Posted by Wendel Swan on 06-15-2007 05:40 PM:

A Feraghan horse cover fragment

Hello all,

John Howe has sometimes referred to me as one of the few collectors he knows with an interest in Persian city rugs. I recently had the opportunity to see this Feraghan horse cover fragment in the flesh. It is unusual enough that I thought it might elicit some comment here.

In its present form, it is approximately 4 feet square. The breast flaps are missing, with their ends now re-attached to the top corners (see the notches). It was said to be 3rd quarter of the 19th Century. There are small amounts of light aubergine. There are several holes in the piece, all of which have been backed with two different colors of red cloth.

I personally feel that the better weavings of Persia (especially the Arak and Kashan areas) compete with any for pure style and beauty.

This horse cover combines elements in a striking way: botehs, floral and geometric motifs, some Perpedil-like hooks and a nice reciprocal border. To my eye, the graphics are compelling. Even though the elements themselves are familiar, I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Best to all,


Posted by R. John Howe on 06-16-2007 08:11 AM:

Wendel et al -

I think this is a very beautiful weaving that uses a not terribly wide palette skillfully. To my mind the drawing it exhibits is wonderfully finished and sophisticated. Yes, it seems "urban" to me, but that does not prevent me from admiring its quality and its qualities.

I do think it exemplifies the sort of thing to which you are often attracted and (as much as I protest about whether such a thing exists) your good eye.

The border seems unusual to me and the white-edged triangular intrusions are graphically very effective. I think the drawing has great "balance."

This piece is at one end of an array of pieces and the furthest from what have sometimes been called "oops" weavings. It is different from, and more sophisticated than, but it's general character is reminescent to me of the Gerard Paquin piece we used as one of the comparisons in my early salon on "The Oops Thesis."

Everything in this horse cover fragment seem to me to have been carefully considered and expertly executed.

Wendel's interest in more urban pieces has often resulted in his owning some extraordinary things. His Kerman meditation rug is just one example.

(This darkish, smallish photo doesn't do near justice to this piece.)

Wendel is sometimes a little self-conscious about his tendency toward valuing perfection in weavings and he has a goodly number of pieces in his collection that exhibit considerable irregular exhuberance.

I think the sound rule he follows in this regard is that he will sometimes admire (even acquire) a piece in spite of its faults but he tries not do so because of them.

Did you buy it, Wendel?


R. John Howe

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 06-16-2007 08:45 AM:

Hi Wendel,

I think this is a beautiful piece, and I'd like to take John's comment on balance a little further. On this piece, I think the effectiveness of the drawing technique goes beyond distribution of background and foreground elements.

What strikes me as most uncommon is the treatment of scale and contrast with the detail elements. The size of your image presents a view of the piece that is about the same as standing some distance away. And, at that distance, every single design element is clearly visible, right down to the smallest line segment.

It's a remarkable piece. I wonder, how confident are you of the Feraghan attribution ? It has a distinct Caucasian look to me.

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by Wendel Swan on 06-16-2007 10:20 PM:

Hello Chuck, John and all,

The term Ferahan, like others in the Persian carpet trade, is used more to designate a quality than a specific geographic origin. Saruk, north of Arak, is in the Ferahan district and the Saruk carpets were long known for superior quality. The trade uses the term Ferahan-Saruk to designate what are believed to be the oldest and highest quality examples. This is somewhat like the term Serapi, except that there is no place called Serapi.

It is generally thought that the earlier Saruks and Ferahans were more geometric and that they became more curvilinear as trade with Europe increased and cartoons were carefully drafted for production.

Here is an image of a somewhat analogous Ferahan in the Carpet Museum in Tehran. A small catalog produced for the opening of the museum in 1977 refers to it (optimistically, in my opinion) as first half of the 19th Century. The border consists of stylized floral forms and vases. I may have posted this image previously. I think it is very powerful although I find the border to be somewhat overwhelming. Its width is about the same as that of the horse cover. Their lengths originally may have been about the same as well.

Gans-Ruedin’s large volume The Splendor of Persian Carpets rather precisely (and probably accurately) dates it to 1870. Gans-Ruedin illustrates a wide selection of the carpets in the Carpet Museum, many obviously selected as much for their technical qualities as anything else.

The horse cover is “Ferahan” (or, if that is too vague a term, Arak region) but definitely not Caucasian. The knots are asymmetric, open to the left. The horse cover contains some of the corrosive light green that the trade often says to be a trait of Ferahan or Saruk Ferahan rugs.



Posted by Jerry Silverman on 06-17-2007 01:26 PM:

Dear Wendel,

Now that you have this piece in hand, could you take some close-up pictures to post here?