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Tabriz Rug - The Crème de la Crème of all Iranian Carpets

Tabriz Rug - The Crème de la Crème of all Iranian Carpets - Rug the Rock

Tabriz rugs are hand-woven carpets from the city of Tabriz, Iran. They have diverse and intricate patterns, high quality and artistry, and value and influence in the global market. Tabriz rugs have a long and illustrious history that dates back to several centuries ago. They reflect the rich heritage and creativity of Azeri weavers, who have used various techniques, materials, designs, and colors to produce stunning and unique carpets. In this article, I will explore the artistic and cultural significance of them, by examining their weaving techniques and materials, their designs and patterns, and their value and influence.

History of Tabriz Rugs

Tabriz is one of the oldest and most prominent carpet weaving centers in the world, with a history that spans over a thousand years. They have three main periods: 

 

The Safavid period (16th-18th centuries):

Tabriz was the capital of Persia and the center of artistic and cultural innovation under the Safavid dynasty. Tabriz weavers received royal patronage and created exquisite rugs for palaces, mosques, and courts. They used elaborate medallions, pictorial scenes, arabesques, and floral patterns, in rich and vivid colors and fine knots.

The Qajar period (19th-early 20th centuries):

Tabriz faced political turmoil and economic decline under the Qajar dynasty. Tabriz weavers struggled to maintain their tradition and quality amid industrialization and changing tastes. They used simpler and more repetitive designs, in darker and more muted colors and coarser knots. 

Carpet market in Iran, Qajar dynasty

The Pahlavi period (mid-20th century):

Tabriz regained its status as a leading center of Persian carpet weaving under the Pahlavi dynasty. Tabriz weavers preserved their heritage and adapted to modern demands, producing both traditional and contemporary designs. They used a variety of styles and patterns, in bright and harmonious colors and fine knots.

Tabriz Bazaar, the world’s largest covered market.

Tabriz Rug Weaving Techniques and Materials

 

The weaving techniques and materials affect the durability, resilience, and appearance of Tabriz rugs. The type of knot determines how tight and compact the pile is, which affects how well the rug can resist abrasion, deformation, and fading. The type of material determines how soft and smooth the pile is, which affects how comfortable and pleasant the rug feels to the touch. The source of material determines how natural and authentic the colors are, which affects how attractive and harmonious the rug looks to the eye.

 

Knots:

Tabriz rugs are woven by hand using a variety of knots. The most common knot is the Turkish knot, which wraps the yarn around two adjacent warp threads and pulls it through the middle. This knot creates a dense and sturdy pile that can withstand wear and tear. Some Tabriz rugs use the Persian knot, which wraps the yarn around one warp thread and passes it under the adjacent one. This knot creates a finer and more detailed pile that can depict intricate designs. 

 

Materials:

The quality and sources of the materials vary depending on the age, size, and value of the rug. The most common material is wool, which comes from local sheep breeds such as Karakul, Merino, and Zel. Wool is durable, resilient, and soft, and can be dyed with natural or synthetic colors. Some Tabriz rugs use silk, either as the main material or as a supplementary one to create highlights or outlines. Silk comes from silkworms that feed on mulberry leaves in Iran or China. Silk is luxurious, shiny, and smooth, and can produce vivid and rich colors. Cotton is another material, mainly for the foundation or the warp and weft threads. Cotton comes from cotton plants grown in Iran or imported from other countries. Cotton is strong, flexible, and stable, and can support the weight and tension of the pile. 

 

Design and Pattern

Tabriz rugs are celebrated for their diverse and intricate patterns, which can range from elaborate floral motifs and central medallions to geometric designs inspired by the city's rich cultural heritage. They often feature a sophisticated colour palette, incorporating shades of red, blue, and cream. Some of the most common designs are: 

 

Medallions:

Medallions are large, circular or oval shapes that occupy the center of the rug. They can be simple or complex, with various sub-motifs and borders. Medallions are often symmetrical and balanced, creating a focal point for the rug. Some examples of medallion designs are Lachak Toranj, which means "four-cornered medallion",  and Gol Farang, which means "foreign flower".

Typical traditional Tabriz style "Afshan carpet", Azerbaijan Carpet Museum

Pictorial:

Pictorial rugs depict scenes from history, mythology, religion, or everyday life. They can be realistic or stylized, with fine details and vivid colors. Pictorial rugs showcase the artistic creativity and cultural diversity of Tabriz rug weavers. Some examples of pictorial designs are hunting scenes, gardens, and human figures.

Tabriz style "Hunting carpet", Museo Poldi Pezzoli

 

Mahi (Herati):

Mahi means "fish" in Persian, and refers to a design that consists of small diamond-shaped motifs that resemble fish scales. The motifs are arranged in a diagonal or horizontal manner, creating a dynamic and rhythmic pattern. Mahi designs are also known as Herati.

Tabriz Mahi 50 raj rug, Rug the Rock collection

Tabriz Rug Value and Influence

Tabriz rugs are expensive and delicate, and are often considered as valuable investments and artistic treasures. They have a long history of being sought after by collectors, buyers, and admirers from different cultures and regions. Some of the factors that influence the value and popularity of Tabriz rugs in the global market are: 

Rarity:

Tabriz rugs are rare because they are hand-woven by skilled artisans using traditional techniques and materials. The production of Tabriz carpet is limited by the availability of resources, the demand for quality, and the preservation of heritage. Some carpets are unique or one-of-a-kind, such as the pictorial ones that depict scenes from history, mythology, religion, or everyday life. 

Quality:

Tabriz rugs are known for their high quality and craftsmanship, which can be seen in their tight and dense knots, their elaborate and intricate designs, their sumptuous and harmonious colors, and their soft and smooth pile. The quality depends on the type of knot, the type and source of material, the size and age of the rug, and the condition and maintenance of the rug. 

Size:

Tabriz rugs come in various sizes, from small mats to large carpets that can cover an entire room. The size of Tabriz rugs affects their value and popularity, as larger rugs require more time, effort, material, and skill to produce. Larger rugs also offer more space for displaying complex and detailed patterns and motifs.

Age:

Tabriz rugs can date back to several centuries ago, especially those from the Safavid period in the 17th century, when Tabriz was the capital of Persia and the center of artistic and cultural innovation. Older rugs are more valuable and popular because they reflect the rich history and heritage of Tabriz rug weaving, as well as the artistic creativity and cultural diversity of weavers. Older rugs also have a unique charm and character that comes from their natural wear and tear over time.

Collectors and Buyers: 

Tabriz rugs have attracted many collectors and buyers from different backgrounds and interests, such as museums, galleries, celebrities, and royalty. Some examples of famous collectors and buyers of Tabriz rugs are: 

Museums:

Many museums around the world have acquired or exhibited Tabriz rugs as part of their collections or displays of Persian art and culture. For instance, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a collection of over 400 Persian carpets, including several Tabriz rugs from the 16th to 19th centuries. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a collection of over 600 Persian carpets, including a famous Tabriz carpet from the 16th century that measures 10.8 by 5.4 meters. The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg has a collection of over 300 Persian carpets, including a rare Tabriz carpet from the 15th century that depicts hunting scenes. 

Ardabil carpet, Victoria and Albert Museum
Ardabil carpet, The Victoria and Albert Museum


Galleries:

Many galleries around the world have showcased or sold Tabriz rugs as part of their exhibitions or auctions of Persian art and culture. For example, the Claremont Rug Company in California has a gallery of over 3,000 antique Persian carpets, including many Tabriz rugs from the 19th century. The Sotheby's auction house in New York has a department of Islamic art that regularly features or sells Tabriz rugs from various periods. The Christie's auction house in London has a department of oriental carpets that often includes or offers Tabriz rugs from different styles.

Tabriz carpet, Circa 1880, Price realised GBP 32,760, @Christie's

Royalty:

Many royalty around the world have possessed or appreciated Tabriz rugs as part of their royal or diplomatic affairs. For example, Queen Elizabeth II, the monarch of the United Kingdom, received a Tabriz rug as a gift from Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last shah of Iran, during his state visit to London in 1959. King Abdullah II, the king of Jordan, presented a Tabriz rug as a gift to Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, during his visit to the Vatican in 2014. 

Hermès collection, inspired by Tabriz rugs
Hermès collection, inspired by Tabriz rugs

 

Read this fun article from BBC about Tabriz and Tabriz Carpets
Iran’s province of surprises


As a form of Persian art and culture, Tabriz rugs have captivated many collectors, buyers, and admirers from different backgrounds and interests. Not only are Tabriz rugs beautiful and durable, but they are also meaningful and influential. They represent the skill and ingenuity of Tabriz rug weavers, who have used their knowledge, resources, and imagination to create carpets that express their identity, values, and aspirations.

Moreover, Tabriz rugs demonstrate the diversity and complexity of Persian culture, which has been shaped by various historical, social, and political factors. Tabriz rugs have also inspired and impacted other types of carpets and art forms, such as Turkish rugs, European paintings, and modern design. Therefore, Tabriz rugs are more than just carpets; they are works of art that tell stories, convey messages, and evoke emotions.

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