Isfahan Carpets & Rugs

For much of Persian history Isfahan had been a centre of key cultural, economic and religious importance. It was the capital of the Safavid Empire between the 16th and 18th centuries. With its zenith under the great Shah Abbas II (r.1587-1629) Isfahan was at the centre of what is historically known as ‘The Golden Age of Persian Weaving’. The city represents the centre of Safavid art with many surviving mosques, artefacts and several palaces associated with the Imperial Court. It would be this period which would see the distribution of many high quality rugs from the Persian Court of Isfahan as diplomatic gifts to Aristocratic European families.

Like most regions in Persia, the political upheavals in the 18th century, especially the breakup of the Safavid Empire in 1722 which saw a massive decline in the arts and in the development of various cultural forms. For 200 years afterwards the rug weaving traditions and trade had all but disappeared from this great city. Yet this was not the end of the story as Isfahan would play a major role in the revival of the industry in the early part of the 20th century. This was as a result of the post war economic boom in Europe which saw an increase in consumption. This exceptional pair of rugs from Isfahan (distinguishable by the blue weft evident in these rugs) are woven to an exceptional fine degree. The wool used to make these rugs is also of an exceptionally high lustre, not often seen in rugs from Isfahan. These rugs therefore are evidently from the early decades of the 20th century, since they share similar attributes to contemporary rugs from Sarouk, Senneh and Malayer regions.

The pair of rugs possess the ‘Herati’ design which is otherwise known as the ‘Mahi’ or Fish pattern. The fame of this design is well deserved and it is among the most refined and elegant of the small repeating patterns of Persian Carpets. In fact the great carpet expert A.Cecil Edwards has remarked that a well woven Herati is often described as a Gentleman’s carpet.[1] These rugs were made in Isfahan around the turn of the twentieth century, a crucial period in the history of the Persian carpet industry.

[1] Arthur Cecil Edwards, The Persian Carpet: A Survey of the Carpet Weaving Industry of Persia, (London, 1953),pg 36