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Carpet Weaving

Mention has already been made about the art of carpet weaving in the section pertaining to Achaemenid Art. Evidently, the history of carpet weaving dates back to much before this period. This claim is supported by the archeological findings, including some metallic tools for carpet weaving, belonging to the 3rd Millennium BC. Moreover, two pieces of napped carpets were unearthed in 1961 in the excavations of the Shahr-e Sukhteh (The Burnt City) in Sistān, belonging to the 2nd Millennium BC.

According to the reports of some Greek and Roman historians, during the Parthian Era, Iranian rugs and carpets were exported to other countries, and particularly to Rome and China. During the Sassanid Era, this art spread extensively. Besides the historical reports concerning the famous ornamented silk carpet known as the “Bahārestān” or the “Bahār Kasrā” - that was torn into pieces by the Arabs during the conquest of Ctesiphon - as well as the large and small carpets belonging to the Sassanid Era, which had been kept in the treasuries of the Umayyad and Abbāsid caliphs, some samples of the carpets belonging to this period have been unearthed in archaeological excavations in Iran and Egypt.

The Safavid Era marked the glory of the art of carpet weaving in Iran. A major development in the art of carpet weaving during this period was the attainment of a high level of perfection in the area of carpet designing. Another significant development was the replacement of geometrical designs with perfected Arabesque motifs and the images of flowers, plants, trees, birds, human and animal figures.

The export of Iranian carpets - and particularly the ones woven in the royal looms - to the European courts enhanced their fame worldwide. Hundreds of pieces of carpets and rugs belonging to this period are preserved in the museums of the world and in private collections, and holy sites outside Iran. The most beautiful and famous one among them is the carpet known as the “Ghāli-e Ardabil” (The Carpet of Ardabil) which is said to have belonged to the tomb of Shaykh Safi al-Din Ardabili. This carpet was woven in Tabriz by Maqsud Kāshāni with the dimensions of 1150x534 cms. comprising 32 millions knots in the year 946 AH/1539 AD. and is presently housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum of London.

The collapse of the Safavid Dynasty dealt a deadly blow to the already declining art of carpet weaving in Iran.

The export of carpets in the concluding decades of the 12th Century AH and the beginning of the 13th Century AH continued via Bushehr at the hands of the employees of the East India Company and carpets woven in the Khorāsān region were particularly popular in England.

Although the carpets of the Qājār period were not as artistic and exquisite as those of the Safavid Era, a large number of urban and rural carpet-weaving workshops thrived throughout Iran. The newly-built Qājār palaces in Tehran were in need of large carpets. One of the most exquisite of these carpets is the large piece that belonged to the mirrored hall of the Golestān Palace of Tehran, a depiction of which can now be seen in a painting by Kamāl al-Molk housed in the mirrored hall. A 396-square meter carpet which is housed in a museum in Washington and was woven by eighty carpet weavers of Kermān over a period of six years between the years 1265-1270 AH/1849-1854 AD and which adorned the American Congress Hall before being transferred to this museum, also belonged to this period.

* source: Semsar , Mohammad Hasan " Iran Entry " The Great Islamic Encyclopedia . Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.10 , pp.646- 647

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