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The rich history of Kashan rugs

The rich history of Kashan rugs - Rug the Rock

Kashan carpets have long adorned the world's grand museums and art centers. The lives of the people of Kashan have been intertwined with carpets since ancient times, and the city still thrives on its carpet industry. Kashan has produced some of the finest, most beautiful, radiant, and valuable carpets throughout various periods in the history of carpet weaving. In this blog, we talk about the rich history, intricate designs and vibrant colors used in Kashan Rugs. 

History of Kashan Rugs 

Historically, Kashan is located near one of the earliest centers of civilization, the Sialk Hills, dating back 7,000 years. The fame of Sialk lies in its pottery, which shares common designs and intricate patterns with Kashan's ceramic and tile work.

The tradition of weaving carpets using wool and animal hair initially developed in rural and nomadic areas and gradually advanced into urban centers. During the Safavid era, Shah Abbas promoted carpet weaving in this region. The carpets, known for their gold and velvet threads and exquisite craftsmanship, became mistakenly referred to as "Polish" (Polonaise) carpets because they were commissioned by the Polish court during the Safavid period. These silk and gold-woven carpets are distinct for their fine weaving and velvet-like texture compared to other Persian-knotted carpets.

Some researchers believe that the famous Sheikh Safi al-Din Ardabili carpet originated from Kashan, though others attribute it to northwest Iran. However, it is widely acknowledged that the master weaver of the Sheikh Safi carpet, Master Maqsud Kashani, hailed from Kashan.

Carpets known as Mohtasham Kashani are among the best from Kashan. Mohtasham was a renowned master weaver active between 1830 and 1880. While many finely woven Kashan carpets in American and European markets are labeled as Mohtasham, this name was more of a commercial brand rather than indicating that Mohtasham personally wove them. Many other skilled weavers were also active in Kashan.

Designs and Patterns of Kashan Rugs

In terms of design and pattern, traditional Kashan carpets often feature the Shah Abbasi medallion and corner designs with beautiful flowers on a red background. Contemporary Kashan carpets predominantly combine traditional Iranian motifs (Eslimi and Khataei) with a cream and earthy palette, albeit with limited variation in designs.

Common designs in Kashan carpets include:

  • Medallion and corner with small and large flowers
  • Afshan Shah Abbasi, Sheikh Safi, Prayer niche, Floral, Pictorial
  • Panel with varied motifs in frames and inscriptions

The medallion in Kashan carpets is typically oval-shaped, elongated due to the two main medallions, giving it a more elegant appearance. Surrounding the medallion and corners are usually curled leaves.

One distinguishing feature of Kashan carpets compared to Isfahan carpets is that Isfahan carpets often combine Khataei flowers with Eslimi branches, while Kashan carpets primarily feature Khataei flowers with minimal use of complex Eslimi motifs. Therefore, the medallion-corner design in Kashan carpets is sometimes called the Shah Abbasi pattern. The borders of these carpets traditionally consist of seven sections, which have decreased over time to three or five. The main border typically features two large Shah Abbasi flowers and two serrated leaves or an Eslimi motif. The first border type in Kashan, known as the Mostofi border, is also noteworthy.

Colors and Dyeing in Kashan Rugs

The history of dyeing in Kashan dates back over 7,000 years. Kashan is considered the cradle of dyeing in Iran, with the art flourishing in the Sialk region long before most other civilizations. According to Professor Ghirshman, a French archaeologist, in his studies, he noted that bodies were buried in complex ways and painted red: "The red paint used for wall decorations in rooms was a blend of iron oxide and fruit extract, commonly found in Iran's central plateau. This illustrates human creativity and inventiveness." 

The background or weave colors of Kashan carpets are predominantly crimson, cream, and dark blue. Other colors include henna, earthy, onion skin, milky, almond, and copper. In carpets with a crimson background, the wide border is usually dark blue, and this color is also used in the medallion. Traditional Kashan dyers used cochineal insects for a unique shine, in addition to madder plant. Nowadays, most dyes used are stable synthetic dyes, including deep and light crimson, blue, magenta, turquoise, pale beige, sugary white, olive green, brown, and pistachio green. Common colors in Kashan carpets are dark and light crimson, blue, green, yellow, black, cream, beige, pink, indigo, and dark blue. Cream and crimson, particularly the cream background, dominate new Kashan carpets.

Characteristics of Kashan Rugs 

Kashan and its surrounding area's carpet knots are asymmetrical (Persian knots). Warping, the loom, and weaving are all Persian-style, and the looms are vertical and mostly wooden. The knot density (number of knots in 6.5 cm) ranges from 35 to 50 knots. Clipping (shearing) is done during weaving, using wool and silk for the pile and cotton for the warp. Historically, Kashan carpets were renowned and recognizable for their fine and soft wool, primarily due to the use of imported Merino wool. The bottom fringe of the carpet is connected because of the Persian knot, and the top fringe is free. Carpet sizes range from 1.5 to 6 meters, 2 meters, and rarely up to 15 meters. 

Traditions in Kashan Carpet Weaving

In Kashan, weavers sing songs and poems while weaving carpets. These songs reflect the community's emotions, aspirations, and concerns. Sometimes these poems seek help and blessings from God for progress, health, and peace under his guidance.

Conclusion

Kashan carpets are special and beautiful, known around the world for their unique designs and rich history. For thousands of years, people in Kashan have been making these carpets with great care and skill. They use bright colors and intricate patterns, often inspired by nature and old traditions. The carpets are not only lovely to look at but also tell stories of the past. Even today, Kashan continues to be a famous place for making some of the best carpets in the world. Check out our rug collection for unique Kashan pieces to add to your home.

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We have thoughtfully collected authentic rugs from Persia (Iran), Morocco, Turkey, Afghanistan, Caucasus, and more countries. Each rug is handmade, showcasing the craftsmanship of its origin. These remarkable pieces have the potential to appreciate in value over time. In our collection, you can find rugs of any size, ranging from small mini rugs to oversized options. We’re here to provide more information about each of these historic gems. Feel free to reach out to us anytime! :)

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