In today’s global community, the Iranian carpet has a worthy position to declare Iran to others. Iranian carpet is a fluffy mat which is woven using silk, cotton, wool and coat according to the traditions and rituals of each region of Iran.
Many of the archeologists believe that the oldest carpet of the world which is called Pazyryk and now is kept in The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg with the antiquity of about 400 years B.C. is an Iranian carpet woven in Achaemenid Empire (330-550 B.C.). Although there is not any salient sample from Sasanian Empire (224-650 A. D.), based on the proofs it can be said that Iranian carpet was globally valid and famous in this era. In this regard, the most obvious sample is the famous carpet of Baharestan which has been mentioned in different historical sources. Many of the travelers who visited Iran in Islamic period have pointed out to the carpets of different regions of Iran and finally, in Safavid Dynasty (1501-1722 A. D.) the Iranian carpet was promoted from a rural art/ industry to a national activity and turned into a prominent part of Iran economy.
From the Safavid Dynasty onwards, the valuable samples of the Iranian carpet can be observed in different museums of the world, for example the Ardabil carpet which was woven for the tomb of Sheikh Safi al-Din Ardabili, the great ancestor of the Safavid, it is kept in Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In this period, Kashan dealt with many orders due to goodness and elegance of the carpets which were produced there and manufacture of brocaded carpets woven with gold and silver threads was flourished upon the orders of other countries specially Poland.
In Qajar Dynasty (1794-1925 A. D.) and by the boom of European markets, a lot of carpet-weaving workshops were established in different cities of Iran like Tabriz, Kerman, Mashhad, Kashan and other cities and the Iranian carpets were exported to the Europe. On the whole it must be said that the most prominent centers of carpet weaving in Iran were Isfahan, Tabriz, Ardebil, Qom, Kashan, Nain, Kerman, Yazd, Mashhad and Hamedan from the past. It is worth mentioning that in 2010 the skill of carpet weaving of Fars and Kashan were globally registered as the spiritual heritage by UNESCO World Heritage Convention. Besides, in 2015 Tabriz was known as global city of handmade carpet.
Designs in Iranian Carpets
In addition to its decorative aspect, designs of the Iranian carpets attempt to reflect Iranian identity, beliefs and goals. These designs were divided into 3 general patterns: plant designs, animal designs and human designs from among them, plant designs are the most frequent ones used in Iranian carpets. The most important plant designs in Iranian traditional arts including carpet design are Eslimi (Arabesque) and Khatai (Floral).
Eslimi: Eslimi is derived from the word “Islamic” and points out to the interwoven lines of plants with spiral foliage. Although there are proofs which show the use of eslimi designs before the history, using it developed in Islamic period, especially in Safavid Dynasty. The base of eslimi design is nature, stems and leaves. Eslimi is a design consisting of rotational arcs, stems, ties and branches and has different types.
Khatai: it is basically a design with main and perpetuated form of flower bush, leaf or blossom. In khatai design, fewer broken lines can be observed and are mostly curved, they connect flowers to each other through proportionate tortuosity. As these lines picture the branches of tree, the more they get far from the main body, the narrower they will be. The most important khatai flowers are Shah Abbasi and Botteh.
- Shah Abbasi: a design in carpet which was soared in Safavid Dynasty. The main feature of Shah Abbasi flower is the stem drawn at the end of flower and is used as 5, 7 and sometimes 12-petal flower. It is the most perfect type of khatai and its design is retrieved from lily and pomegranate flowers which was common in Iranian arts from the past, a typical example of using this design can be seen in Persepolis which was converted into Shah Abbasi flower through a lot of manipulations.
- Botteh: it is an abstract design and the Iranian believe it is retrieved from cypress tree as it was a sacred tree in ancient Iran, its natural samples and not decorative ones can be observed in relief designs of Persepolis. Besides, cypress tree is a symbol of endurance and freedom among the Iranian and in this period Botteh design was used decoratively which was similar to the bent cypress and in its evolutionary stages, with respect to the artist’s taste and creativity of each region and cultural history of Iran, it is currently known as paisley. Some individuals believe that Botteh is created from birds’ feather which was used by the Iranian kings on their hats.
Different Parts of Carpet
Selvedge of Carpet: it is the surrounding part of carpet which is usually designed and woven in a wide or narrow way. The selvedges lead to a special organization and beauty which are like a frame. An ordinary selvedge consists of three parts: one main selvedge and two subsidiary selvedges.
- Main Selvedge: the wide selvedge is located between narrow selvedges and forms the collection of carpet selvedges with them. Usually in wide selvedge, the motifs used in carpets are also applied. The pattern and design of this selvedge is commensurate with background of the carpet. In wide selvedge, different designs and inscriptions are used and characteristics of the carpet including name of carpet weaver, name of client, date and place of weaving are registered as well.
- Subsidiary Selvedge: it is located in two sides of main selvedge and is usually decorated with tiny geometric and floral designs.
Lachak: the four corners of the carpet are called lachak and if there is harmony between lachak and toranj with similar designs, the design of carpet is called lachak – toranj.
Toranj: the shape located in the center of carpet is called toranj. They are usually in the form of circle, diamond and oval. They are usually accompanied with sar-toranj which make the carpet more attractive. The dimensions of toranj are different in various carpets and their bigness or smallness depends on type and design of the carpet.
Sar-toranj: it is connected to the central toranj from top and bottom of the carpet. Many of the carpet designers call it “Shamseh” as well.
Katibeh (Inscription): in some carpets, there is a part between toranj and sar-toranj which is called katibeh, name of some individuals who are related to the design of carpet will be designed and registered in katibeh.
Zamineh (Background): different parts of the carpet such as flowers, branches, animals and geometric shapes are woven and registered on a background which specify the main color of the carpet.
Gelim Baaf: in order to preserve the durability of the carpet, its upper and lower parts are woven with chains which are called gelim baaf.
Risheh (Fringe): white threads woven to the width of both sides of the carpet.
Shirazeh (Binder): the longitudinal sides of the carpet which are sewed for more protection of the main part of the carpet.
What was explained above is related to the commonest design of the carpet in Iran i.e. lachak toranj (corner-medallion) but based on the classification of Iran carpet company, the main designs of the Iranian carpets are: designs of ancient works and Islamic buildings, Shah Abbasi, Eslimi, Afshan (overall flower), Eghtebaasy, Bandi, Bottheh, Derakhti (Tree), Turkmen (Bokhara), Shekargah (Hunting), Ghabi, Golfarang, Goldani (Vase), Mahi Dar Ham, Mehrabi (Prayer), Moharamat (Striped), Hendesi (geometric), ili and Talfighi (mingle).