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Persian RugsBy Charles W. Jacobsen
( Orginally published 1951 )
When most people think of an Oriental Rug, they visualize only the Persian Rug and think of it as having only the Persian design. Persia is now called Iran. The people in Iran have always called themselves Iranians and not Persians, but it is only recent years that we say Iran and not Persia. Ninety Per Cent of all Oriental Rugs sold in America and in Europe are from Iran. Practically all carpet sizes (6 x 9 ft. and larger) are from Iran. A few new Bokhara types, a few Chinese rugs in carpet sizes, and a good number of rugs from India comprise the other Oriental Rugs in large sizes.
Rugs from Iran are thought of as having distinctly floral patterns. The leaves, flowers, palmettes, rosettes, and other graceful and intricate patterns are found in the majority of rugs made in Iran. In contrast to the rugs from Iran, the rugs from Caucasia, Turkey, and Central Asia have designs that are mostly geometric and highly conventionalized floral designs (the designs of flowers and vines in stiff straight lines in contrast to the curving and realistic lines of the Persian Rugs.)
But to say that all rugs from Iran are floral in design is incorrect. The rugs from Northern Iran adjacent to Russia's Caucasia have the highly conventionalized floral design. These show a marked Caucasian influence and are always geometric in design. The Herez, Gorevans, Serabs and Karaja are more geometric than floral. Some of the Shirazes from Southern Iran have the geometric effect as do many Bahktiaris, Afshars and others.
Today Iran is the only country still producing rugs in great numbers. And where there were several million people weaving rugs in Iran prior to World War II, there are perhaps not more than a million weaving rugs to day. With America and the United Nations committed to improve the standard of living prevailing there at a few cents a day wages, it seems very evident that in another ten years there will be very few rugs woven in Iran. When daily rug weaving wages reaches $1. 00 a day, the rug industry will be ended as only the very rich will be able to afford handmade rugs that cost s1.00 a day to weave.
The capital of Iran is Teheran. The five principal rug weaving centers are the Cities of Hamadan, Sultanabad, Tabriz, Kirman and Meshed. It is in these cities that most of the looms for making large carpets are concen trated. In the neighboring villages are woven many rugs marketed in these cities. From Hamadan and the many villages come over half of our scatter sizes and runners. The vary greatly in designs and quality. If we gave :hem the name of the village from which they come, there would be so many names that it would be confusing. In addition to the Hamadans, there are woven in Hamadan and adjacent villages, rugs that in the trade are called Ingelas, Biblikabads, Dargazines, Borchalu, Lillihans, Mihribans and others. For my own classification, I call the first four of these Sena Kurds. They are, as a class, very excellent rugs.
In and around Sultanabad are woven most of the Sarouks, Mahals, Muskabads, Aracs and Sultanabads. People think of the city or village where the rug is made as being the name of the rug, and that is true in most cases. But in the case of Sarouks, practically all of them are woven in Sultanabad, and that has been true for fifty years. The village of Sarouk is small and could not produce many rugs a year. Sarouks are made in all sizes, but the other four types listed above are made only in the carpet sizes.
In and around Tabriz are woven not only Tabriz rugs, but the thousands of Gorevans, Herez, and Karajas that are sent to America yearly. There are fifty Gorevans and Herez woven there to one Tabriz rug.
The looms in Kirman produce only Kirman rugs. They vary greatly in quality and beauty.
From the City of Meshed in Eastern Iran comes the many types of the Mesheds and Khorassans, which are known in the trade as Ispahans, Ispahan Meshed, Turkbaffs and Khorassan. All of these are marketed by im porters as Ispahan Mesheds, Ispahans, Turkbaffs and Mesheds. Most of them are actually Mesheds and Khorassans. In my opinion, it is incorrect to call these Ispahans. The true Ispahan is a very fine and very thin rug, but dealers seem to like to impose on this famous name. Those offered in Khorassans and Mesheds are usually the lower quality.
The list of rugs below contains the name of every Persian Rug that has ever been listed in any rug book or which has been made at any time in Persia. (I probably will miss one or two.) Not one half of these types are now available today. At least they are not being made in Persia and they do not come to America. Some that are no longer made appear in the market from time to time from private collections and closing of estates.
Afshar - Gorevan - Kashgar
When one reads this list he must not get the idea that all of the named rugs are available today. Also he should remember that all sizes are not made in all types. Certain types are made only in certain sizes. For in stance, the Serab comes only in camels hair fields about 5 x 3 ft. to 7 x 3 ft. -9 to 18 x 3. 3 ft. They make no carpet sizes and no scatter sizes excepting the 5 x 3 ft. sizes. Rare exceptions do exist.
If you walk into most stores and are looking for a 9 x 12 ft. Oriental Rug you will generally find only Gorevans, Herez, Kirmans, Sarouks, Mahals, Aracs and Mihribans. As a rule, all will be new. The Gorevan and the Herez will be in natural color and the Sarouk will be either lightly treated or treated and painted. The Kirman will be lightly treated. They could also have a few Mesheds, a few Kasvins, a few Biblikabads (Sena Kurds) and a few Tabrizs in the 9 x 12 ft. because, as new rugs, they are slow sellers. See Chapter on Sizes Available, on Antiques and Semi-antiques, on each individual rug and on "changes" for full detail.
In extra large sizes most of the rugs are Kirmans, Sarouks, Kasvins, Herez, Ispahan Mesheds and Mahals. A limited number in semi-old Bijars, Kashans, Tabriz and Sultanabads may be found. Also, one will find a few large sizes in New Kashans and Biblikabads (Sena Kurds).
In scatter sizes, more than half of all available come from in and round Hamadan. Many scatter sizes are available in Sarouks, Kirmans, Karajas, Herez and Kasvins.
A check on the chapter or article on each type of rug will give full details on each rug. If this volume has not been published as you read this, 1 will at least have separate printed articles on each type of rug which I am now preparing.
While there is a great difference and a wide variety of designs among Persian Rugs, still they have enough similarity and enough in common to use most different type rugs together.
REMEMBER ABOVE ALL ELSE: NAME DOES NOT DEFINITELY DETERMINE THE QUALITY OF AN ORIENTAL RUG. Rugs by the same name vary greatly in quality and beauty.
Rugs of one name usually come in many different designs, though it is true that certain rugs adhere to one or two general designs. Some rugs, like the Hamadans, which come from scores of villages as well as from the City of Hamadan, employ so very many designs. In fact, the Hamadan come in just about every other design used by all other Persian Rugs excepting a Kirman and Meshed type. To have a better picture of Persian Rugs every one should be sure to read my chapter " Changes that have occurred in the past fifty years".
But Persian Rugs as a class have deteriorated less in quality in recent years than have the rugs from Turkey, Caucasia and Central Asia. Some of the types have deteriorated in quality while others have improved. There were poor rugs made in Iran fifty years ago just as there are some today, but time and wear has eliminated them so that only the good ones are being used.
The Hamadans and the Sena Kurds that are coming today in the scatter sizes are far better today than those that were on the market when I first started in business in 1924. In fact, those made during the depression years from about 1930 to 1940 are very superior types of this weave. These we do call semi-antiques.
The New Kasvins, mostly in carpet sizes, are as good in quality and in beauty as any carpet size I have seen, and that includes those that came a quarter of a century ago.
Afshars-always small rugs about 5 x 4 ft. to 7 x 5 ft. - have as a class deteriorated but still very beautiful and inexpensive semi-antique are coming in limited numbers.
Arac-always carpet size - have improved greatly in quality over those that were available in the period 1924 to 1940. In many cases they approach the ,quality of the Sarouk. Usually they are too bright unless lightly washed (treated). Usually in modern designs like the Sarouk.
Bahktiari - have practically ceased to come to America. These have definitely deteriorated in quality. Only one or two groups of dozar sizes (about 6. 6 x 4. 6 ft.) have come to New York since the war. They were too new and the color combinations were not beautiful. Would not compare to the Hamadans in beauty. On the other hand, from 1923 to about 1932, thousands of exquisite old ones came in the scatter sizes (6. 6 x 4. 6 ft. to 8 x 4 ft.) and a few carpet sizes. The carpet sizes did not have the quality of most of the small rugs.
Bahkshis - None whatever coming or being made.
Biblikabads - excellent new rugs are coming in old designs. Mostly in 9 x 12 ft. sizes, and a few very large carpet sizes. A limited number of scatter sizes and narrow runners.
Belooch - hardly any are coming today. Believe this is due to the difficulty in selling these because of their very dark somber colors. Very few ever came in anything but scatter sizes. Many will wonder why we classify Beloochs as Persian Rugs. See Belooch ( Beloochistan ).
Bijand - a name limited in the books. None have been sold under this name or imported under this name during the past twenty five years. Have never seen one in any collection.
Borchalou - a fine type of Hamadan which I call Sena Kurd. Available in large scatter sizes and 5 x 3. 6 ft. sizes in limited numbers.
I will not try to cover each type here. For full details on sizes and types available see chapter on "Sizes Available".
It would require hundreds of plates of rugs to give a good partial coverage of all the Persian designs. The few shown here can give only a very general idea.