Guide to Isfahan Rugs and Carpets

These rugs are predominantly woven by weavers who speak Persian and who are Shia Moslems. Workshops are the main impetus with even the lesser work copying the greater.

There are of course the great Isfahans carpets of the sixteenth century.The other major group are the Isfahans of the 20th century. In The Persian Carpet Cecil Edwards indicated that he thought Isfahan date to only about 1919 as a major weaving center. Enough credible people have dated Isfahans to 1900 or earlier that I must to assume that pre1920 is the product of a "minor weaving center". 

Antique and Vintage Isphahan Rugs & Carpets

Up until World War I the city of Isfahan was a weaving center but for garments not rugs. As a result of the changes during the war years fashions shifted and by 1919 Isfahan was out of vogue as a garment center. Someone got the idea of weaving rugs. They used the soft Merino wool that they had used in cloth and made Persianate fine rugs. The market loved the new rugs. They were attractive and best of all comparatively inexpensive. They incorporated the classic art of Shah Abbas which could be seen on architecture throughout Isfahan.

All through the twenties the new Isfahan rug industry grew prosperous. Europe was a ready market for these rugs. The United States was resistant to them however. The reason was the rug it self. The Isfahan in those years was fine with 4 - 500 knots to the square inch not being uncommon and they were clipped short to make the design crisper. To many these rugs were very attractive but in the US the popular rugs were thick heavy rugs that were subjected to antique washes, bleaching, and even painting. The Isfahan did not lend it's self well to the indignities of the American market so they were sold in Europe.

In life there are certain major events that do not just shape individuals but shape society as a whole as such they are useful markers in time. The next major change was the Great Depression. Selling rugs was not nearly as difficult as getting paid for them. As the money supply tightened the rugs were difficult to sell and consequently the loom owners shifted to native Persian wool rather than the more expensive imported Merino. The wool feels harder and more bristly. So here we have a change that we can see and feel. If the wool is the older softer Merino then attribute it to the 1920s and if it is the harder native wool than 1930s or later.

Rug Structure
How the rugs were made is very important to understanding them. Early on the wefts in Isfahan rugs were hand spun from cotton.This fitted because hand spun cotton was a major industry during the garment period. The hand spun cotton wefts had slubs. Now not to worry slubs are not some little creature that lives under rocks in the garden. A slub is an iregularity in the width where the thread is thicker in some spots and then thinner. To the novice it is easy to decided that this is bad and causes an inferior rug. However quite the opposite is the case the slight irregularity draws the eye through the piece and makes it more attractive rather than less. Silk was rarely used in the older Isfahans and warps were usually cotton. Silk was occasionally used in the best pieces but wool warps and wefts are unheard of.

There are a number of rugs attributed to that period between 1722 and 1919. In The Persian Carpet Cecil Edwards indicated that he thought Isfahan date to only about 1919 as a major weaving center. Enough credible people have dated Isfahans to 1900 or earlier that I must to assume that pre1920 is the product of a "minor weaving center".
Here we have a an Isfahan advertised in Hali 53 it was called an "Antique Isfahan". Since no firm date was indicated we can only assume a rug that was antique in 1990 must predate W.W.I

Antique Nadir Shah Isfahan Late 19th Century
In Kings, Heroes, and Lovers the great Iranian scholar and artist Parviz Tanavoli attributed this rug to Isfahan in the later part of the 19th century 3. I have learned that one can not take Tanavoli lightly when it comes to attributing Persian rugs. We know some rugs were woven in Isfahan between 1722 and 1919 and it stands to reason that that they might look like this. Nadir Shah was a particularly revered Shah in Isfahan so his picture is fitting.


Similar Rugs
Tabriz rugs may look like a Isphahan but have symmetrical knots and more regular wefts. Kashans may resemble Isphahan rugs but have more regular wefts and have a more traditional formal appearance. In this period Nain rugs are a type of Isfahan.

Examples:

Isfahan carpet, early 20th century
Isfahan carpet, early 20th century
Origin: Central Persia, early 20th century

Measurements: 12ft. 8in. by 9ft. 2in. (387 by 279cm.)



Esfahan Rug, Circa 1930
Esfahan Rug, Circa 1930
Origin: Central Persia, circa 1930

Size: 7ft. by 4ft. 7in. (212 by 139cm.)



Isfahan Rug, Circa 1950
Isfahan Rug, Circa 1950
Origin: Central Persia, circa 1950

Measurements: 11ft. 9in. by 8ft. 7in. (357 by 262cm.)



Esfahan rug, early 20th century
Esfahan rug, early 20th century
Origin: Central Persia, early 20th century

Size: 6ft. 3in. by 4ft. 6in. (190 by 138cm.)



An Esfahan rug, Central Persia, early 20th century
An Esfahan rug, Central Persia, early 20th century
Measurements: 6ft. 9in. by 4ft. 7in. (205 by 140cm.)



Isfahan carpet, 2nd half 20th C.
Isfahan carpet, 2nd half 20th C.
Origin: Central Persia, mid 20th century

Size: 14ft. 10in. by 9ft. 9in. (453 by 298cm.)



Esfahan/Isfahan carpet, c.1950
Esfahan/Isfahan carpet C. 1950
Origin: Central Persia, circa 1950

Size: 10ft. 8in. by 6ft. 10in. (325 by 209cm.)



Esfahan rug, c.1900
Esfahan rug C. 1900
Origin: Central Persia, circa 1900

Size: 7ft. 2in. by 4ft. 7in. (217 by 139cm.)



Isfahan Rug, 17th century
Isfahan Rug 17th century
Origin: An Isfahan wool and metal thread rug, Central Persia, 17th century

Size: 9ft. by 4ft. 9in. (274 by 146cm.)

Warp: cotton, Z4S, natural ivory, alternate warps slightly depressed.

Weft: cotton, Z2S, pale madder, 3 shoots.

Pile: wool, Z2Sw, asymmetrical knot open to the left.

Density: 5 horizontal/cm; 5 vertical/cm.

Sides: 2 cords, each of 4 warps plied, wrapped in crimson wool.

Ends: each with approximately 2cm. kelim, banded with 2 shoots soft madder cotton; 2 shoots walnut wool; 5 shoots dark saffron wool; 1 shoot walnut wool; the balance multiple shoots soft madder cotton.

Colors: ivory, dark saffron, light golden madder, crimson, sky blue, aqua green, emerald green, royal blue, walnut, dark walnut (some corrosion), very dark forest green.

Brocading: later silver colored metal thread wound on an ivory silk core, 4 strands brocaded over 3 weft shoots; traces of original metal thread brocading over warp threads visible beneath.

Condition: There is some corrosion to the dark browns, but otherwise the wool pile of this piece is in exceptional condition. The original metal thread brocading is partially extant beneath the later couched metal thread; the areas which are brocaded are true to the original. Rarely, the original side and end finishes are also extant.



A 17th century Isphahan Carpet
A 17th century Isphahan Carpet
Origin: Central Persia, 17th century

Size: approximately 11ft. 1in. by 5ft. 4in. (3.38 by 1.63m.)

Warp: cotton, Z4S, ivory.

Weft: cotton, Z, three shoots, light brown.

Pile: wool, asymmetric knot open to the left.

Density: 9-10 horizontal, 13-14 vertical.

Sides: two cords of four warps wrapped in deep rose wool.

Ends: incomplete, warp fringe.

Colors: deep rose, rose, deep blue, light blue, forest green, blue-green, ochre, yellow, walnut, ivory.

Condition: losses to ends, stains, oxidized browns, Kashmir repiling.

17th century Isphahan Carpet



Isfahan Carpet, 17th C.
Isfahan Carpet, 17th C.
Date: 17th century

Condition: oxidized browns, missing outer guard stripes, repiled areas, overcast sides.

Warp: Cotton, Z4S, natural ivory

Weft: Cotton, Z2, 3 shoots, natural ivory

Pile: Wool, asymmetrical knot open to the left

Density: 13-14 horizontal, 13-14 vertical

Sides: Overcast, not original

Ends: Warp fringe

Colors: Pale to deep rose red, blue-green, ochre, light green, light blue, medium blue, dark blue, mink brown, rust red, yellow, ivory, walnut.



Mir'jalali Isfahan Rug
Mir'jalali Isfahan Rug
Description: An extremely fine Esfahan rug, signed Mir'jalali.

Origin: Esfahan, Iran. About 1950-1960.

Size: 7ft. 9in. x 4ft. 9in. (2.36m x 1.45m).

Other Notes: With Sarafian and Mahmouri, Mir'jalali is one of the greatest Esfahan ustadi "master-weavers" of the second half of the 20th century.

Mir'jalali Isfahan Rug



Isfahan Rug, Late 19th C.
Isfahan Rug, Late 19th C.
Origin: Central Persia, late 19th c.

Size: ca. 210 x 140 cm.

Notes: Garden design. In good condition and original all around with only minor traces of wear.



Isfahan Rug, 1st quarter 20th Century
Isfahan Rug, 1st quarter 20th Century
Origin: Isphahan, Persia. First quarter 20th Century

Size: 4 foot 9 inch by 7 foot 1 inch.

Structure: Asymmetrical knot open to the right. 20 knots per horizontal inch and 24 knots per vertical inch. 480 per square inch (7440 per square decimeter)

Yarn Spin: Z.

Warp: 2 ply corded old ivory cotton.

Weft: 2 shots blue cotton.

Pile: 2 wool singles.

Ends: Counter twined binding with .5 inch warp fringe.

Selvages: 2 cord overcastting red wool.

Handle: Light-medium, soft, pliable.

Further Notes: Very good condition.

This is wonderful old Isfahan Rug. One thing that I find especially attractive in this carpet is the palmettes. In my studies of classical carpets, I have looked at thousands and thousands of pictures of palmettes. The oldest examples of this style of palmettes that I was able to find was in the tile work of a Mosque in Samarkand. It is common to attribute these to Shah Abbass but they predate him by hundreds of years. This appears to come from the artistic tradition of Chagataic Mogholistan. The style then was carried through Persia by the Timurids.

1st quarter 20th Century Isfahan Rug

1st quarter 20th Century Isfahan Rug



A circa 1920 Esfahan Rug
A circa 1920 Esfahan Rug
Origin: West Central Persia, about 1920

Size: 6ft.10in. x 4ft. 6in. (2.08m. x 1.37m.)

A circa 1920 Esfahan Rug



A late 17th Century Isphahan Carpet
A late 17th Century Isphahan Carpet
Central Persia, late 17th century

Size: Approximately 18ft. 8 in. by 8ft. 2in. (5.69m. by 2.49m.)

Condition: Rewoven and repiled areas, overcast sides.

A late 17th Century Isphahan Carpet



An Isfahan Carpet
An Isfahan Carpet
Origin: Central Persia, 17th Century

Size: Approximately 12ft. 9in. by 7ft. 2in. (3.89m. by 2.18m.)

Condition: Losses to pile, cut and reduced in size, minor repairs throughout, rebound sides.

An Isfahan Carpet



Esfahan Rug, c.1930
Esfahan Rug, c.1930
Origin: West Persia, about 1930

Size: 7ft.3in. x 4ft.7in. (2.21m. x 1.40m.)

Condition: Slight wear.

Description: One of the most distinctive early 20th century Persian city designs.



Esfahan Rug, Circa 1900
Esfahan Rug, Circa 1900
Origin: Central Persia, circa 1900

Measurements: 6ft. 6in. by 4ft. 7in. (199 by 141cm.)



A Safavid carpet, Isphahan, Central Persia
A Safavid carpet, Isphahan, Central Persia
DESCRIPTION: A Safavid carpet, Isphahan, Central Persia, late 16th century. Silk warps, oxidized browns, missing outer guard border, repaired slits, reweaves, repiling, small slit, stains, fabric backed. Approximately 16ft. 4in. by 6ft. 11in. (4.98 by 2.11m.).

Warp: silk, Z2S ivory

Weft: cotton, Z2S ivory, 3 shoots

Pile: wool, asymmetrical knot, open to the left

Density: 15-17 horizontal; 15-17 vertical

Sides: not original

Ends: not original

Colors: rose red, rose, apricot, amber, pumpkin, brick, mink, dark blue, mid-blue, light blue, deep blue-green, green, jade green, aubergine, ivory, walnut (corroded)



17th Century Isphahan Carpet
17th Century Isphahan Carpet
Origin: Central Persia, 17th century

Size: approximately 23ft. 1in. by 9ft. (7.04 by 2.74m.)

Condition: Oxidized browns with some repiling, missing outer guard stripes, overcast sides, repiled areas, small slit at one end.

17th Century Isphahan Carpet



Isfahan Carpet, Post World War II
 Isfahan Carpet, Post World War II
Origin: Central Persia, post World War II.

Description: Silk warps, approximately 17ft. by 11ft. 9in. (5.18 by 3.58m.)