Antique Oriental Rug Spotlight: Bakhtiari, Part 1

The Bakhtiari tribespeople of the rugged Zagros Mountains are famed for their perilous annual migrations over snow-capped peaks and for their lustrous, deep-toned antique carpets displaying grand scale, cornucopian designs. An early 20th-century visitor to the lush Chahar Mahal district in Central Persia noted: “To me Bakhtiari antique carpets are among the most interesting of the tribal village weavings of Persia . . . for they have that quality which we call character: that is, individuality, sincerity, and strength.”

Although they traditionally produced only geometric designs, the Bakhtiaris—along with the Armenian, Kurdish and other weavers of the Chahar Mahal—were also influenced by the floral carpets of the Persian cities, especially those of nearby Isfahan. This gave birth to an innovative and distinctive stylization. This is found especially in their palace-size and oversize antique Oriental carpets that were woven on commission by the great Bakhtiari khans. These are among the most highly regarded of the Bakhtiari antique carpets.

Until the 1930’s Bakhtiari antique carpets were characteristically woven for use by the tribe or on commission within Persia. As they were rarely produced to be exported, they offer lanolin-rich, extremely durable wool and luminous colors, which were procured through a thorough knowledge of dyeing, using natural dyestuffs.

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Village Style Antique Oriental Rugs

Antique Carpet, Serapi

The villages surrounding the major weaving cities and towns created antique Oriental rugs that married the casual nature of the tribal antique rugs and the greater formality of the town rugs. The designs are somewhat planned, often directed by the head weaver. The construction is looser also and village patterns tended to be drawn in a more angular manner than floral and stylized floral imagery woven in more sophisticated settings. The colors in village rugs presented a range of tonal variations, from subtle to dramatic. These cottage-level pieces were often woven in a weaver’s own home allowing her and her extended family to integrate weaving with their daily life responsibilities. Village antique Oriental carpets offer the most casual decorative possibility in room sizes and larger formats. The Bakshaish and Serapi carpets from the Azerbaijan region are the most famous and widely sought after of the village antique carpets.

Major styles of village antique rugs: Bakshaish, Serapi, Malayer, Serab, Heriz, and Bakhtiari.