Posted by R. John Howe on 10-17-2006 08:48 AM:

Ishfahan Rugs

Dear folks -

Ishfahan is a city name that often flashes in one’s mind when someone talks about Persian “city” rugs. There is a deep rug weaving tradition there. Ishfahan participated actively in the 16th century Safavid flowering of Persian arts. Eiland and Eiland say that the famous “Polonaise” rugs with precious metal-wound threads project a “feel” of what the rugs made in Isfahan in this era must have been like.

Ishfahan is acknowledged to be the most beautiful city in Iran and it was the largest when the capital was moved there in the late 16th century from geographically exposed Tabriz. Still, Edwards acknowledges that it has been on of the lesser cities among those noted for their rug production.

With the Afghan invasion in the first quarter of the 18th century rug weaving virtually disappears. Eiland and Eiland say that there are no Ishfahan rugs reliably attributable to that city from the time of the Afghan invasion until the early 20th century.

But about 1920, as part of the revival of rug weaving in Iran generally, rugs began to be woven in Ishfahan in goodly numbers. The Eilands say that they were meant to compete in Europe with the finer Tabriz’ and Kermans. The Second World War effectively removed the European market for a time and the Ishfahan weavers responded by beginning to weave rugs with even higher knot counts (some above 600 kpsi) for the local market.

Since then, Ishfahan production has continued. Ishfavan rugs can be hard to distinguish from Kashans and other fine Persian weaves, but their tendency to use elaborate Safavid medallion designs, with as many 20 colors, make it possible, usually, to distinguish them on a design or color basis. Nowadays some silk warps are used and rugs entirely in silk are also woven in Ishfahan. Ishfahan rugs are seen today as a sophisticated quality product.

Here are the two examples the Eilands provide.

And here is one detail from Edwards’ book.


R. John Howe