Persian Rug: a paradise at your feet

Being Iranian, I am fascinated by Persian rugs and the exquisite uniqueness that defines them. The art of carpet weaving in Iran is deeply connected with the culture and the customs of the country.

persian rug michele roohani

Being away from California,  surrounded by snow in Switzerland and far from my natural  “soft fascinations” (read flowers, sunshine, rustling trees) I am experiencing a funny sense of “ecoanxiety” that may be cured by writing about my favorite permanent garden: the Persian Rug…

cartoon drawing naghsheh persian rug michele roohani

The designs (naghsheh or cartoon—a grid on paper with spaces colored to guide rug weavers in selecting pile yarns) are still mostly drawn by hand even though computers are doing wonders in this field.

Iranians are literally conceived, born and brought up on Persian rugs! Warmed by their soft and comfortable texture,  touching, caressing,  lying down and relaxing on them, comes naturally to Persians. The rugs add warmth underfoot like my favorite red carpet with these gorgeous Shah Abbasi patterns (with floral and leaf motifs mainly in the form of lotus blossoms):

shah abbasi motif esphahan persian rug red michele roohani

The density of tightly woven Persian knots (or guereh) are the calibrating tool for the quality of the rug,

knot count on nain rug michele roohani

a good Nain rug may have 500 kpsi or 500 knots per square inch (farsibaaf,  asymmetric or Persian pile knot.)

persian knot ardabil carpet michele roohani

This is how a flower looks on the back of this Nain (Na’in):

persian knots rug nain michele roohani

and the same carpet from the front:

michele roohani naiin persian rug shah abbasi

Like most textiles, carpets consist of warps  (tar) and wefts (pud). The warps are the threads running the length of the carpet. The wefts are the threads that run across its breadth. This is the same carpet spread out:

glenroy sunset nain rug michele roohani

Persian rugs go by region (cities mostly— like Tabriz, Esfahan, Nain, Kashan, Kerman, etc…) and each region has its MasterWeaver brand. A small encased signature can usually be found in the minor border like Habibian in Nain, Pirouzian in Tabriz and Taghavi in Bijar.

ardabil carpet cartouche hafez maqsud kashani micheleroohani

The most important signature must be Maqsud Kashani’s (from 1540) on the famous pair of Ardabil Carpets. A poem of Hafez is woven into the cartouche:

“Except for thy threshold, there is no refuge for me in all the world.
Except for this door there is no resting place for my head.”

جز آستان تو‌ام در جهان پناهی نیست

سر مرا بجز این در حواله گاهی‌ نیست

ardabil carpet central medallion micheleroohani

The Ardabil Carpets  have an interesting story:  the lower field and border of one of them has been used to restore the other (now in Victoria and Albert Museum in London). The used and abused twin sister was kept in the dark (not to outshine the V&A version) until 1931 and finally found her way to Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1965.

ardebil ardabil carpet lacma micheleroohani

After exhaustive restoration done to the dazzling beauty, the LACMA sister was finally shown last year (look at how they had to wash it!)

washing of ardabil carpet lacma

The Ardabil carpets are the world’s oldest dated and historically important carpets in the world. This is the twin sister in Victoria and Albert museum in London:

ardabil carpet V&A museum Richard Wait micheleroohani
It all comes down to this fundamental design that I just finished reproducing for the blog:

michele roohani persian rug layout glossary toranj

A love for fine Farsh (rug in persian) may be one of the few things that Shahs and Mullahs have always agreed upon!

cheese and wine in the garden michele roohani

Even though I have visited the great Manufacture des Gobelins some years ago,

manufacture des gobelins paris michele roohani women tapestry

I am dying to see the real thing in Iran,

chris lisle carpet weaving iran michele roohani

and take some great pictures.

loom metier a tisser michele roohani natural dyes

I will leave you with this superb painting of my favorite Orientalist painter, Gerôme, called The Carpet Merchant (ca 1887):

jean leon gerome carpet merchant marché du tapis michele roohani

A great site to get acquainted with Persian rugs: Farsh Mashad

Weaving Art Museum here

About different motifs and style here

13 thoughts on “Persian Rug: a paradise at your feet

  1. Dear Michele,

    During a few minutes, you’ve really made me fly, so far and so high.
    To tell the truth, the french royal “Manufacture de la Savonnerie” was first created to compete those expensive persians rugs and carpets, “façon de Perse et du Levant” as the king of France Henri IV said.

    Thank very much for this article

  2. This is not a carpet, it is a white rose…
    No, it is more, it is a garden filled with lilies and roses;
    Its beauty draws the nightingales here to sing.
    Look at the cascades of water that spring from its weave on every side,
    this is the way to the spring of youth…
    Nowhere is there a single flaw in this perfect grace…
    Oh God, this pure rose is the flawless child of the garden hope.
    (Poem from a carpet, North-west Persia, signed by Ghiyat-ed-Din Jami and dated 929 from Egria which corresponds to 1522-23 & perhaps the oldest Persian carpet located in Milan, Poldi Pezzoli Museum).

    Thanks for sharing a very nicely done and stimulating presentation.
    I would like to know if the carpet in Milan is the oldest or the “Medallion Carpet” of Kashan, which I have seen closely?
    Also if the “Pazyryk” which is the earliest hand-knotted carpet in existance, currently in Hermitage Museum, is a Persian carpet?

  3. Superbes images, qui témoignent du talent de Michele.
    Mais je me fais du souci because of “ecoanxiety”. Il est vrai que la neige et les températures helvétiques sont quelque peu différentes ce de qui est coutumier en Californie.Un peu de patience cependant, le printemps va bientôt être de retour et il y aura alors des fleurs en Suisse…

  4. Really a magnificent explanation of the persian rugs. I always admired them–even if I couldn’t afford them. Thanks for making it not only informative but also interesting. I’m glad you had an “ecoanxiety” which brought you to write about your permanent “garden.”

    We had some snow last night and are expecting a worse storm this weekend. Someone said 12 inches. Sigh. Oh well, December’s snowstorm was 23+ inches so I guess we should be happy they are saying 12!

  5. Michele

    You not only create a blog , but an experience , where deep inside one wants to nestle in the world that you create. I almost felt myself sitting on a beautiful Persian Rug hearing a story teling session by MIchele Roohani.

    Fascinating post!


    Beautiful poem Luscious.

  6. Thanks for starting me out on my path to appreciating these works of art! Now, I will never again look at a Persian rug in the same way.

  7. Amazing work in this post. Michele, thank you very much for the information compiled, this entry content and photographs are such a good service to those interested in Oriental rugs, how they are made and a wonderful testament to their beauty and history. Keep up the fantastic work!

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