Tabriz , Azerbaijan Province , N.W. Iran
The modern Tabriz carpet is the inheritor of a long Persian art/ craft tradition.
Tabriz was the national capital from the 13th until the mid 16th centuries and it
has always been the first or second city of Iran , as well as a major commercial
and industrial centre . Tabriz merchants have always been important in the
carpet trade . They were the first traders in the Revival Period ( 1870 – 1895 ),
and acted as middlemen between local Iranian weavers and the international
Tabriz has been the biggest carpet export centre in Iran until the 1960’s when
overtaken by Tehran .Tabriz weavers moved to Mashad in the early 20th
century to produce especially high quality pieces there . Tabrizi weavers and
traders were everywhere .
The population is essentially Azari Turks , speaking a local Turkish dialect as
their primary language , close enough to the Stambouli strain to be mutually
comprehensible .Historically , Tabriz has been a tempting target for Turkish
and later Russian invasion, and the resultant instability has not been kind to
the business . However, commercial gain has always trumped political
inclination in Tabriz history .
When Tabriz was a national capital ,as opposed to a mere provincial seat ,
the Royal workshop was active ( 1502 – 1550’s ) weaving extraordinary pieces,
often of enormous size with complex medallions ,jungle landscapes and hunting
designs , for ultrademanding patrons at the highest levels of state .But when
the capital was moved,first to Qazvin and then to Isfahan, there began a long
hiatus during which virtually no carpets were produced , roughly from 1560
to 1870 .These three centuries are a blank.
When weaving primarily for export began again across Iran in the 3rd quarter
of the 19th century , Tabriz was among the first cities to operate on a large
scale .The modern Tabriz carpet was born : all cotton foundation ; a short
and brisk pile ; Turkish knots on a depressed warp ; steel looms ; precise
execution and strict quality control; scale paper patterns ; factory- sized
workshops with a primarily male workforce .
There are various distinct styles .The best known is the “ Hadji jalil “ group.
This is not the work of a single master weaver or even a workshop, but rather
a high grade produced from 1880’s until about 1905 and is characterized by
often open fields displaying medallion and corner patterns , resilient pile
wool , proficiently applied vegetable dyes ,and sizes from 8’x10’ to over
20’x30’ .These are the best rugs of the period and are more frequently found
in Europe than America .Good condition ,overall pattern pieces with slightly
mellow colours always bring a premium .The rust red ground colour is
particularly attractive and desirable .
The German firm “ Petagh “ was active in Tabriz from c.1912 until the 1930’s
and specialized in close interpretations of known classical carpets in modern
room sized formats for the European market . The colours are well dyed
synthetics ,uniform but not harsh , and the pile is short .Each piece is marked
in a corner of the field by a triple ball “ cintamani “ device .
Other firms included “ Benlian “ in the 1920’s – 1940’s period , and more
recently “ Tabatabai “ whose carpets are workman like and middle class .
Tabriz weavers , almost exclusively young boys, follow their cartoons precisely
and the resulting fabric is often exact to the point of aridity with no irregularities
or additions so charming in other Persian pieces .There is no design school in
Tabriz and no famous artistic dynasties . So the professional designers hew closely
to a succesfull commerciasl path . The herati design , small in scale to appear
textile- like, layered in field , medallion and corners in different colours, is a
popular motif . The execution is meticulous , almost mechanical and charming
flaws are never present .Garden designs of panels enclosing trees and flowers
are also popular .
At the lower quality end Tabriz carpets use skin wool from the local tanneries,
clipped very short , harsh dyes and medium coarse weaves . They can not last
more than a few years , but they are cheap for the consumer both domestic
and foreign .
The borders of Tabriz carpets tend to originate from a restricted design
pool : the versatile turtle palmette and an Anatolian- derived version of the
lotus palmette with bracketing curve leaves .
There has been since the late 19th century a small production of silk rugs in
Tabriz : dozars in prayer designs , larger pieces in medallion or garden
designs, with muted tonalities . These have always been popular with decorators
and collectors .Most production of these silk pieces ended by 1914 .