The Pearl of Persia: Tabriz Rugs’ History

If we would call Persian rugs the greatest constellation in the so-called “Rug Belt”, stretching from Morocco across North Africa, the Middle East, and into Central Asia and northern India, then Tabriz rugs definitely deserve to  be hailed as its brightest star. They are distinguished by superb quality as well as astounding variety of motifs, patterns and weaves. The incredible array of Tabriz designs includes intricate ornamental medallions, Herati motfs, also known as Mahi, incredibly realistic figurative and pictorial representations, and even 3-d shaped rugs. However, such excellence does not come out of the blue. Here, we would like to bring you a little bit closer to the awe-inspiring, long-established and profound tradition of Tabriz rugs.

Tabriz is the capital of an Iranian province, Azerbaijan. To present-day recipient the place may seem faraway and of little importance to the course of the world’s affairs but the reality is quite different. Iran is actually the cradle of civilization and high culture because on its territory once existed one of the most magnificent empires in history – Persia. It is where the outstanding art of rug weaving was born and developed in a degree incomparable to any other place of Earth. And it happened literary against all odds as Tabriz has been successively raided by the Mongols, Tamerlane, Ottomans and Afghans; it has also survived several earthquakes and two Russian occupations. Nonetheless, it did not stop the weaving masters from following their vocation.

Tabriz was the earliest capital of the Safavid dynasty’s realm and therefore is probably in the right to name itself the oldest carpet production center in Iran. Ergo, it should not come as a surprise that the carpets crafted there have been able to preserve and accumulate the biggest repertory of motifs, techniques and the highest weaving standards.  Setting Tabriz rugs apart from the rest of Persian creations is a tough nut to crack to a layman whose eye is untrained in recognizing the precise number of knots. Tabriz masterpieces, due to their opulent heritage, are not distinguished by any specific patterns or colorations; it is rather the mastery and artistry of execution that contributes to their magnificence and uniqueness. Of course, in a weaving center of such magnitude there is also a place for diversity. There are two subcategories of Tabriz school, one of them is simply called Tabriz and the other one – Ardabil. Obviously, not every carpet created in this town of weavers is of equal merits. The range starts at Bazaar quality of 24 raj (number of knots per length of 7 cm of the widths of the rug) and on up to the incredibly fine 110 raj. Raj are the units of knot density; they are the markers of a rug’s fitness which is based on the number of strings applied to the foundation of the rug. Strings are usually made of cotton or silk, which is employed in the making of only the finest pieces. The craftsmanship of Tabriz carpets  was in its peak condition between the 12th and the 16th century. About two hundred Tabriz masterpieces from the classical or “golden” period of the 14th century, which are known to have survived until this day, are characterized by a harmonic merge of the arts of miniature paintings and weaving. They also stand out thanks to the high level of skill demonstrated by artists and carpet weavers.

How come, after all the life vicissitudes and invasions that fell on the oriental city, we can still enjoy the beauty and never-passing glamor of these astonishing carpets? In the second half of the 19th century three Persian master-weavers, Haji Jalili, Sheik Safi and Kurban Dai contributed to Tabriz’s revival. Soon, rug merchants opened their trails anew and started exporting rugs to the Western markets, which proved to be  particularly receptive. No wonder, considering the fantastic quality, dazzling variety and irresistible charm of Tabriz rugs. Today, the major carpet producers in Tabriz are, among others, Alabaf of Tabriz, Galibafi Nassadji Tabriz, and Miri Brothers. You may come across original Tabriz rugs in the galleries of the most trusted rug dealers.

We at Doris Leslie Blau try to provide only crème de la crème carpets as we believe in the power of quality. If you would like to find out more about Tabriz rugs, do not hesitate to contact us by email or call 212-517-9178. You are more than welcome to visit our gallery located on 306 East 61st Street, 7th Floor, New York and if by any chance you are visiting the capital, come to The Washington Design Centre at 1099 14th Street, N.W. Suite 325. We assure that our consultants will be at your disposal, serving with their expertise and kind advice.

2 thoughts on “The Pearl of Persia: Tabriz Rugs’ History”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *