Types of Persian City Rugs
Afshar rugs are woven by nomads and villagers residing between the cities of Shiraz, Kerman, and Yazd in southeastern Iran. Afshar style, like most Persian styles, is copied by other areas of Iran as well as other countries such as India, China and Pakistan. These rugs, as most nomad rugs, are generally small. They are made in sizes of up to 5x7 ', and occasionally larger sizes.
Afshar rugs are similar to Caucasian rugs in style and color. The pattern is usually geometric. Some common designs consist of multiple connected medallions in diamond shape, single medallions in diamond, hexagon or octagon shape, or a huge hexagon medallion almost covering the entire field. All-over gul farangi (roses), botehs, and chicken-like motifs (Afshar-e-Morghi in Persian) are also common. Another common design is a floral medallion and corner and a vase at each end of the rug. The common colors include dark red, reddish brown, brown, dark reddish-blue, dark blue, burnt orange, ocher, and camel; white, ivory and yellow are used to create contrast.
The symmetric (Turkish) knot is mainly used; however, the asymmetric (Persian) knot is also sometimes used. The foundation is often wool, but cotton foundation is also seen in more recent rugs. Most Afshar rugs are marketed in the cities of Shiraz, Kerman and Yazd.
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The motifs used in Ardabil rugs, similar to Caucasian rugs, are predominantly geometric in pattern and the most common layouts tend to be medallions, multiple connected diamond-shaped medallions, and all-over octagonal shapes; however, the borders of Ardabil rugs have more motifs and objects woven in them than Caucasian rugs. The colors are also lighter.
Ardabil rugs come in almost all sizes, but most are smaller sizes such as zar-o-nim (3x5 ft), pardeh (5x8 or 5.5x9 ft) or runner. The rugs come in background colors of turquoise, buff, cream, navy and light green.
Ardabil is a town located in the province of Azerbaijan in northwestern Iran. Ardabil is a few miles south of the border of the country, Azerbaijan, in the Caucasus region. Rug weaving has a long history in Ardabil. The name Ardabil is associated with the well-known Ardabil rug woven in the 16th century now in Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.
During the reign of Safavid Dynasty in the 16th and 17th centuries similar to other rug weaving centers in Iran, rug weaving was at its peak in Ardabil; however, during the reign of Qajar Dynasty (1794-1925) it reached its lowest point. It has been approximately 80 years since this industry has begun production again in a limited scale. Ardabil weavers from 80 years ago and especially during World War II, when rug weaving in Shirvan and other rug weaving areas of the Caucasus had stopped, borrowed from very successful Caucasian designs and employed them in their own rugs.
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Bidjar rugs are mainly woven in the town of Bidjar and its surrounding villages. Bidjar is located in the province of Kurdistan in northwest of Iran. Bidjar rugs are mostly considered village rugs because whether woven in the town of Bidjar itself or its surrounding villages, they are woven inside houses rather than workshops. The pattern of Bidjar rugs is a combination of curvilinear and geometric with curvilinear being dominant. The favorite colors of Bidjar weavers consist of navy, cherry red, brown, light blue, pink, yellow, ocher, orange, beige and ivory. The symmetrical (Turkish) knot is mainly used although the asymmetrical (Persian) knot is seen as well.
One of the most common motifs used in Bidjar rugs is the herati motif. This motif can be seen in both the all-over and medallion layouts. The signature design of Bidjar rugs is the herati medallion-and-corner, which has a very large hexagon-shaped medallion usually with pendants. Often several hexagon medallions are woven inside one another and they become larger as they get further away from the center. In this design, the entire rug with the exception of the borders is filled with herati motifs.
In addition to the herati motif, other all-over motifs and designs used in Bidjar rugs are boteh, mina-khani, zell-i-sultan and gul farangi.
Bidjar rugs generally tend to have several minor borders, and one frequently seen motif in the border is the Shah Abbasi motif.
Bidjar weavers beat the weft strands against the rows of knot repeatedly until the weave becomes extremely compact. As a result, Bidjar rugs are dense, heavy, and exceptionally durable. Since the warp and the weft strands are so firmly pressed together, if Bidjar rugs are folded, their foundation may break. Therefore, they should not be folded; they should be rolled.
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Ferahan is a village located in the province of Markazi in central Iran. Older ferahan rugs are very popular in the West. Most ferahan rugs have a geometric pattern although some curvilinear rugs are woven in ferahan as well. These high quality rugs are mainly woven by the asymmetrical knot on cotton foundation.
The rugs from this area can be divided into two types. The first type is characterized by an all-over layout, usually an endless repeat, with motifs or designs such as the herati, gul hannai, boteh or mina-khani. Herati, being the most popular motif, has many variations and the boteh motifs are usually woven inside hexagon-shape panels.
The second type is characterized by its medallion layout. The medallions can be large hexagon, diamond, or oval shapes with large pendants. The corners are so long that they either almost meet or do meet near the center of each border on each side of the rug. Two common motifs used in the field of these rugs are the herati and gul hannai.
Sunburst Medallion A special kind of medallion design is a large circular serrated medallion similar to a radiating sun; this design is known in the trade as 'sunburst.' The field of this design is not very crowded. A small section of a medallion identical to the center medallion is woven at each end of the rug, interrupted by the border.
The palette is dominated by indigo blue, dark and other shades of green (green is more frequently used than in most Persian rugs), yellow and orange-red. Black or deep blue are used for outlining the motifs. The size of most ferahan rugs is do-zar (about 4.5x7 ft).
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Isfahan is located in western central Iran. Isfahan rugs have been and still remain very famous worldwide. Since Isfahan has been a capital city of many rulers including Shah Abbas of Safavid Dynasty, many mosques, palaces and other great monuments have been built in Isfahan, especially during the reign of Shah Abbas in the 16th and 17th centuries when Isfahan was a great center of art. These buildings have greatly influenced the rug designs of Isfahan.
One very common design is based on a large round medallion resembling the tile (mosaic) work of the interior of the dome of the Sheikh Lotfollah's Mosque. Other designs include Shah Abbasi medallion and corner, islimi medallion and corner, trees with animals, Shah Abbasi all-over, geometric medallion and corner, and pictorals of people and nature, sometimes based on Safavid miniatures. Many colors are used in an Isfahan rug; seldom less than 15 colors are used in one rug. The colors most commonly used are turquoise, navy, red, beige and pale mushroom. The background and the borders are visibly divided by usually two to five minor borders.
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Joshagan rugs are made in the town of Joshagan and the nearby villages in the province of Esfahan in north central Iran. Joshaghan rugs are woven on cotton foundation with wool pile and the use of the Persian (asymmetrical) knot. Because of their high quality and limited production, they are considered very good investments and are relatively expensive. The higher quality items are sometimes sold under the names of the neighboring villages, Meimeh or Murcecar. Joshaghan rugs are woven in both village and workshop settings.
Joshaghan's signature design consists of geometric floral motifs arranged in the shape of diamonds. Sometimes geometric versions of the willow tree and gul hannai in diamond arrangements are among the floral motifs. This design may be woven in an all-over or medallion-and-corner layout.
Arrangements In the case of the medallion-and-corner, the medallion itself is also a diamond and the corners are straight lines creating triangular corners. Both the medallion and the corners are also filled with diamond shape floral arrangements. The Mina-khani design is also used in Joshaghan rugs.
The background color of Joshaghan rugs could be either deep red or deep blue, and the motifs are woven in colors of dark blue, light blue, white, green, beige, red and yellow. The border is usually beige or blue.
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Kashan rugs are woven in workshops of the city of Kashan, in north central Iran. Kashan rugs style, like most Persian styles, is copied by other areas of Iran as well as other countries such as India, China and Pakistan. Their pattern is almost always curvilinear. One traditional design is an elongated diamond-shaped and lobed medallion with floral (usually Shah Abbasi) pendants. This design is one type of the Shah Abbasi medallion. The entire rug including the medallion itself, the corners (in the case of medallion-and-corner), the borders, and the field are filled with Shah Abbasi and islimi motifs. It is common for this traditional design to have a navy medallion with similar corners and border in a red background or vise versa.
A Form of Shah Abbasi Motif Another frequently seen design is all-over Shah Abbasi. Other designs include vase, hunting and pictorial. The field is usually covered with palmettes and arabesques. The common background colors are navy, rich red, beige and ivory. Common design colors include red, blue, turquoise, ocher, beige, white, brown and occasionally green. The asymmetric (Persian) knot is used in Kashan rugs woven in Kashan.
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Kerman rugs are woven in the city of Kerman in southeastern Iran and several small towns and villages in the vicinity. The pattern of Kerman rugs is almost always curvilinear with the exception of the famous Kerman pictorials which fall under the pictorial category of pattern. Kerman rugs are woven in a variety of intricate designs from cartoons.
The more modern designs mainly developed for the Western market in the late 19th century are either Aubussons or Koran (Quran) medallion-and-corners with an open field. The open field is actually an important distinguishing characteristic of these modern Kerman rugs. The traditional Kerman designs consist of Shah Abbasi medallion-and-corner, all-over floral, all-over boteh, striped designs, paneled garden, tree-of-life, prayer, vase, garden, hunting, animal, and the famous elaborate pictorials using both Persian and European themes. Usually 15 to 30 colors are used in one rug. The two most common colors used in antique and semi-antique rugs are rich red and red-blue. More recent rugs tend to have pastel colors such as lime green, pink, ivory and gray-blue. Turquoise, orange, champagne and beige are also among the commonly used colors. Kerman rugs are woven with the asymmetric (Persian) knot.
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The name Lavar is used to describe two types of rugs. The first type are rugs woven in the town of Lavar, located in northeast of Kerman, which produces rugs mainly in the Kerman style. One special Lavar design is called the 'thousand flower.' As its name implies, flowers cover the entire field of the rug. The name Lavar or Lavar (a corrupted version of Lavar used in the west) is also used to describe the highest quality rugs made in and around Kerman, whether or not actually made in the town of Lavar itself.
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Mashad is the capital city of the province of Khorasan in northeastern Iran. This holy city is famous for the shrine of the eighth Shiite Imam, Imam Reza. Another factor which has given Mashad great significance, is its geographical positioning in eastern Iran. In addition to being a rug-weaving center, Mashad is also a trade center for the rugs of its neighboring villages and tribes such as Baluchis and Turkomans of Iran, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Majority of Mashad rugs are woven in workshops; others are made on home-based looms in surrounding villages. Mashad mostly produces large rugs. The majority of Mashad rugs are woven with the asymmetrical (Persian) knot although the symmetrical (Turkish) knot is found.
The pattern of Mashad rugs is almost always curvilinear. The most common Mashad design is shah abbasi medallion-and-corner with large pendants. This design is sometimes similar to the Kashan shah abbasi medallion-and-corner with a diamond shape medallion and a background filled with shah abbasi motifs, and other times it is similar to Kerman Koran medallion-and-corner design with a plainer background; however, the medallion tends to be more circular than Kerman medallions.
One unique characteristic, which helps differentiate Mashad rugs from Kashan rugs, but not necessarily from Kerman rugs, is their elongated corners. The corners of the Mashad medallion-and-corner layout are so long that they either almost meet or do meet near the center of each border on each side of the rug. Another characteristic in this design which can help distinguish Mashad rugs from other rugs, but it makes them even more similar to Kashan rugs, is the weavers' almost exclusive use of deep red for the background and dark blue for the medallion, corners, and the border. However, all colors are used in creating the motifs.
In addition to the shah abbasi motif, other motifs used by Mashad weavers are herati and boteh, usually in an all-over repeating or endless repeat. Mashad rugs with the herati motif are sometimes marketed under the name of the province, Khorasan. These designs are not always woven in the typical Mashad red and blue. In fact, beige, camel, and brown are colors commonly used to create the herati and boteh all-over designs. Some pictorials are woven in Mashad as well.
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The city of Nain is located in the central Iranian province of Esfahan. Prior to the 1930s, men's cloaks (abaas) were woven in this city; however, as cloaks went out of fashion, the rug industry replaced the cloak-industry. Nain rugs are woven with the asymmetrical (Persian) knot inside both workshops and homes, and are sold through the bazaars of the capital city of the province also named Esfahan. Although the majority of Nain rugs have either wool pile, or wool pile with silk highlights, all-silk Nain rugs are woven as well. The foundation of Nain rugs can be either cotton or silk.
Nain rugs are known worldwide for their fine weave and extremely detailed curvilinear designs. They are similar to Esfahan rugs in both design and construction. One main difference is that more animal motifs, especially birds, are used in the background of Nain rugs. One distinguishing trait that sets Nain rugs apart from other styles is the use of the islimi motif. The common designs consist of star medallions, shah abbasi and islimi medallion-and-corner, all-over shah abbasi, mina-khani, and paneled (often curved panels). It is common to see floral (mainly shah abbasi) and animal motifs (frequently birds) inside the panels and even inside the compartments of the mina-khani. The shah abbasi motif is the most common border motif.
In the shah abbasi and islimi medallion-and-corner design, the medallion is frequently round and surrounded by about 16 shah abbasi motifs in a way that the medallion resembles the center of a large flower and the shah abbasi motifs surrounding it are its petals. The pendants attached to the top and bottom of the medallion are large and very noticeable. The background of the rug is filled with shah abbasi and islimi motifs. Each corner is a quarter of the circular medallion, and the border is filled with shah abbasi motifs.
One distinguishing characteristic of Nain rugs is their restrained yet elegant palette. The colors used in Nain rugs tend to be muted rather than bright. White, ivory, beige, buff, light gray, light blue, turquoise, navy, light brown, camel, and burgundy are among the most frequently used colors with beige and navy being the dominant background colors. Red and green are also used but to a much lesser extent.
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Qum rugs are woven in workshops of Qum, a city of northwest central Iran. Since rug production did not begin in Qum until about seventy years ago in 1930s, Qum doesn't have any traditional designs of its own. Qum weavers prefer to weave the most favorable designs of other Persian weaving groups and sometimes Caucasian weaving groups and adjusting these designs to their own taste. It is possible for Qum rugs to be mistaken with Kashan or Esfahan rugs. However, they will not be mistaken with Tabriz rugs because Qum, Kashan and Esfahan rugs are woven with the asymmetric (Persian) knot and Tabriz rugs are woven with the symmetric (Turkish) knot. All silk, part silk/part wool, and kork (fine wool taken from the belly of sheep) Qum rugs are very well-known in Iran and abroad. The foundation of Qum rugs could be either cotton or silk.
Most Qum rugs have curvilinear patterns, and very elaborate floral motifs with intricate leaves and vines. As mentioned above the designs are varied, taken from different weaving groups. Some designs used in Qum rugs consist of vase, moharramaat, mir-i-boteh, zell-i sultan, panelled garden, hunting, tree-of-life, pictorial, Shah Abbassi melallion-and-corner with usually a circular medallion, all-over Shah Abbasi, medallion with open field, medallions resembling the famous Esfahan Sheikh Lotfollah medallion, prayer and all-over gul farangi (roses). The gul farangi motif seems to be a popular motif also used in vase, tree-of-life, and zell-i sultan designs.
A paneled design containing very different motifs in each compartment is also common; the motifs inside the compartments can consist of pictorials, vases, hunting scenes, and botehs all in one rug. The colors used in Qum rugs are as diverse as the designs. The overall appearance could either be pale with background and border colors such as ivory, champagne, turquoise and light green, or it could be dark with background colors such as dark blue and even sometimes red. Red, blue and green are also used as motif colors. Other commonly used colors in Qum rugs are mushroom, rose, gold, yellow ocher and orange ocher. In silk Qum rugs, golden yellow outlines are sometimes woven around the motifs.
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Sarab is located in the province of Azerbaijan in northwestern Iran. Sarab is famous for good quality runners of 10 to 20 ' long and 3 ' wide and also doormat size rugs. Sarab weavers also weave small rugs of about zar-o-nim (3x5 ft) and do-zar (about 4.5x7 ft).
The pattern of Sarab rugs is almost always geometric. The predominant layout is a long medallion and corners. The corners look similar to the medallion. Many times medallions are hex-column, meaning two or three hexagons attached to each other. The borderline of the medallion is zigzagged. The background is usually in camel hair left un-dyed or could occasionally be blue or red. The motifs are woven in red, brown, blue or buff. The background is usually not very crowded.
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Sarouk is a village located in the province of Markazi in central Iran. Sarouk rugs are made in and around this village in both village and workshop settings. In general these well-known rugs are of very high quality. They are woven with good quality wool on cotton foundation with the asymmetrical knot. Sarouk rugs can be geometric or curvilinear in pattern.
Sarouk rugs come in the two types of traditional and American Sarouk rugs. The traditional designs consist of herati, boteh, or gul hannai motifs in either an all-over or medallion layout. The medallion layout could have a hexagon, oval, diamond, round or angular floral-shape medallion. The most interesting traditional design is a medallion-and-corner layout which consists of geometric yet very naturalistic floral motifs. After World War I, the American Sarouk design of disconnected floral sprays which seem to be branching out from a floral medallion or medallion-like center became very popular. Sometimes these rugs have an open field similar to modern Kermans. Sarouk weavers also weave beautiful prayer/vase combination rugs, which tend to be as curvilinear as the American Sarouks.
The main colors used in the traditional designs consisted of red, blue, burnt orange, ocher and champagne. The main colors used in American Sarouks are rich reds and blues. Sometimes the motifs are outlined with a lighter red, light yellow or turquoise to create contrast between the background and the motifs, especially in the case of the open field design. An intense salmon pink called dughi pink is typical of the American Sarouks; this color is obtained by adding yogurt or curdled milk to the dye mixture. A mixture of yogurt and water is called Dugh in Persian. This color was one of the reasons American Sarouks became so popular in the United States. Today, American Sarouk designs are also copied in India, Romania and China.
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Tabriz rugs are woven in workshops of Tabriz and its vicinity. Tabriz is the capital of Eastern-Azerbaijan province in northwest of Iran. Tabriz is one of the most important rug weaving centers in Iran. Although a variety of curvilinear designs are woven in Tabriz, geometric rugs can also be found. Tabriz rugs mostly use the symmetric (Turkish) knot.
Tabriz designs are the most diverse designs of Iran. Tabriz weavers use many different Persian and universal designs and motifs in their weaving. Often rather than directly copying these designs, they use their own interpretations such as their interpretation of the herati medallion-and-corner of Bijar.
Some of the designs and motifs used by the Tabriz weavers consist of shah abbasi medallion-and-corner, islimi medallion-and-corner, shah abbasi and islimi medallion-and corner, Koran medallion-and-corner, Sheikh Safi medallion-and-corner (a medallion surrounded by 16 leaf-like pendants with two lamps connected to the medallion), paneled garden, vase, hunting, pictorial, prayer rug with lamps and/or columns, animal, scenery, tree, all-over boteh, all-over gul farangi, and all-over herati; the boteh, gul farangi and herati motifs can be seen in the medallion layout as well.
The palette of Tabriz rugs is as diverse as the designs. Colors used can be very vivid or pastel depending on the market demand. A distinguishing characteristic of Tabriz rugs is the numerous colors used in one rug.
One popular and expensive design is the finely woven, exceptionally detailed shah abbasi and/or islimi medallion-and-corner. These rugs are generally woven with silk foundation and wool pile with silk highlights. The common background and border colors used in this design are pink, peach, camel, beige, and ivory. Although the motifs are in variety of colors such as blue, green, yellow, orange, and lavender, often times the overall look of these rugs is pastel. Although pastel colors are frequently used, you can still find Tabriz rugs of this design with darker colors.
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Veramin is a town located 30 miles southeast of Tehran, the capital city of Iran. Veramin has a very diverse population. In addition to its city population, its surrounding areas are home to and a gathering place for many tribes such as Kurds, Lurs, Arabs, Ghashghais and Turkomans. As a result, Veramin rugs are made in all three settings of workshop, village and nomadic. The nomads weave both pile and flat weaves. The flat weaves consist of kelims, saddlebags and salt bags. In their designs, mainly geometric, they employ a variety of motifs such as the Turkoman gul, the Caucasian crab, and the Persian boteh, all in bright colors.
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However, the signature design of Veramin is the mina-khani design in which the field is covered with daisies connected together with lines that form diamonds or circles in an all-over layout. The background color, in this design, is usually blue and the motifs are usually woven in white, yellow, orange, bright red, and blue.
Another all-over design of Veramin is a combination of herati motifs in between shah abbasi motifs. The motifs are woven in red, green, and blue with white highlights against a blue-black background. The village and workshop weavers mainly use the asymmetrical (Persian) knot, and the nomads, depending on their ethnicity, use either the asymmetrical or the symmetrical (Turkish) knot.