General Classification of Persian Rugs
The Persians are famously the best rugs to purchase. They are generally finer and more firmly woven than the others, and more elegant in design, and seem to show a more refined and noble art.
The Kirmans would be the first choice, and are to the rug dealer what diamonds are to the jeweler. For the new Kirmans, fine, soft, and clean as they look, are all very much alike, and mostly copies or variations of a few particular antique forms, with a floriated medallion in the center, or a full floriated panel, and floriated corners. A familiar design is a vase of flowers in graceful spread, with birds sitting on the twigs. Or, again, they show some adaptation of “the tree of life.” This symbolical figure appears in many forms, now bared of its leaves like the “barren fig tree,” and covering the whole rug, and now in smaller form as “the cypress tree,” or the sacred “Cocos,” three or more to each rug, in full leaves and looking for all the world like certain wooden fir trees. It needs only the combination of these trees with the stiff wooden animals and tiny human figures all of which decorate these rugs. Representations of birds, men, and animals never appear on Turkish rugs.
The Sehnas are highly prized by the Orientals and Occidentals. Old examples are uncommon and are very choice. “Their textile gives to the touch the feeling of velvet. They show the greatness of Oriental workmanship,” says a writer on the subject. Some of these come in very small sizes, like mats, two feet by three. They have a diamond design, the center being a graceful floriated medallion on a background of cream, yellow, red, or green, with floriation at the corners, making the diamond. They are the most beautiful of Persian jewels.
The Sehnas have the lint cut very close, well-nigh to the warp, and are therefore often too thin for utility. They do not lie well on the floor, and by reason of their short lint look cold and lack richness and shine. If you can find a choice one, however, and if, happily, as sometimes occurs, it may have a little depth of lint, you will own a pearl of great price.
The Khorasans are very soft and thick. They generally demonstrate the palm-leaf or loop design in their borders, and are altogether desirable. Their coloring almost always inclines to magenta, but time subjects this to a fine rose. Time has also subjected most of the specimens offered, to the sad detriment of their edges and ends. The ends are very seldom perfect, and age seems to bite into the borders of the Khorasans with a strange and voracious appetite. It is well to consider these defects in your choosing.
The Serabends and their class have one border and a center of double, triple, or multiple diamonds in outline, in which are spreaded irregular rows of small figures, generally palm leaves, so called. This strange figure has three or four different names, the palm leaf, the pear, the loop, etc. It was originally worked into the fabric of the finest Cashmere shawls, and represents the loop which the river Indus makes on the vast plain in upper Cashmere, as seen from the mosque there, to which thousands made their pilgrimage. It was thus intended as a most sacred symbol and reminder. The Serabends are firm in texture, lie well, and are most satisfactory. Sometimes, however, the green in them shows the faults of an aniline dye. Their designs are peculiar to themselves, but never become monotonous. The palm-leaf pattern is of course common to many kinds of rugs. But the varieties in the form and size of it are infinite.
The Shiraz rugs are warm in color, shiny, but rather loosely woven. Many of them show the “shawl pattern,” small horizontal or diagonal stripes. These striped rugs, however, are always wavering and irregular in design and soon tire the eye. They are well passed by. Reproductions of the old Shiraz designs with the center field filled with innumerable odd, small figures used to be common a few years ago. They were very rich and handsome. Almost all of them, however, have the great defect of being crooked. They are frequently called Mecca rugs, on the generally accepted statement that these are the rugs usually chosen to make the pilgrimage to that shrine.
The Youraghans and Joshghans have the general quality of the best Persians, but they are not commonly seen. The Joshghans will show in their field a light lattice-work design with conventionalized roses, or graceful diapering and patterning, of the four-petalled or six-petalled rose. The Persian rose is single, of course, and appears in many simple forms. The Joshghans might be the prototypes of some of the old Kubas or Kabistans, except that floriation was replaced by tiling and mosaic work in the Daghestan region.
The Feraghans are not as finely woven as the Serabends, and on that account, primarily, yield to them in excellence. But old Feraghans often come in smaller sizes than the Serabends and in more desirable proportions. On the other hand, while Feraghans are generally of a firmer quality, there are also antique Serabends heavy and silky. While the Feraghans have no accepted border to distinguish them, they have a most marked characteristic in the decoration of the field. It is a figure like a crescent. But more than likely it was originally a curled-up rose leaf. There is generally an indication of a lattice, on which the roses are formally spread.
The Persian Mousels are perhaps the best rugs now to be had for moderate prices. The region where they are made, being partly Turkish and partly Persian, gives them some of the characteristics of each nation. But the choice ones are always offered as Persian; and the designs of most of them are specificly of that country, with frequent use of Serabend borders, Feraghan figures, etc. Their center field sometimes contains bold medallions, but generally it is filled with palm-leaf or similar small designs, which in themselves are quite monotonous, except as they are diversified and made beautiful by graduated changes of color in both the figures and background. Sometimes these streaks of varying color make too strong a contrast, but generally they shade into each other most harmoniously, and, the nap being heavy and the wool fine, these rugs are greatly lustrous and silky. They have no rivals in this regard except among the Beluchistans and treasured Kazaks. As you walk around them they glow in lights and shades like a Cabochon emerald. One of their distinguishing designs is a very conventionalized cluster of four roses, the whole figure being about the bigness of a small hand. There is a rose at top and bottom and one on either side, with conventionalized leaves to give grace. The design is recognizable at a glance, and is well-nigh as old as Persia.
The designation of certain rugs as Kurdish or Kurdistan has been used exactly, and between the two classes is a well-marked distinction which should be recognized. Kurdistan is a large province in northern Persia. Regardless of their morals or habits, by them are made characteristic, coarse, strong, and often superb rugs which are properly called “Kurdish.” On the other hand, the Persians in Kurdistan make a finer class of rugs and carpets, which are known as Kurdistans. These latter have been praised by a great authority as “the best rugs now made in Persia and perhaps in the East.” They are certainly bold and magnificent in design, beautiful in coloring, and of great strength and durability.
The Gulistans are thick, heavy, and handsome, with striking designs, frequently like the flukes of an anchor, on a light ground. They are not common now even in modern weaving.