Today I am thinking about one of the most interesting rugs at Arsin Rug Gallery…a magnificent Bakhtiari carpet. A spectacular carpet in its own right, at 14.6 x 31.8. But what’s interesting about this rug is that it has a provenance….and one that we know about. Which is rare, as rugs can’t talk and tell us of their travels!
Bakhtiari rugs and carpets are woven in the Larastan District of southern Persia. The Bakhtiari is the largest of the five major tribal confederacies that comprise the population of south Persia. The others are the Qashqai, the Afshar, the Luri, and the Khamseh. Bakhtiari carpets are woven in villages, scattered over a fertile, well-watered area known as the Chahar-Mahal, which is situated along the eastern slopes of the Zagros mountains, some 80 miles west and south of Isphahan. The majority of the inhabitants of the area are peasants of Turkish descent. In addition, there are seven Armenian villages. One of the largest cities is Shahr-e Kord. Remember that name.
Early in the nineteenth century, the Bakhtiari Khans, who had acquired wealth and power, rivaling that of the Shah, began to covet security and comfort – advantages denied them by their nomadic existence in the mountainous terrain. They acquired land in the foothills of the Chahar-Mahal, where they built houses for themselves as set up establishments as “country gentlemen”. They were able to enjoy the amenities of civilized life without breaking the traditions of their class and cutting themselves off from contact with their tribes. The villagers, in the last 150 years, have accommodated themselves to their masters, retaining their Bakhtiari dress and customs. The majority of the villages lie in the vicinity of Shahr-e Kord, which the Bakhtiari khans have made their administrative center of the area.
But what of this superb Bakhtiari carpet? How did it come about? Where was it since it’s “birth” in the 1920s/30s? That’s the fun part….because we know. This rug was commissioned for the Bank Melli branch in Shahr-e Kord. Until 20 or so years ago, it spent its life in a board/meeting room in the bank. A rug of this size and quality could have only been produced in Shahr-e Kord, as its sheer size would have required an enormous loom. The Arsin family purchased this carpet around 2000. It has been in their collection since that time.
The rug itself is just a magnificent representation of as high a form of rug weaving as there is. Its design is taken from the great carpets of the Safavid Period of the 16th and 17th Centuries when the art form was at its zenith. The saffron used to dye the background color is almost unheard of in a rug this large. And extraordinary wool was used to weave the carpet. For a rug that is nearly a century old, only wool of the highest quality would have allowed the rug to last this long and still be in perfect condition.
It is rare that a carpet comes along that truly takes one’s breath away. The Arsin Bakhtiari certainly does that!
We would love to show you this special piece. Come visit us anytime.