PERSIAN ISFAHAN ORIENTAL RUGS
HISTORY & LOCATION
history of Isfahan oriental rugs goes all the way back to early 16th
century Persia during the rule of the Safavid dynasty (1502-1722). These
were the 'heydays' of Persian weaving.
The Shah Abbas was particularly remembered as a great patron of the arts in the 16th century.
Isfahan (also Esfahan), a city in west central Iran, was of great
importance since the Shah moved the capital of Persia from Qazvin to
Isfahan during his reign.
reign of Shah Abbas is considered the 'Golden Age of Persian Weaving.'
Antique Isfahan oriental rugs used sophisticated motifs in their designs
and exhibited great technical skill in their weaving.
Today, Isfahan is the 2nd largest city in Iran and an important industrial center.
during the period of Afghan domination of Persia from the early 1700s
through to around the 1920s, Isfahan rugs were rarely woven. Up until
World War I, Isfahan had instead become the center of weaving for the
fashion industry of Iran.
World War I, a change in fashion trends in the world caused Isfahan to
lose its place in the fabric industry. Fortunately, the weavers were
encouraged to utilize the wool used for fabrics to reestablish the rug
industry. Thus, the revival of weaving in Isfahan began. At the time,
the new rugs were sold mainly to Europe, since the United States favored
heavier styles of rugs which were able to be subjected to antique
washes, bleaching, and for some, painting.
the Great Depression, it became harder to sell rugs and the import of
Merino wool became too expensive. The weavers began to switch to native
Persian wool, a harder and more bristly wool than the Merino. It was not
until after World War II that Isfahan oriental rugs began to be of a
higher quality than those woven at the beginning of the revival because
of the better materials used.
The foundation of Isfahan
rugs consists of cotton (most often found in older Isfahans), wool or
silk depressed warps (up and down cords) and 2 shoots of blue cotton
sinuous wefts (side to side cords). (Depressed warps occur when the
wefts are pulled tightly from either side, displacing the warps into 2
Wool yarn is tied to form the pile. The pile is close
cut when finished which produces a clear design and a thin yet strong rug
construction. Some fine quality Isfahan oriental rugs can be found to
have silk as well as metallic thread accents throughout the pile. The
knot is asymmetrical (Persian) with 200 to 625 knots (and some higher)
per square inch.
interesting to note that during the garment period, weavers of Isfahan
used hand spun cotton, thus the foundation of the antique Isfahan
oriental rugs naturally contained hand spun cotton wefts (left to right
cords). Hand spun cotton has irregular areas where the thread is thicker
in some spots and thinner in others. This irregularity can actually
tend to make the rug more attractive, rather than be considered a
end is finished with a kilim (a flat area of varying size woven at the
end of the rug before the fringe is finished) with alternating red and
blue threads, followed by a knotted fringe. (These threads measure the
'kheft,' another way to measure knots per square inch.)
The sides have a single cord overcast in wool.
It is most common to find Isfahan oriental rugs in sizes 5x7 or smaller, though larger rugs can also be found.
The designs of Isfahan oriental rugs of the 16th century
were influenced by other art forms of the time including calligraphy,
bookbinding, and mosaic work, as well as by the poets of Persia. The
city of Isfahan itself was, and still is, an inspiration for the weavers
with its rich architectural history, including splendid mosques,
palaces, and bridges as well as textiles, handicrafts, and fine arts.
The designs of the rugs are
exquisitely intricate and curvilinear with delicate floral motifs.
Classical designs are also featured such as the vase, hunting motifs,
arabesque, scroll, as well as interlaced, spiraling vines known as
islimis. These spiraling 'islimis' can incorporate other design elements
and often finish at the center point of another motif, such as a
palmette. Nains, Isfahans, and Ardebils are examples of rugs also using
most common design of Isfahan rugs features a center medallion on a
floral-filled field, though hunting scenes and pictorials can also be
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