Afshar Rugs and Textiles, Part 3

This is Part 3 of a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning presented at The Textile Museum here in Washington, D. C. by Austin Doyle and Michael Seidman on Afshar Rugs and Textiles.

Part 1 is Austin’s lecture in which he summarized the literature usefully.  The link to his lecture is here:

Part 2 is devoted to the pieces Austin and Michael brought to illustrate various aspects of their topic.  Here is the link to Part 2:

In Part 3 we moved to look at pieces others in the audience had brought in. The fist piece was a small bag the field of which was dominated by a flower form.


The next brought in piece was the rug below.


Again flower forms dominate the field. Here are two closer looks.



The floral forms in both of these pieces are seen to be instances of western influence in oriental rug and textile design.

The next piece was the bag face below.


Here is a closer look at the abstracted floral forms that populate both its field and borders.  The meandering floral main border is a characteristic Afshar design, and this particular floral border was seen in several Afshar rugs in Part 2.


The next piece was a “mystery rug.”


It was described as having been woven in Khorasan. It is full of Turkmen usages, mostly Yomut, but as drawn by a member of another weaving group.

Here is a closer look at an upper corner.


And here is a lower one.


Notice that there are pile elems at both ends, a sometime Yomut usage.

The guls in the field are a conventionalized version of the “tauk naska” gul


in which the “animal” forms in the quartered major guls have become “H’s,” (this happens with some Turkmen pieces too).

The gesture at a minor gul is a “beach ball” device seenon some Middle Amu Dyra Turkmen weavings, but more frequently on Caucasian rugs and textiles. This same device is employed as minor borders flanking a meander main border that lacks any recognizable Turkmen roots.

It was estimated that this odd rug was likely to have been woven by Afshars about 1930. This is plausible since the Khurasan Afshars live close to both Kurds and to Turkmen groups. A few years ago Michael Craycraft drew my attention to another piece with Turkmen designs that he attributed to the Afshars.

The next brought in piece was the one below.


This bag face was described as 20th century with Kurdish designs. Here it is reversed top to bottom.


Its feature of most interest, of course, is the unusual elem-like panel on a seeming khorjin face.

The next piece was also a small bag.


It was attributed to Kurdish weavers.


Here is a closer detail.


The next brought in piece was the large sumak below.


Here are some closer details of it.



Notice that the central part of the “bird-on-a-pole” devices contain “Greek keys” often seen to signal an Armenian presence.


The attribution of this sumak piece was uncertain, but the border designs and colors were thought to be possibly consistent with Afshar work.

The next piece was a very small, vanity-type bag.


European style flower forms are heavily abstracted.


There was conjecture about whether this piece is better attributed to the Afshars or the Bakhtiaris.

The next piece was another large sumak.


It had a field composed of left-leaning “stripes” of small poly-chrome medallions.


Here is a closer look at the internal intrumentation of these medallions.


A number of sofrehs had been brought in and the piece below was the first of them.


Sofrehs are distinghuished by a variety of uses. This one is seen to be for carrying bread or bread dough.

Here are some closer looks at parts of this piece.


My notes draw attention to the side edges of this piece.


It was attributed either to the Afshar or the Khamseh.

The next piece was another “bread” sofreh with lovely colors.


Again, a closer detail image.


The attribution conjectures about this piece paralleled those of the previous one.

The following piece was also a sofreh, but of a different type.


It is an “eating cloth” type and was put down on the ground for meals. “Eating” sofrehs are also sometimes called “bridal paths” because they were apparently also on occasion used in wedding ceremonies.

This is a substantial textile, 12 or 14 feet long, with a gray-abrashed camel ground field, inward pointing zagged black borders and


heavily decorated ends.


Once with it in his hands, Tanavoli initially opined that this piece was likely Kurdish. When I indicated that some others had thought it Afshar he immediately agreed that it could be that as well.

In his lecture, Austin mentioned that one frequent Afshar color usage is a distinctive blue and this piece (although it is not readily visible in these images) has enough of it to suggest to me that it is mostly likely Afshar. You will see this distinctive blue more readily in some of the other sofrehs that follow here.

The next piece, another eating sofre, with a design very like mine immediately above, but shorter, WAS attributed to the Afshars.

Note: From this point forward the owner of these pieces has, at my request, supplemented the descriptions, made in the text from my notes, with captions of his own.  Since his knowledge of these pieces, and access to them for purposes of description, is far superior to the indications in my notes, his captioned indications should be taken to be the accurate ones.

Afshari dining sofreh from Khorasan, NE Persia

Here are some closer details of this piece.

Beautifully decorated end panels of Afshari dining sofreh from Khorasan

The distinctive Afshar blue usage is more visible in these end panels.

Here is a detail of a device in its field.

Characteristic dendritic zig zags on borders of Afshari dining sofrehs

The next piece was also a sofreh attributed to the Afshars, but with a very different palette.

Afshari sofreh or cover from Jiroft, south central Persia

The caption above provides the indicated attribution.

Here are some closer detail images.

Detail of border design in Afshari sofreh or cover with Luri/Bakhtiari influence
Detail of Afshar sofreh or cover showing Lori/Bakhtiari design influences

The next piece was a Sirjan-valley sofreh.

Afshari bread sofreh with simple yet powerful graphics

Again some closer looks at parts of it.

Detail of Zig zag border of Afshar bread sofreh from Sirjan
Detail of playful central field of Afshar bread sofreh fron Sirjan

A next piece was yet another bread sofreh below.

Afshari bread sofreh from Sirjan in typical design format

Again, the caption provides the attribution.

Here is one closer detail.

Typical highly decorated end finish to Afshari bread or flour sofreh

The next piece was this complete khorjin set.

Complete Afshari khorjin in soumak technique

Its field is a tesselated version of the “bird-on-a pole” design with internal “Greek key” instrumentation.

Detail of Afshar khorjin in soumak technique, bird design with a short bridge.

The last of the brought-in pieces was the one below.

Piled large bagface or sofreh woven by Afshars or Veramin

It owner attributed it to Veramin…Afshar Veramin.

Here are some closer details.

Heavy brown wool warps star design border typical of Afshari weaving from Veramin
Unusual Afshar weaving of a large bag or a piled sofreh from Veramin

Austin and Michael answered questions,

the program was adjourned and folks moved to the front.


others compared notes on pieces in hand.



My thanks for Austin and Michael for permitting this virtual version of their program and their considerable editorial assistance in producing it.

Pat Reilly provided a good set of notes and Tom Xenakis helped editorially as well.

I hope you have enjoyed what seems to me an ambitious program, well executed.


R. John Howe

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