September 1st, 2009, 12:49 AM   1
Patrick Weiler

Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 36
Oriental Rug Review

Here are a few pieces culled from a previously published periodical, the Oriental Rug Review. They are mostly described as Shahsavan and are all pile weavings.
The first one is from Volume 15, Number 3, February/March 1995:

There was no comment in the magazine regarding this rug other than the Shahsavan attribution. It was sold at a Rippon Boswell auction which is infamous for being a turning point in oriental rug auctions when Eberhart Herrmann bought a large number of rugs at very high prices.
The next pair was published in June/July 1988. A close up of one of these bag faces is on the cover:

A very brief comment accompanied these pieces:
"A set of pile Shahsavan donkeybag faces has been photographed to show dark (top) and light (bottom) color aspects of rugs. The top piece was woven first and the pile inclines to the top side. The pile in the other piece inclines to the bottom side. This light and dark effect is the result of the way light strikes the inclination of the pile.
The magenta red used exclusively in the main border is a color generally believed to be derived from a cochineal source."
There is a technical analysis of these pieces:
Warp:Ivory wool, z2s, no depression
Weft: Top, red wool; bottom, red, brown, and tan wool;
Knot: Symmetric, horizontal 8 and 9, vertical 12 to 14, 96 to 126 per square inch, pile 1/2"
Colors: Ivory, magenta, red, rust, dark blue, mid blue, green. gold, yellow, natural brown (camel?) and, in bottom, dark blue-green and faded lavender (fuchsine?)
This description appears consistent with the features of Shahsavan weavings postulated by Wendel Swan.
Next is a striking piece shown in an advertisement from Peter Willborg from the June/July 1991 ORR.

The only comment is "Shahsavan, early 20th Century." It has an enlarged version of the "flower and bud" design described by Tanavoli in Shahsavan and many other features common to Shahsavan weaving, including what appears to be a camel wool field, people, animals and more. Mr. Willborg would be considered quite competent to differentiate Shahsavan weavings from other NW Persian pieces.
Finally, here is a piece from the December/January 1995 ORR described by Carl Strock:
"And speaking of Shahsavan shield devices, Christie's sold a rather dramatic Kazak rug bearing six of these..."

It is described as Kazak, although no reason for not assigning it a Shahsavan attribution is given other than Christie's auction house designated it as Kazak.
These pieces were sold before the Tanavoli article in Hali and show that a tentative attribution to Shahsavan weavers of pile pieces was already commonly used.

Patrick Weiler
September 1st, 2009, 05:52 PM   2
Richard Larkin

Join Date: May 2008
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 15

Hi Patrick,

Just a comment about the third image in your post, attributed by Peter Willborg to the Shahsavan. I mentioned in a post in another thread that Edwards had written that the up and coming (in about 1950) commercial rugs attributed to Meshkin and Ardebil were being woven by Shahsavan. It strikes me that Willborg's rug could easily be seen stylistically as a model for the later, more prosaic Meshkin and Ardebil production.

Rich Larkin
September 6th, 2009, 04:51 PM   3
Patrick Weiler

Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 36
Last but not Least


Meshkin and Ardebil are in the northern part of Iran, south of Azerbaijan, in what would have historically been near Shahsavan country. It is quite likely that weaving, which was practiced by Shahsavan nomads, would also be a way for them to make money when they settled. The same thing occurred with Kurds, Qashqa'i and many other nomads when and where they settled.
Here is a piece I copied from the internet quite some time ago and do not recall the source, but it was labeled Shahsavan Mafrash and has quit a bit of similarity with both the pile and flatweave pieces from the Salon introduction:

Whereas both Salon pieces have large borders and a single, central row of the "armed medallions" interspersed with the white three-sectioned minor devices, this bag has two rows of the "armed medallions" and only minor borders. This allows one to see the white device as half of a "minor gul" in an allover-repeat pattern. Perhaps this motif was derived from an earlier rug, tile, architectural or calligraphic design.
You can also find another pile piece attributed to the Shahsavan on the recent R. John Howe blog moderated by Wendel Swan.
It is the 5th piece on the second page of the most recent Textile Museum Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program posted on John's blog:
This long, colorful rug, as noted by John, is quite similar to many diagonal-striped rugs labeled Genje.
There is a diagonal striped piece sold by Jim Allen posted on JBOC's Notes on Oriental Rugs: Guide to Gendge Rugs, attributed to Gendje, but showing the sinuous wefts identified by Wendel Swan as indicative of Shahsavan pile weaving. Many of these and other pile pieces may quite likely also be Shahsavan, but there has not been a critical mass of evidence or research done to confirm it.
Here are a couple more Oriental Rug Review Shahsavan pieces. Both have a version of the cross design familiar from Beetle Bags and other Shahsavan weavings. The first one is from July 1995, in an Auction review of Rippon Bosswell. It was lot 12, "Shahsavan long rug, had a glowing red field, a contrasting excellently drawn white main border and a field design well known from Shahsavan bags. Due to low pile in places and reduction at one end, the piece went to a happy Dutch dealer.." The minor floral border and Memling guls often feature in Shahsavan flatweave work.

The next one was advertised for a 1990 Skinner auction as "Shahsavan Pile Rug, South Caucasus, Northwest Persia, late 19th Century". As formal as it appears at first glance, there is an abundance of whimsy in this piece, from the occasional critters in the white inner border to the peculiar paisley botehs of the field and the archaic end panels of large cross devices.

My research for this salon has uncovered numerous pile pieces which would seem to fit the Shahsavan pile weaving characteristics, but which were not labeled as such. Perhaps a closer inspection of their structure would influence a reclassification of them and many other marginally identifiable pieces as Shahsavan.
However, one might not want to belabor the issue for fear of irritating the ASPCA.

Anti Shahsavan Pile Carpet Association.

Patrick Weiler
September 19th, 2009, 02:08 AM   4
Patrick Weiler

Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 36
A few more Hali pieces

This stunning rug was sold at a Rippon Boswell auction in 1997 and was shown in their Hali issue 95 ad. They note "This fascinating and extremely rare Shahsavan rug with a design of vertical stripes, incorporating humans and animals, resembles the flat-woven jajims of the Shahsavan tribes, but it is worked in a pile technique."

The next piece is from the James Burns book The Caucasus, Traditions in Weaving, described as Moghan. It compares to a rug from a Phillips auction, shown in Hali 1990 issue 50, catalogued as Shahsavan. They say that this Shahsavan attribution is possible, but the label "still needs much work before it can be relied upon absolutely."

This one is from Hali 63, 1992, also in a Marketplace item from a Sotheby's auction. It is 3'3" x 7'3" and is said to be a "comparatively rare example of Shahsavan pile weaving, probably from the Hashtrud area; a noteworthy structural point is the change in weft colour from brown to white. One of the earliest Shahsavan pile weavings we can recall at auction".

There have been a number of purported Shahsavan pile rugs shown in the salon, so by now you have a pretty good idea of what to look for. You may want to double-check your collection just in case you have a rare Shahsavan pile rug that you thought was merely Caucasian or NW Persian.

Patrick Weiler