaqi” rugs were observed among  classic medallion and corner designs and vase schemes in Safavid era. The rugs decorated by subtle and detailed “Harati” designs, are observed as well that these small designs covers all the background. In Tabriz handmade rugs, the traditional tissue of illustrated rugs decorated by hunting scenes are so much common that are similar to the Safavid era’s rugs. In opting the margins, the “Harati” or palmette flower designs were common, which once used to be called ” samovar ” or “turtle” designs. 

Also, cloudy design margins and some epigraph schemes of poem-like scripts or phrases of quran were commonly used. 

Among Tabriz-made Persian rugs, you can notice “Haji Jalili” which is named after the weaver master “Haj jalil Marandi” who lived in the late 19th century in Marand and his masterpieces are retained in some museum in 50s, an important workshop in Tabriz was managed by Tabatabai whose rug’s feature was the prompting the weaving by using a small technical modification. The second weft which was loose and azure wouldn’t cross each  knotwate but would cross each 10 or 30 wates, thereby the rugs were compact but no too heavy. Other famous Tabriz rugs are namely “faraji”,”Sedqiani” and “Alabaf”.

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