Posted by Patrick Weiler on 05-13-2003 01:32 AM:

Varamin Connection?

Here is a bag with Luri characteristics and possibly Varamin provenance:

Undepressed warp, red wefts:

The light brown color around the rosettes is a natural, undyed wool, not a faded synthetic.

Comments? Questions? Insights?

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 05-13-2003 05:29 PM:

Varamin is the breadbasket of Tehran, supplying it with grains and other agricultural foodstuffs. It is situated 40km, about 25 miles, south of Tehran, in a vast plain, at the edge of the large Central Desert.
The city of Varamin itself currently has a population of around 85,000, not counting the hundreds of villages surrounding it. When Tehran was chosen as the capital of Persia in 1795, the Varamin area absorbed a multitude of tribes, hundreds of villages, numerous flocks and flourishing farms. Thousands of camels carried the grains and food from the Varamin area to Tehran in saddle bags woven by the various tribes of the area.
Lurs from near and Fars came, too, along with Arabs, Kurds and Turks. The saddlebags woven by the Varamin Lurs utilize the familiar western Luri techniques of widely spaced weft wrappings and patches of pile at the bottoms of the bags.
Tanavoli, in his book Rustic & Tribal Weaves from Varamin, says:
"Designs are also similar, being based on repeated vegetal, animal and/or geometric motifs. The most obvious distinction is in the palette, with Lori-Bakhtiari work from western Iran being darker and duller than that of the Varamin Lors."

This photo from the salon shows the widely spaced weft wrappings:

Tanavoli notes, in describing plate 67, a weft-wrapping mafrash of the Turkmen gul type:
"The weft wrappings in this mafrash are spaced wrappings, as in all other Varamini weft wrappings. All the tribes, including Shahsavans who produce compact weft wrappings in their native land, have followed the Lori tradition of spaced weft wrapping in Varamin."

The Arab tribes produced these mafrash with Turkmen-like designs, such as this one seen earlier in the salon:

Tanavoli says:

"I know of no reliable sources for the presence of Turkmen tribes in Varamin, and it is in any case most unlikely that Sunni Turkmen tribes would have risked living among Varamini Shi'ites, so these visual similarities have given rise to some understandable confusion."

The square bag face in the first post above meets several of the criteria of Varamin Lur weaving, including brighter colors, a typical Varamin dark blue, repeated geometric motifs and the familiar Lur diagonal weft wrapping design in the cotton flat weave strip at the bottom. It is 22" wide x 23" tall.
Interestingly, this construction - with a pile field and cotton flat weave at the bottom- is the opposite of a "normal" Luri bag, which would have been flat weave in the field and pile weave at the bottom!

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Danny Mehra on 05-13-2003 07:57 PM:

Kurds of Varamin?

Hi Patrick,

I have a rug that has been described as potentially by the Kurds of Varamin, and definitely has the right iconography etc. to support that assertion.

This rug has interesting use of white cotton highlights in the pile. Structurally, it is described as follows:

Warp: Wool (tan/brown), 3 strands, Z-spun, S-plied. Weft: Wool multiple colors, 2 strands, Z-spun, S-plied, 3-5 shoots. Pile: Wool. Knot: Turkish, warps depressed, h.10 , v. 8, 80 KPSI.

I'll post pictures as soon as I'm able to get the link from Steve.

Any thoughts on how this links up with your description in this thread?

Best wishes

Here are the pictures:

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 05-13-2003 11:56 PM:

Varamin Structure


Tanavoli indicates that all of the Varamin weaving groups use the symmetric knot. So far, so good. The warps are usually flat or rarely slightly depressed, possibly one strike against your rug. Most pile weavings (Lurs are an occasional exception) have only one weft shoot between rows of pile, probably another strike against a Varamin attribution. Interestingly, the single weft was likely introduced to Varamin weavers by none other than the western Kurds.
The weft is red only in Lur or Shahsavan weaves and these are not exclusively red. Tanavoli says that most Varamin wefts are (this is confusing) "dyed or undyed dark brown wool." Does he mean that they dyed the wool dark brown?
So, your weaving does not fit most of the structural categories, but we will need to see the evidence before coming to a hypothetical, problematic, unsubstantiated conclusion.

Convincingly yours,

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Danny Mehra on 05-14-2003 09:51 AM:

Pictures posted

Hi Patrick,

I have now posted the pictures of the Varamin Kurdish (?) rug above.


Posted by M. Wendorf on 05-14-2003 12:10 PM:


Hi Danny and others:

Three strands of warps? I assume this means three plies. Three plied warps is not consistent with Kurdish traditional weaving which more typically has two ply warps - Z2S. The tan/brown color of the warps is something we do find on Kurdish weaving as are the wefts as described. Warp depression is usually an indication of a more village type weave. Many Kurdish rugs have a flat back, but some villages used warp depression. I do not associate this with Varamin, however. Danny's rug could be Kurdish but I would think that if it is, it comes from further west based on the nice range and saturation of color and that it is a village rug. The main border is fairly distinctive and might help to place the rug. The field design is used in many places.

Thanks, Michael

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 05-14-2003 01:35 PM:

Looks Kurdish


Michael's comments are very instructive. Note that at the edge of the field of your rug, the diamond motif's become half-diamond chevrons similar to those often found at the edges of the fields of diamond-lattice Jaf Kurd bags.
Your field design is the same as that in plate 2 of the Tanavoli book, except the diamond motifs in the Tanavoli piece are arranged in a concentric diamond format instead of the diagonal stripes of your rug. The half-diamonds at the edge of the field in the Tanavoli piece do not show the chevron treatment.
The border, too, is different. Tanavoli says his was woven by Kurds from Khorasan. They were first moved from west to east, then moved partway back to Varamin.
Your border design does not show up in the new James Burns book or in the Tanavoli book, although the minor border of the floral meander (as seen in another post in this salon) is found in a few Kurdish rugs from "Northern Kurdistan" in his book. He says it is called the "shudur" or almond flower design.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Danny Mehra on 05-14-2003 01:52 PM:

Agreed - its likely Kurdish

Michael and Patrick,

Thanks for your instructive comments. As you both pointed out, this rug is likely kurdish, though per Michael's comments, it may be a tad out of the strict kurdish weaving tradition.

If either of you could post a picture of the rug in Mr. Tanavoli's book, that would be terrific.

Do either of you have a theory on the border of this rug? It was described to me as an early border sometimes found on "weeping willow" or Bid Majnum kurdish rugs from NW Iran.

Also, this border would probably be the last strike against a possible Luri connection, right?

Best wishes

Posted by John Collins on 05-14-2003 03:03 PM:

I think the rug is Lur. The main border is definitely found in Lur weaving, although not specificaly Varamin Lur. The field and outside border is a Qashqa'i combination. I have scanned a pertinent photo and will email it to Steve. John Collins

Qashqa’i gabbeh, c1860; 4’10” x 6’7”
Warp: wool; ivory; 2 ply; slight depression
Weft: wool; 2 shoots; red
Pile: wool; symmetrical knot; 7H x 7V= 49 kpsi
Selvedge: bundle of 2 cables of warps with wefts passing over; extra wrapping in alternating strands of red and yellow wool
Literature: WOVEN GARDENS, Plate 30; GABBEH, Plate 28; HERRMANN VIII, Plate 84

Posted by Vincent Keers on 05-15-2003 03:14 AM:

Hi Danny and all,

If it's a Luri, or a Qashqai, this Luri or Qashqai didn't understand the
2 birdheads-on-a-pole-looking-the-same-direction

The inside border shows a hartlike pattern.
This kind can be seen in old Hamadan district rugs as well. It looks like a pear design. Only there.
The main border could be everything. Think the weaver wanted to show flowers?
So, if it isn't Luri, Qashqai or Hamadan district?
Maybe Kurdish?
A cross on a square. The half diamonds?

Best regards,

Posted by Richard Tomlinson on 05-15-2003 08:57 AM:

hi all

well !!!

at least we know it's not anatolian... ... yet....

i guess this goes a long way to demonstrating the extreme difficulties in making a positive attibution.

a kurdoqashvarlurshavan. from somewhere west of beijing, east of paris.

danny - that's a really nice rug you have. looks kurdishy to me. but then again that's probably because i like kurdish rugs :-)

question - would the size of the rug have anything to do with the equation? probably not. stupid question !


Posted by Danny Mehra on 05-15-2003 11:41 AM:

This is getting interesting!

Thanks, everybody, for your input.

John's rug bears a remarkable similarity to mine in the field and minor border compositions. It would be interesting to see the main border composition in another rug as well. John mentioned he's seen it in Lur rugs. If anyone has a picture handy, it would be fun to see it.

The size of my rug, if it helps, is 3' x 7'9". Both ends have minor losses. Its hard to speculate whether mine had one or both ends in a kilim finish like one end of John's rug.

Like Richard, I too tend to "want" my rug to be Kurdish, but I love Luri and Qashqai rugs too, so I'll take it either way!

Best wishes

Posted by M. Wendorf on 05-15-2003 12:01 PM:

Could be that

Dear People:

To be precise, I wrote Danny's rug "could" be Kurdish and that if it is, it must come from further west. The three plied warps are a big negative indicator of the rug being Kurdish. I also still think the main border is fairly distinctive and is the best help at this point to more narrowly place the rug. If John has seen this border on Lur rugs then that seems to be a fairly strong indicator. Like Vincent I see that inner minor border as more of a Hamadan and Southern Kurdistan motif. I also have a vague recollection of the main border on rugs from the area. However, in making any final judgments always go back to structure and color.

Perhaps we should just call it a Lak or Lakistani rug?!?

Regards, Michael

Posted by John Collins on 05-15-2003 12:23 PM:

Dear Danny,

Your rug is Luri. There are many similarities between Luri and Qashqa’i color palettes and iconographies. The differentiating feature is sometimes only the fineness. Your rug did not have end finishes like the one I posted. In all likelihood it had finishes similar to the bag that began this thread. I will post a picture if a Luri Varamin with decoration similar to that bag. I also have a picture (which may take me some time to find) which shows your rug’s main border in an obviously Luri piece.

Best Wishes, John Collins

Note the triangle decoration which also appears in the first bag.

Posted by Danny Mehra on 05-15-2003 02:29 PM:

I think we may have a ringer!


Thanks for posting the pictures. Remarkable similarities!

So does the structure described for my rug sound more like a Luri than a Kurdish structure to you?

Best wishes

Posted by John Collins on 05-15-2003 03:53 PM:

Dear Danny,

Your structure is precisely Lur. I don’t know which Varamin groups Patrick was quoting Tanavoli on, but the single weft “rule” has not been my experience. In the eleven various Luri rugs I documented in FLOWERS OF THE DESERT, I believe only two were single wefted. Your close-up of the back seems to show grayish wefts (you said multi-color in your text). The grayish is consistent with Luri Varamin, as are the dark brown in both warp and weft. Your knot count is typical also (the FOD examples ranged from 56 to 72).
John Collins

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 05-15-2003 07:45 PM:

Single weft


The Arab Varamin mafrash shown above is single wefted, as is a Varamin khorjin I have.
Michael Craycraft, in ORR volume 9, number 6, August/September 1989, described over 100 varamin weavings of the type that "many of which bear archaic and contemporary Turkoman iconography."

(This design type is said by Tanavoli to most likely be woven by Arab Varamin weavers, so the Lurs would not share this high of a percentage of single wefted weavings)

"Eighty-three percent (69/83) are single wefted....As was the case with design elements, torbas were the strictest with 95% being single wefted....There is a tendency to insert a few dyed or colored wefts in the weaving (60%) or leave them all natural (26.5%). Ten examples contained 100% dyed wefts."
He does not say what color the wefts were dyed!?
Tanavoli says, in the page describing the rugs of Varamin:
"The Kurds and the Osanlu Turks weave the majority of the regions's pile rugs. All groups including Kurds, Lors, Shahsavan and Arabs use the symmetric knot. Warps are most often on one level, or, rarely, slightly depressed. The majority of pile weaves have one weft shoot between rows of knots. Single-wefting was probably introduced to Varamin by the western Kurds. Double wefted rugs are not rare either, especially among the Lors and Turks."

So, the experience you had, with only two of eleven Luri Varamin rugs being single wefted is right in line with expectations.

Another indicator of your rug being Lur rather than Kurd is the length of over two times the width, a common Luri characteristic. Here is the photo of the Kurdish rug from the Tanavoli book, plate 2:

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Danny Mehra on 05-16-2003 03:32 PM:

Well well!

Thanks, everyone, for your comments on this rug. It seems we have borders and structure pointing to Luri and a field composition that could be either Luri or Kurdish.

I appreciate everyine's input. Thanks.

I've started another thread with a different rug...would you speculate that this one is Luri too?

Best wishes

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 05-17-2003 11:20 AM:

Kurd or Lur


Your rug illustrates perfectly one of the reasons for this salon. The question was asked several months ago if there was really any confusion between Kurdish and Luri rugs. They both seemed so different from one another. As we have seen, there are a lot of rugs and bags that are difficult to differentiate between Kurd and Lur. The expertise developed by the top dealers, over years of handling these types of rugs, is invaluable. Even experts in paintings often cannot tell who painted an old master sometimes, which is why there are ocassional findings of paintings of great merit, hidden in plain sight for generations.
A case last year of a Reubens rediscovered sold for $76 milllion.

Perhaps your Luri rug is worth that much, too?

Patrick Weiler

Posted by John Collins on 05-17-2003 05:01 PM:

Dear Danny,

Here is a beautiful small Luri bag fron the 19th century which also uses cotton for part of the white pile.

John Colllins

Posted by Danny Mehra on 05-18-2003 01:16 PM:


Thanks to everyone for contributing to this diagnosis. Its interesting to learn how difficult it is to make attributions.

Patrick, thanks for the painting reference. I suppose our little tribal pieces may achieve such significance in a 1000 years!

John, that little bag is a stunner. I loved how they've used cotton to contrast the whites in the palette.

Best wishes

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 05-18-2003 01:57 PM:

Why White


I do not know how unusual it is for Luri weavers to use cotton in the pile fields of their weavings. The two small khorjins from the salon do not have any, nor does the large khorjin, but the large khorjin does use cotton for the whites in the sumak areas. You can see this in the lower right hand corner of this photo:

Why do Luri weavers sometimes use white cotton in the pile? The most likely explanation is because it really did not matter very much to them. As James Opie has said, Luri weavers were not weaving these things for the market. Goods for market required that appearances in terms of absolute symmetry and artistic integrity were more important than the cultural integrity of the iconography and the sometimes posited apotropaic asymmetry - the purposeful non-alignment of things to deflect the Evil Eye.
(think of the metallic "chaff" that fighter jets spew out to deflect incoming enemy missiles)
Perhaps also cotton was a luxury item to wandering nomads and was used the same way small amounts of silk was used in other tribal weavings.
In John's bag, since fully half of the major medallion is in cotton, it has a striking artistic effect of making the bag more noticeable. We know that the owners of these small containers carried them with pride. This one is just that much more special because of the cotton. This added cotton may also have been a way for the owner to differentiate her bag from the many other bags of similar size and design. Think of a gathering of women getting up to leave the party. Now, which bag is mine?

Patrick Weiler

Posted by John Collins on 05-19-2003 10:56 AM:

Unfortunately, the use of cotton as pile does not tell us who made a piece. It is frequently found in Luri and tribal Bakhtiyari work, and in many Kurd pieces. It is not uncommon to see it used in many different Persian village pieces as well. In the vast majority of these cases it seems to be used randomly. The great exception to this are soumac bags where cotton is often used for all the white surface for contrast effect.
A customer of mine just reminded me of a dozar which went through the gallery some 5 years ago which had some cotton pile. Upon close examination, we discovered at that time that the cotton had a printed pattern on it. It seemed to be re-cycled clothing material!
John Collins

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 05-19-2003 08:22 PM:

The End of the Road


This photo shows what is commonly known as a "Shiraz" rug. It uses the same medallion as your Luri rug, both in the center of the 3 medallions and on either side of the medallion pole the length of the field:

You can easily see the Luri-d orange, firmly establishing this weaving at about early mid-twentieth century. It is rather worn, as it was probably not a valuable rug right out of the starting gate. It has the "cheerleader and pom-pom" main border. You may also note the diamond appendages growing out of the pole at the left side of the second photo. These diamonds are also found on the gabbeh, surrounding the square devices in the medallions.

It also has the familiar bird's-head / latch hooks surrounding the medallions that is most common to Luri weavings, along with a flock of small chickens in the field.

This example is probably near the end of the timeline for Luri rugs. This one is smaller in size than a typical, earlier Luri rug, uses synthetic dyes and less substantial wool - this wool is softer and more easily worn than the heavy, richer rugs of before, and has become more standardized in design like the thousands of generic Shiraz rugs woven for the market. Perhaps it was woven by a settled Luri weaver, a generation removed from the vital, nomadic-existence lifestyle that had been followed by her ancestors as far back as their stories take them.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 05-21-2003 07:17 PM:

flatweave pattern

The following photo shows a khorjin from the Tanavoli book. It is plate 39, described as Kurdish or Lori, ca. 1900, 2'2" x 4'2".
Notice the white zig-zag border. This is the same design as you will see at the bottom of the weaving shown at the top of this thread.

In this case it is, as I noted, on a khorjin with a flatweave front with a pile panel at the bottom.

Here is the original bag showing the panel at the bottom:

This same design is seen in "common" Bakhtiyari and Luri bags, too.

Patrick Weiler