Posted by R. John Howe on 10-12-2006 09:01 AM:

Kerman Rugs

Dear folks -

Anyone who reads the chapters on “Kerman” rugs in Cecil Edwards’, “The Persian Carpet,” will notice pretty quickly that Edwards thinks the rugs woven in Kerman are the best of the bunch.

He gives them top marks in two areas. First, he thinks that the variety and sophistication of Kerman rug design is unsurpassed (Edwards offers a historical typology of style and appears to think that the Kerman rugs woven in his “Classical Period,” approximately 1920 to 1930, have never been surpassed) and second, he thinks the Kermans have used a wide color palette more skillfully than weavers in any other Persian location. He is especially impressed with their ability to make pieces with lighter color grounds.

If you look at the map you will see that Kerman’s south central location, is fairly remote from other parts of Persia and this remoteness and insulation from most invasion (there was one bad instance) and influence (despite being on a trail to and from India) seem to have favored the development of Kerman rug production in several respects. They had their own production when the Tabriz merchants arrived and the latter tended to buy from them rather than set up factories of their own. When outside interests did set up rug producing operations, these tended to be oriented toward the U.S. and British markets. Even the U.S. depression in the 30’s had the effect of bringing the Kerman rug production back into Kerman hands and the Shah’s subsequent development programs and a burgeoning Persian middle class provided an alternative local market.

There seems a pretty deep Kerman rug weaving tradition. Safavi times show the first traces. Kerman rugs are mentioned and known to have been shipped to India in the 17th century. Existing Ravar carpets (often seen as the crème de le crème of Kerman weaving) are dated 1866 A.D. Kerman weavers made shawls at the time of the early Kashmir production and the sudden decline in demand for shawls coincided with the rise in rug production and was fed by a ready supply of experienced weavers.

Local Kerman wools are excellent, light and fine, but heavier in “grease” than similar more northern wools. For a long time local supplies were sufficient for production, but Kerman wool is an attractive product, and Edwards, writing in 1950 or so, says that enough is sold outside Kerman that rug producers have to import from locations like Meshed, Sabasawar and Kermanshah.

Note: Excepting as one source of wool Kermanshah has nothing to do with Kerman. Kermanshah is “a city and district in western Iran on the road between Hammadan and Baghdad.” But just to insure that confusion on this point is complete, Eiland and Eiland report that a type of Kerman medallion rug was sold in the U.S. in the early 20th century under a Kermanshah label. We’ll picture it below.

Although many Kerman rugs are woven within Kerman city proper, at least an equal number were/are woven in about 14 mostly nearby locations. One of these, Ravar, where the best Kermans are said to be made, is a full 100 miles north of the city. Despite this, Edwards claims that a “Kerman” designation is merited since both country and city use the same sorts of material, structures and designs. More all Kerman rugs are carefully planned and woven following cartoons. All corners carefully resolved.

Kerman pile rugs have a distinctive structure. They have cotton warps and wefts and wool pile (there are silk Kermans, a different thing). Kermans have asymmetric knots open left with deeply depressed alternative warps. It is the number and handling of the wefts that is most distinctive. There are three wefts, the first and third about the same size as the warps. The middle weft is “thinner than any weft in common use in Persia.” Each of these three wefts is placed in its own shed. Edwards rails against this weft usage, saying that two are entirely sufficient and that the third serves no purpose at all. Nevertheless, Kerman weavers persist in using this structure. This feature makes Kermans easy to identify.

Eiland and Eiland seem to suggest that in the early 1960s Kermans had not only become thicker and pastel-colored, with open fields and floral designs but that (horrors) they began to take on French qualities. Writing in 1953, Edwards complains bitterly of this alien French design influence as something that has already happened and sees a possible development that might permit Kerman designer to return to their own rich design heritage. The Eilands suggest that something like the improvements Edwards was hoping for occurred to some extent in Kerman production for the home market. The contemporary Kermans we see in the U.S. are still a mostly sad affair.

Here are some Kerman examples.

First, my sixth printing (1983) of Edwards book does not have any color images of Kerman rugs. But to honor Edwards’ insistence on their excellence here is one of his line drawings from what he sees as their finest design period.

Eiland and Eiland provide four images to characterize Kerman pile rugs. Pictorial rugs are frequent in Kerman and the first example they offer is one such.

They describe the piece above as 19th century with clear European influence in its drawing.

The next Eiland piece is the niche design below which they describe as early 20th century.

They say it has several shades of cochineal red and that a faint suggestion of French influence is visible in the drawing of the flowers.

A third Eiland piece is described as so “austere” and with such “unusual colors” that Eiland and Eiland feel it may predate “the great commercial outpouring” of Kerman rugs in the late 19th century.

The fourth Eiland example below is the piece promised above as marketed under a “Keremanshah” designation. A source of verbal and conceptual confusion since Kermanshah is in NW, not south central, Iran. Early 20th century.

Eiland and Eiland explicitly send us to Ford for more modern Kerman rugs and we have dutifully gone there.

Later Kerman pieces often have open fields, but the piece below shows a very densely drawn Kerman design

The next two Ford rugs are what we more commonly see.

The first he calls a “Khorani” and says that its designs are more Persian and echo usages as far back as the 16th century.

He also sees French influence in this drawing.

The second open field Kerman below is described as illustrating an “American style.”

Ford says that one of the motivations for using open field designs is that the open areas permit the producers to “cheat” on knot count. Sometimes he says the reduction is like stepping off a stair step. Kerman rug producers were known to be cheap. They paid their much abused child weavers only a third of what weavers in Khurosan earned.

Despite the fact that modern Kerman pile rugs are widely denigrated Ford says he still sometimes sees glimpses of their old design skills at work. The last Ford Kerman piece is an example.

Ford says that there are U.S. pressures for non-medallion designs and that one way inventive Kerman designers have moved to meet this requirement is to turn medallion designs into overall designs of repeating medallions. He says that as a design achievement this is no easy feat.

There are some noteworthy Kerman examples in Turkotek files for which I will try to get better images, but I will also browse my auction catalogs a bit.

There are some great Kermans out there. We have only to find a few and to post them.


R. John Howe

Posted by Marty Grove on 10-12-2006 10:54 AM:

Eiland No3 Blue Kerman

G'day all,

If this marvelous piece is 'austere' then Im in a roo's pouch! Perhaps its austerity is in the realm of less ornate and certainly less complicated than the general run of these intricate carpets. None the less, for colour and presence I find it one I would be happy receiving as an unexpected Xmas gift.

Thanks for a Salon presenting some truly sophisticated Persian carpets. Its very uplifting for one who mainly likes rougher trade.


Posted by Wendel Swan on 10-12-2006 02:07 PM:

Hi John,

I was reluctant to show it again, but I have owned this Kerman tree of like carpet for over 25 years. Even though my primary focus and interests are in Northwest Persia and for less formal weavings, it remains one of my favorites. The Persian dealers always refer to it as a genuine Ravar, perhaps as another opinion of quality rather than specific place or time of origin. Everyone seems to concur that it comes from the last part of the 19th Century.

While there are many antique Kerman tree of like rugs, most are symmetrically drawn and I have not yet seen another with the character of this one.

It has a wide spectrum of clear, saturated and beautiful colors, including wonderful greens, reds and an orange that I find especially appealing. This detail gives some idea how the colors are juxtaposed for maximum effect.

The calligraphy in the cartouches is poetry and it bears an inscription indicating that it was made by the workshop of Muhammad Ali for (first name I can’t remember) Kermani, most certainly on commission. Clearly, this is an artist achievement by the designer and whoever supervised its weaving.

This rug could initiate a discussion about what we admire in rugs and why. I see an object that is well conceived and executed. I haven’t spent a nanosecond pondering what one of the weavers working on it might have thought as she worked. This reminds me of a slogan that appeared on a salad dressing from my youth: “’Tis The Taste That Tells The Tale,” meaning that it is the end result that matters.

We use this antique Kerman fragment, with an entirely different weave, as a headboard. It must contain synthetic dyes, for there is fading. It’s one case in which I overlooked what is usually the most important consideration, color, for the graphics.

The rugs of Kerman are extremely diverse, but come from an ancient tradition. As Edwards points out, it is a pity that they degenerated into those pastel, borderless boudoir rugs that became fashionable in the 1940’s and beyond.

Incidentally, I have long admired that third “austere” rug published by Eiland. It’s a great one.


Posted by R. John Howe on 10-12-2006 03:12 PM:

Hi Wendel -

Thanks for providing good images of your Kerman mediation carpet.

It has lots of aspects to admire, but one I have noted before is that it may have the most effective minor borders I have ever seen.


R. John Howe

Posted by Richard Larkin on 10-12-2006 08:09 PM:


That's a superb Kerman, and of the ilk that gives Persian city carpets a good name. I see you referred to it twice as a "tree of like" piece. I assume this was a typo, which in this particular case has a certain happy "freudian slip" kind of character about it.

I have always liked the style that adorns your headboard as well, in terms of drawing and coloring. One often finds the fading, typically in pinks and light reds. I often have wondered whether it signaled synthetic coloring.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Richard Larkin on 10-12-2006 08:46 PM:


Wonderful work as usual. In an earlier thread, I allocated kudos to Jerry Thompson, who deserves some, but I hadn't quite grasped the heavy lifting done on your part. Thanks.

I note with interest the Kermanshah you posted. I think I have always understood they were really Kerman production that took on the market name "Kermanshah" for some unfathomable and long lost reason. It seemed obviously true, looking at the goods. I had the occasion recently to be looking through a good number of the pre-WWI rug books in the Kurdish sections, and I noted with interest, and some amusement, that a few of the authors went to some lengths to explain how rugs from a Kurdish village in Northwest Iran would look so much like Kermans.

On a rather different note, and hoping not to precipitate a disastrous outcome for this mini salon, I wonder whether any "personage" rugs will show up here. I mean the ones that have anywhere from a dozen to an army of noble persons with captions. I don't own one, and it is possible to analyze them as ghastly, but I confess to having a bit of a fascination with them. I wonder how they came to draw Hammurabi's portrait differently than, say, Xerxes'. Then, of course, we often see George Washington and Abe Lincoln. More than once, I've seen the rugs trumpeted by dealers as the greatest thing to have hit the carpet world since the Ardebil Carpet, worth huge sums.

Rich Larkin

Posted by R. John Howe on 10-12-2006 10:07 PM:

Rich -

I think your understanding is correct. Although Kermanshah is in northwest Persia not in south central, the folks in Kerman did sometimes use wool bought from Kermanshah in their rugs and the rug I posted was marketed as a "Kermanshah" but was (ironically) woven in Kerman.

I have not heard why the market called such Kerman rugs "Kermanshah." Maybe it was a reference to the source of the wool used in some Kermans.

And about the "Personage" rugs, I saw one here in the past year, in a dealer's shop. A Kerman, it had images of historical figures from all ages and places. Maybe 60 or 70 of them in rows, as I recall.

I like some pictorial rugs, but tend toward oddities like the blocky figures on some from southwest Iran or Firdows. And when we begin to talk about odd "personage" rugs there's that "Maggie and Jiggs" cartoon done on a (silk, I think) Kashan on order. Joyce Ware put it (without comment) in her first "price guide." It brought $22K at auction in 1989. I think someone found a color image of it once here.


R. John Howe

Posted by R. John Howe on 10-12-2006 10:42 PM:

Famous Personages Rug

Hi again, Rich -

Yeah, Barry O'Connell has one listed that he found in an auction record.

I think this is what you meant. One image like this, I have seen, came with a key.

This is a Kerman.


R. John Howe

Posted by Cevat Kanig on 10-16-2006 02:37 AM:

Hi To All,

I wonder if any budy can read what is it writing below picture and how old is it and if it is Kerman ?


Cevat Kanig

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 10-16-2006 05:07 AM:

Hi Cevat,

Your images were too big. I resized them and uploaded to our server.
By the way, is this rug part of your inventory?
If so, I would avoid discussing about it.


Posted by Cevat Kanig on 10-16-2006 07:05 AM:

Hi Filiberto,

Sorry for the big pictures and Thanks for resizing them.
First of all "This rug is not belongs to me", it is a friend of mine.
We are discussing weavings backgrounds here as usualy.

Are you suggesting that if a rug is an inventory or a collection shell we avoid discussing about them?

I have some rugs in my collection too, should i avoid to discussion about them?


Cevat Kanig

Posted by Steve Price on 10-16-2006 08:21 AM:

Hi Cevat

We do permit discussion of rugs that are for sale, but usually only if they illustrate something that would be hard to show any other way. Even then, we don't permit comments that bear on the value of the rug (for instance, someone who can do so is invited to translate the inscription on the one you show, but not to comment about how the inscription might affect the rug's market value).

The reason is simply that we don't want to get into a situation in which people are saying good things about something their friend has for sale, or bad things about something their competitor has for sale.


Steve Price

Posted by Steve Price on 10-16-2006 09:11 AM:

Hi Again, Cevat

I can't read most of the inscription, but the part in the upper right corner of the cartouche appears to be 1327. If it's an AH date, as seems likely, it corresponds to about 1909 AD.


Steve Price

Posted by Cevat Kanig on 10-16-2006 09:48 AM:

Hi Steve and Filiberto,

I know that you don't permit discussion of rugs that are for sale, we discuss that before.
"I had a very simple question", i asked if the rug is Kerman or not, how old is it and what is it writing on it? Like asking if the rug is Caucasian or not and what is it writing on it.
I did not ask the value of it.
I am really surprised by filiberto's Question, if the rug is my inventory or not, you never asked that before and you don't ask that any participant.

Steve, Could you let me know that how can you understand if a participant has a rug and want to get some information before he or she sell it, after we gave him or her info, isn't it a kind of valuation, We gave collectors every detail of the rug except the value of it and collector knows what he or she have. it is also a kind of valuation isn't it?

For example there are two participants, one of them having mid.20th Century Turcoman rug the other have 18th. Century Turcoman rug, both are inherited them from their family.

Those people have no idea what they have and have no idea the value of them.

We tell the first participant that his or her rug is mid. 20th. Century viewing and the market full with them and for the other participant his or her rug's is a antique "RARE" early18th. Century Turcoman weaving.

First participant will understand that his or her rug doesn't worth that much because it is not antique and common but the other will notice that he or she have an Antique and Rare and valuable rug.
Any Way, I would not go further out of discussion.


Cevat Kanig

Posted by Steve Price on 10-16-2006 10:06 AM:

Hi Cevat

You wrote, ... if a participant has a rug and want to get some information before he or she sell it, after we gave him or her info, isn't it a kind of valuation, We gave collectors every detail of the rug except the value of it and collector knows what he or she have. it is also a kind of valuation isn't it?

We don't want to help sellers find out what their rug is or what it's worth. If someone has a rug, knows virtually nothing about rugs, but wants to learn enough about it to sell it for a sensible price, this isn't the place to get the information. There are other sites (two Yahoo e-groups come to mind easily, orientalrug and rug-fanatics) where people will offer help (and, in some cases, deceptive information - it's up to the reader to sort this out). For the person selling on more than a casual basis, they ought to pay some fairly knowledgable person to be a consultant for them. This is a normal business practice and a normal business expense. We are a noncommercial site, neither soliciting nor accepting external income, and we choose not to volunteer to serve as consultants for vendors.


Steve Price

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 10-16-2006 10:40 AM:

Hi Cevat,

I asked you because it reminded me of the “Mughal Carpet” that you posted last year. That thread was closed because we discovered that you have tried to sell it on eBay and it looked as you were trying to promote it on Turkotek.
I wanted to be sure that this wasn’t a similar case.


Posted by Cevat Kanig on 10-16-2006 12:16 PM:

Hi Filiberto,

Thanks for the explanation but you remember wrong, I let you and Steve also worldwide 550 people included museums know that I have that rug, you did not discover it, it was almost 2 years ago and I was not trying to promote the rug here in Turkotek, but trying to get some info about it here on Turkotek ,I know that treat is close.

Are you succession me that if I have a rug and if I am not sure what is it and would like to get some info about it’s age and the back ground of it can’t I Wright to this side?


Cevat Kanig

PS. Is any body going to tell me what is it writing on the rug and if it is Kerman?

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 10-16-2006 12:27 PM:

if I have a rug and if I am not sure what is it...

If it's not for selling it, you are welcome to post it here.
Otherwise, see Steve's last post.


Posted by Steve Price on 10-16-2006 12:29 PM:

Hi Cevat

If someone has a rug that he is thinking about selling in the short-term future (say, within the next 6 months or so), we don't want it to be discussed here. It's nothing personal, we just don't want to be unpaid consultants or employees for anyone, or to provide a free venue through which somebody gets other people to be his unpaid employees or consultants.


Steve Price