On February 19, 2011, Hassan Beheshti, a rug dealer here in Washington, D. C.,
gave a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program on “Beautiful Antique Rugs of Persia.”
The Myers Room was full.
Wendel Swan provided Hassan with some facilitating assistance.
Hassan said that he was born in Iran and his family came to the U.S. in the 7os. He graduated from college here, with a degree in engineering, and worked for awhile as an engineer. He, subsequently, came into the rug business in which members of his family were engaged and was active for some years at both the wholesale and retail levels of the market in the Atlanta area. He married a lady from Washington, D.C. and several years ago bought a location and established a shop in the heart of Georgetown, called “Monarc Antique Rugs,” where he continues in business.
There was a single rug on the front board, and Hassan moved directly to treat it.
It is a Tabriz from around 1875, one of the oldest Tabriz rugs you are likely to see.
In the following detail images you will see that this subtle rug does not have an extraordinary range of colors, nor does it have high contrast, but the graphics are superb:
Tabriz carpets have symmetric knots, woven with a hook, and have a very uniform, almost “machine-made-like” uniformity in the weave pattern on the back.
Notice the simple border guards that separate the main and secondary borders. The back is typically Tabriz.
(view of the back)
Here is a closer look at this back.
Hassan then moved to an antique Saruk.
which has a very appealing ivory ground.
and good colors, better than they appear to be in these images.
with the red tips.
and what might have been calligraphy in earlier versions.
Despite the fact that this rug has a fairly sophisticated border design,
the corners are “unresolved,”
that is, there is no effort to turn the design at a 45 degree angle to move smoothly and continuously around the corner, as is the case with some “city” rugs woven exactly to a cartoon. Instead, the weaver merely stopped weaving the border in its original orientation in the lower rows, rotated the design 90 degrees, and began to weave it in that orientation up the side of the rug. So there is a clear break in the pattern where the new orientation the side “buts” abruptly against the bottom orientation. Butted borders can often, surprisingly, be found on rugs with quite sophisticated designs.
The next rug was a smaller piece with a Persian tree of life design.
It had a relatively narrow color palette.
Here are some details.
Hassan took us to the next rug.
This rug is an all silk Tabriz, meaning that it is silk pile woven on silk warps and silk wefts.
Here are some details of this silk rug, but silk rugs, whether in person or in a photograph, reflect light much differently than do wool pile rugs.
Here the beautiful blue medallion can be seen in all its glory, but capturing colors in silk rugs is difficult.
From this perspective, the colors seem entirely different.
Silk rugs are famous for looking much lighter or darker depending on the end from which one views them. The colors will be more intense and more obvious if one looks into the pile, meaning from the perspective of the bottom. We have been looking at the lighter seeming side of this piece. Hassan and Wendel tried to let us see it darker aspects by lifting it so that the overhead lights would shine into the pile.
But for this photo that effort was not entirely successful. It was difficult to turn this relatively large piece on the board.
The next rug, an antique Saruk, had a dramatic medallion design.
Saruks are often the favorite Persian rug among those who say they collect primarily tribal and nomadic material. This Saruk has tremendous graphics and contrast.
Here are some details.
The tendrils are delicate, but enhanced by the ivory ground.
The antique Saruks have a way of combing delicacy with strong design and contrast, as we see below.
This is the tightly woven back, one reason that Saruks are such sturdy floor rugs.
Floral tendrils are also prominent in the main border, which is flanked by geometric secondary borders. There is often an angular quality to the drawing of Saruks.
The next rug was another antique Saruk of highly unusual design, with a field covered in botehs.
It has a floral border with tendrils and carnations.
The following fuzzy detail gives some idea of the intricacy of the drawing.
As is evident by the fringe, this rug is in nearly mint condition.
This detail of the back shows how good the colors are. Often antique Saruks used early synthetic dyes that faded, sometimes dramatically, over the years.
This rug shows no such fading and may have been woven with all natural dyes. Notice the aubergine.
The next rug was an exceptionally beautiful “Kurd” Bijar.
It has a bold central medallion outlined in what might be called “kilim style” with notched lines.
The ground is probably dyed sheep’s wool, not camel hair. There is a pink in this rug, probably derived from madder, that was used in earlier Persian rugs.
The secondary floral meander border is very typical of the Bijar area.
Hassan took us to the next piece, another rug with a dramatic central medallion.
Here is a full view of it.
There is a wonderful medallion.
And botehs in the corners.
It has a Herati style border.
Notice the plain border guards and the secondary carnation border.
Hassan attributed the next rug to Khorassan, in Northeastern Iran. It is a very rare piece and still quite striking despite the wear.
The colors and color palette, some of the motifs, the mother and daughter botehs in the corners and the wear patterns all might suggest that this is a Senneh, as most in the audience first thought.
But it isn’t a Senneh.
The medallion is filled with a Senneh-like Herati pattern.
Even the secondary borders look like those on Sennehs.
The next rug was, however, a Senneh, with a densely patterned, overall design.
Here is a detail of the Herati field.
Here it is with brighter (perhaps too bright) lighting.
Hassan and Wendel compared the backs of the Senneh and the Khorassan. They were decidedly different and distinctive.
The next rug was a Bijar.
It had a Herati border and field design – both prototypically Persian.
including the green.
It is typical of what is sometimes called the “American” period in Persian rugs.
It is not as fine as the older rugs shown.
The next rug was a square-ish and rather late Saruk mat.
It was unusual in having only the outer secondary border.
The next rug was a very attractive and extremely unusual antique Saruk.
You will see that it has architectural type prayer arches, with the tops of those arches going toward the center of the rug.
Hassan called attention to its particular design features.
The next piece was smaller, but Hassan and Wendel held it up together.
Although it has a very appealing design, the colors are less mellow than in the older examples.
Hassan next showed another antique Saruk, this with a niche design.
Rugs of this format are often incorrectly called prayer rugs.
They are more properly referred to as meditation rugs.
Here are some details showing the many fruits and flowers on the tree of life. The colors are more accurate in the first image following.
Everything emanates from a vase or pot at the bottom of the field.
The scrolling tendrils are a particular challenge for weavers.
The main border is commonly found on antique Saruks, as are the tertiary borders.
Hassan next showed another meditation rug, this time from Kerman.
The field is densely filled with scrolling vines and flowers.
It has some calligraphy.
and birds in the field
as well as in the border.
Hassan turned to the back and noted a bird figure.
The red ground is nearly covered.
Hassan showed another directional rug from Kerman, this with fewer floral motifs, but the vase is still prominent. The border system is unusual.
There are many botehs.
Note how the vines emanate from the vase.
The color palette does not have a particularly wide range.
The next piece, which was brought in, is a great Kerman tree of life rug.
It is very unusual because nearly all of the tree of life rugs, whether from Kerman or elsewhere, are symmetrical.
This rug is structurally different from the other Kermans, possibly because it is older bit also because rugs bearing the Kerman name were woven all around the city, including in the nearby village of Ravar.
Ravar (or Laver more commonly) is mostly a term of quality rather than of specific origin.
The cartouches in the border contain poetic calligraphy that praises a woman as well as inscriptions telling for whom and by whom the carpet was woven.
The colors are accurate in the following two images.
There are many, many kinds of fruits and flowers depicted very much life-like,
all of which spring from the vase
that is flanked by dervishes.
There is great contrast in the colors and a wide range of them.
The next piece had a niche “mille fleurs” design.
Hassan attracted attention to the lower left corner of this rug.
Here is a close-up of the device he is pointing at – a bird’s head that has morphed from a vine. This is not unusual in Persian imagery.
Here are some further details of this rug. Note the weeping tree.
It is from Southern Persia.
Like most other tree of life rugs, this one is symmetrical.
It has a meander floral border on an ivory ground.
The next piece from the Chahar Mahal area was smaller and wider than tall. These are usually called Bakhtiyari.
It features a cypress tree.
As with some of the antique Saruks, the corners are not resolved well.
The next piece was a small Jozan mat from Northwest Persian, between Arak and Malayer.
It is partially “souf” – that is, part of the blue ground was clipped down to make the design stand in relief.
There is a wide array of colors in this small rug, which was probably used to sit upon.
The wool is particularly lustrous.
The next rug was a large Isfahan, a quintessential “fancy” Persian city rug.
The next rug was, again, a larger one with South Persian imagery. This was brought in by an audience member.
Here are some details of it.
A member of the audience had brought in a rug and a Persian tile that had very similar vase designs. He and Hassan and Wendel held them up together for comparison.
A little closer look.
The rug is one of many Isfahans that bear the name Seirafian. Mohammad Seirafian (1881-1975) began the Seirafian tradition, but this rug bears the signature of his grandson, Bagher Seirafian, who was not born until 1951.
Seirafian rugs are always fine and woven from cartoons.
The signature in English script indicates that it was intended for a Western market.
The next rug was another smaller one brought in by another audience member.
It is from Northwest Persian, probably from around Hamadan, and shows Kurdish influence.
Hassan and Wendel examined it, including its back.
A little closer look at the area they are examining.
Here are some additional details.
The next piece was a diminutive kilim that is usually called Senneh. The totemic design, however, is commonly found in Harsin, which is south of Sanandaj and between Malayer and Kermanshah.
It is about as fine as a wool-patterned kilim can be and was woven on silk warps.
The field consists solely of birds, some standing separately and others stacked one on top of another totemically.
The last pieces of the morning were two Persian purses used by the owner of a teahouse to make change for patrons as they paid and left.
These little bags were very common in Persia, but they are seldom seen in the US.
Here they are individually and a little closer.
The inscription in the border refers to the serving of a beverage, which is also the image.
The second purse has a mostly pile front but the lower part of its front and its entire back is of leather.
The owner’s belt could pass through the loops.
Hassan took questions,
and adjourned the session.
The audience came his way.
Hassan’s father-in-law had come to hear him speak.
I want to thank Hassan for being willing to have this virtual version of his program produced. A special thanks to Wendel Swan, who provided most of the comments in this virtual version, as well as considerable editing assistance.
I hope you have enjoyed this virtual version of Hassan’s “rug morning” program and, perhaps, have seen some old Persian “friends.”
And that, as they say in show business,
is a “wrap.”
R. John Howe