Afshar Rugs and Textiles, Part 2

This is the second part of a three-part virtual presentation of a Textile Museum program on Afsar rugs and textiles conducted by Austin Doyle and Michael Seidman.

It is likely advisable to read through Austin’s lecture in Part 1 since it provides context for the illustrative pieces in this part.  Here is the link to that lecture:

A third part is devoted to piece participants brought in.  This link takes you to Part 3:

Austin and Michael had brought a number of Afsar pieces


arrayed on the front-of-the-room board.

Michael began, preliminarily, with some older pieces Harold Keshishian had brought that were possibly relatable to Afshar weaving.

The first of these preliminary pieces was the mounted shawl fragment below.


Here are some closer details of this piece.


The botehs are on a silk ground.


Harold estimated this fragment to the 18th century.


It is not clear whether this fragment is from an Indian or a Persian shawl, but Kerman shawls (and this is the possible link to our Afshar topic) were noteworthy and are thought by some to compete favorably with the more famous Indian shawls of Kashmir.

A second piece that Harold brought WAS a shawl from Kerman.


Here are some closer details of this colorful piece.



Its stripes with their finely detailed ornamentation are reminiscent of the similarly colorful and embroidered pantaloons of Zoroastrian women.

A third piece that Harold had brought was the Kerman brocade below.


Harold dated this richly textured textile to 1750 and said that it had been reconstituted from several pieces.

Here are some closer details.




You may recall that we saw some other images of this fine piece in our virtual treatment of the textiles at a party that Harold and Melissa held during the holiday season in 2008

Harold had also brought in an image of Nader Shah, the great Afshar military leader and somewhat less distinguished ruler of Persia in the mid-18th century.


Michael treated the material on the board, beginning with a series of Afshar bags with botehs used prominently in their designs.

The first such piece was a complete khorjin set.


This piece was attributed to Afshars in southwest Iran.

Notice that the botehs in its respective field areas are reflected so as to be seen upright on both sides when the khorjin is in use.

Here are some closer details.

First of the bridge, with chevron designs common to many SW Persian tribal groups.


And then of a corner of its lower half.


The back of this piece is a plain, brownish shade.

The next piece was a single khorjin face with a rural version of the boteh device.


The effect is subtle because of the close colors, but notice the diagonal use of color in its botehs leaning to the right.

Here is a closer look at one corner.


I mentioned from the audience that Afshars often seem to have a distinctive blue in their palette and Austin and Michael agreed that there seems an identifiable Afshar color palette.

The next piece was the smaller bag face below.


The scale of the botehs in this piece are somewhat larger and add to its appeal, as does the framing effect of its white ground main border.  The spiky floral meander of the white border is very characteristic of Afshar weaving.

The next piece was a khorjin face of the more usual size.


Notice again the use of the distinctive blue mentioned above. The intricacy of the designs around the closure system draws attention.


Here is a closer, more comprehensive look at this upper right corner.


The next piece was the interesting bag face below.


Here, an effective striped border frames a field with large-scale, instrument botehs, alternating with forcefully colored armatures.



The next “boteh” piece was a sizable rug.


As with the previous piece, colorful, instrumented botehs are placed in colums between a meandering lattice of substantial armatures.


This piece was described as featuring “serrated leaf forms.” The heavy armatures alternate between sections that do seem to be clear plant forms to others that may well be also, but that seem nearly mechanical.


The field is framed by two major borders. The outside one with its white ground is especially effective and quite characteristic of an Afshar border design.

The next piece was the very small bag below.


It was described as “finely woven” and its virtues are captured in this single image.

The following piece was a salt bag.


Skillful use of red and a yellow-orange enrich this piece, especially in areas where is is combined with a dark ground.


Note that the lattice of the field emphasizes the rectilinear while both the forms inside that lattice and the main border move toward the curviliner.

The design combinations used in the top opening-flap are unusual.


Again, there is a rectilinear-curvilinear field-border contrast, but this time is it reversed.

The bag of this salt bag is also unusual


Attractive striped flatweave is combined with a pile treatment of the opening-flap similar to be distinctive from that of the front.

The next piece was a classic, published Afshar rug, now locally owned, but once in the Ralph Yohe collection.  Rugs with this “tulip” design are thought to include some of the oldest known Afshar rugs.


Multiple sets of four richly drawn tulips are opposed on a dark blue field and bracketed by an intricate lattice.


Three smaller scale borders frame the dramatic field without competing with it.


This design is seen to be drawn from the shawl tradition and a dealer in the room said it looked Kerman to him.

There were some other examples of this “tulip” design in the room. The piece below


was this khorjin face (closure slits at the bottom in this image).

Here is a sightly closer look.


A third piece with this “tulip” design field was a small rug.


A distinctive white-ground main border with polychrome medallions frames its field.

Here are some details of it.




The next piece was the large rug below with a field of diagonals.


The colorful diagonals a composed of abstracted plant forms. The main border is an Afshar striped usage.


There was some question about whether this rug was an Afshar. Some thought that this rug, which had somewhat darker warp threads, might be from Fars province.

The next piece has a distinctive zigzag field design.


It was seen to be a Sirjan valley town rug, with depressed warps and a stiff handle, woven in the early 20th century.

Here is a closer corner detail.


And one that shows its “stars and blossums” field devices.


The next piece was the small bag below.


Its field features a large star and a number of smaller stars in background.

This time the zigzag designs are on the back.


And on the small panels between the slits in the closure system on the pile side.


The next piece was another khorjin with star devices arranged diagonally.


Here is a closer top center detail, showing the decoration of the closure system area.


There was some question about whether this piece is Afshar or Khamseh.

A further piece was the rug below.


This piece has seven or eight borders.

Here is a closer detail of one lower corner.


And his is a closer look at its field devices.


This rug was seen to be a city product.

The next was also a rug, this time a three-medallion design.


It has brown wool warps and a “eye-dazzler” field design surrounding its medallions,


and a subtle. but well instrumented, system of borders that frame the field effectively.


The careful composition and controlled execution of this piece suggests that it was woven following a cartoon.

We next turned to another khorjin face.


It has larger-scale floral-like devices in its field.


The stark white of its border contrasts dramatically with the strong colors of the field.


The colors of this piece are strong and beautiful.


Despite its careful composition, the spacious drawing of the main border design projects, for me, an unusual vitality.

In my view this khorjin face is one of the best of an aesthetically strong group of pieces presented in this session.

The next piece was a pile panel AM22

with Memling guls.


It has the shape and size of a Turkmen torba, but its border systems seem Persianate.


It could conceivably be a side panel of a small, pile cargo-bag type mafrash but that, too, could be questioned.

The next piece had a single Memling gul


but this time it occurred on a salt bag.


The colorful bag face below was attributed to the Fars province.


It “chickens” might suggest a Khamseh weaver, but it has white warps and a distinctive border that might license an Afshar attribution.


The next two piece were khorjin faces with similar designs.  The first khorjin face has a field of tiny boteh and a very fine weave.


These field designs are very similar to those sometimes seen on pieces attributed to the Qashqua’i.

Here is a closer look at details of the first one.


And here is a detail of an upper corner of the second one.


It was thought that both of these pieces are probably Afshar, with their white warps and characteristic borders.

The next piece was the rug below.


This rug was described as a rustic version of a “vase” design.

It has a camel hair field, which is unusual for Afshar production.


and an asymmetric knot.


The vase designs have the appearance of faces.  A local rug dealer of Persian extraction claimed that the faces were intentionally drawn and representated “div” or demons.  Here is a closer detail of its side border systems.


The following piece was the rug below.


It features a large central stepped medallion.



It was described as having a classic Afshar design.

Here is a closer look at a lower corner of it, with a classic Afshar spandrel design.


The next piece was, to my mind, one of the prettiest rugs of the day.



This is a Kerman area city rug with a lovely boteh white border.

Its indigo field effectively recedes to give the impression that its center medallion


and corner devices



“float” on it.

It has an asymmetric knot open to the right and “vase” motifs. It was estimated to have been woven in the 3rd quarter of the 19th century.

The next piece was yet another rug.


It was described as having a “medallion and vase” field design.



Its reds are from madder.

And it has “niche” spandrels.



Its knot is asymmetric open to the right. It was estimated to have been woven about 1900, but had classic Afshar colors of peach, electric blue, and a strong green.

The last piece among those that Austin and Michael had brought in was the one below.


Here are closer looks at its field.



Among its colors are an apricot and a peach shade.

It has star medallion corners.  The 2-1-2 design of the medallions in the field may be a more archaic version of the medallion and spandrel design seen in the other rugs of this design, shown above.


The knot is asymmetric open to the right. It was estimated to have been woven in the 19th century.

Perhaps its most interesting feature is that it exhibits “lazy lines.”



This rug appears to have the weave, colors, and lazy lines described as characteristic of “outback” Afshars, in the Hali article by Tom Cole, and certainly does have a primitive and archaic appearance to its drawing.

Folks in the audience had brought in a number of related pieces.  They can be seen in Part 3.  Here, again, is the concluding link to that material:

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