Posted by R. John Howe on 10-11-2006 05:11 AM:

Tabriz Rugs

Dear folks –

I have wondered whether it might not be advantageous in this mini-salon, to establish a little more structure than is our usual wont in order to give a little more coherence and organization to our posts.

Folks are free, of course, to post as they wish, but I will, over the next few days put up threads on some of the major Persian city rug types, each with a little introduction and an example or two.

What follows is the first of these on Tabriz rugs.

Tabriz is a city in the far northwest corner of modern day Iran. Its people are not Persian, but a mixture that is mostly Turkish and it is part of historic Azerbaijan, an area that includes parts that were in Russia. The culture of Tabriz is that of Azerbaijan rather than of Persia.

Tabriz’ geographic placement has made it the site of repeated invasion, but it has always had an energetic and resilient merchant class. These merchants have had a long-term disproportionate influence on rug making and rug marketing in Iran.

In the early part of the 19th century Tabriz “pickers” scoured Persia collecting traditional Persian carpets of the rather long and narrow sets of four that often made up the most frequent arrangement in Persian homes. There were European customers for Persian rugs. But gradually the Tabriz merchants had stripped out much of the country's antique supply and so in the last part of the 19th century turned to organizing rug production in many parts of Persia, including, of course, Tabriz itself.

The Tabriz mechants were good organizers and very efficient and economical. The developed a type of upright loom that was adopted in many places, as well as a “roller beam” variant that permitted much more uniform warp tension and that ability to weave pieces that were much longer than traditional looms.

Tabriz rugs were woven in factories, rather than in homes and this gave the producers close control over every feature employed. They specified thinner yarns and shorter pile and Tabriz rugs are often about half as heavy as those of other areas as a result. Tabriz rugs tend to have cotton foundations with symmetric knoted pile made from wool from the nearby Maku district. Maku wool is good but somewhat harder and kempy. Tabriz rugs are woven with hooks rather than with the fingers and this produces a very uniform knot. Tabriz weavers are the fastest in Persia, some reaching 12,000 knots per day. Ironically, despite their urge toward economy, the “jufti” knot was never a problem in Tabriz, since it cannot be tied with a hook.

Likely because of their factory production, there seem no traditional Tabriz designs or colors. The merchants seem to have organized Tabriz weaving, nearly from its beginning, so that they could turn readily in the direction of any important customer demand.

The piece below is a Tabriz rug from Eiland and Eiland. (I may use what they provide as my beginning examples, since they do a good job of treating the various types.) They estimate it as late 19th century.

The rug above has wool pile. Tabriz is one city that also made some silk rugs. The piece below is a Tabriz silk rug, also an Eiland and Eiland example. Again, seen as 19th century they say that its colors are more forceful that those of most Tabriz silk rugs.

So there you have the beginning of a thread on Tabriz rugs. I’ll continue this, as I can, with some of the other major city types.

What interesting examples of Tabriz rugs have you encountered?


R. John Howe