Isfahan Rugs Guide
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The city of Isfahan is located in the centre of Iran at the foothills of the Zagros mountain range, it has a rich history in carpet production and in the reign of Malik-Shah I and later Shah Abbas the Great, Isfahan was selected as the capital city of Persia (Iran). The history of rug making in Isfahan has been interrupted on several occasions, mainly due to military occupation and invasion. Also spelled and pronounced Ispahan, Sepahan, Esfahan or Hispahan the city reached its pinnacle during the Safavid dynasty (1501–1736), particularly under Shab Abbas' rule, where there was a renaissance of art throughout Persia, centring around the cultural city. Throughout the ages many cultures have settled in Isfahan, and to this day the cosmopolitan city is awash with intricate artwork, stunning mosques, bridges, palaces and world famous architecture. Aside from architecture and fine carpets, Isfahan is well known for its textiles, fine art, steel, handicrafts, metal-workings, as well as traditional food and sweets.
Isfahan rugs are of an excellent quality, using soft kork wool (often with silk details or foundations) and a very tightly woven pile. The rugs woven in this city are perhaps the best and most valuable in the world as a whole. The most popular design is a central medallion surrounded by vines or flowers which are usually red, blue or indigo on an ivory background. Other popular design elements and motifs include vase, garden and tree of life designs, Shah Abbasi motifs, and pictorial pieces. The inspiration for the rugs' design comes from traditional motifs and patterns, nature, poetry and the great poets, but also from the rich architectural history of the city; the famous mosque of Shah Lutf Allah being a particular muse for many of the rugs created in this great city.
The knots per square inch used in carpets woven in Isfahan can be anywhere from 120 upwards, but would generally be above 200 if woven in the city itself rather than a surrounding town or village. Many quality Isfahan rugs are based on silk foundations, because of this they are extremely fine and valuable. Sizes vary but most are mid-to-large in size. Famous weavers include but are not limited to the Seirafian family and workshops.
Some of the World's most expensive rugs have hailed from Isfahan. Many of these were woven before the Afghan Invasion so date back before the 17th Century. The world famous Polish or Polonaise rugs with their silver and gold threads were also woven in Isfahan - and not Poland as the name may suggest.
Of the top 10 most expensive rugs ever sold 3 hail from Isfahan, cementing the "art city" as one of the top locations for handmade works of art for the floor. From left to right:
A Polonaise Safavid era Isfahan woven in silk, wool and metal-thread (left). This rug sold at Sotheby's in 2009 for $4.3m which at the time was £2.75m at only 1.6 x 1.1m this rug sold for an incredible $2.44m per square metre. At time of writing, the rug is the 9th most expensive rug in the world. However, inch for inch the rug is the 2nd most expensive rug ever sold.
This silk Isfahan rug (middle) another Safavid era rug was part of the Doris Duke collection and in 2008 was silk by Christies for $4.45m. At the time of sale, the rug was the most expensive rug ever sold. Measuring 2.3 x 1.7m the rug cost the private collector a whopping $1.14m per square metre. The rug is currently the 7th most expensive in the world.
Sotheby's sold this Isfahan rug (right) from the William A. Clark Collection in 2013 for $4.65m, measuring 13.5 x 4.3m it is by far the largest and cost $80,000 per square metre. So although it is the most expensive Isfahan ever sold, and the 6th most expensive rug in the world at time of writing, of the 3 rugs featured it cost the least per square metre.
At Little-Persia we have a mix of Isfahan rugs in various sizes and designs. You can click here to view our current Isfahan rugs, if you are unable to find what you are looking for or are seeking something in particular, we are able to help you source something to meet your requirements.