Mainly for the purpose of condensation and in order to bring the matter into easier focus, I have chosen to consider the Feraghan rug district as comprising practically all the central province of Irak Ajemi, extending from the eastern slope of the Bakhtiyaris to the great salt deserts or " Death Valleys " of Persia on the east, and from the Caspian Sea southward to the grim left shoulder of the Kuh Banan. The adjustment is somewhat arbitrary, and considered from a geographical standpoint would be erroneous, for the Feraghan district is clearly defined by the maps and does not include the localities where some of the rugs here classified as of the Feraghan group are manufactured. There will be imparted to the Feraghan by this arrangement a great diversity, but in reality not greater than the small territory enjoys, since the actual Feraghan industry has become wholly commercial, and under direction of European managers the weavers of the province now turn out copies of almost every known fabric as well as the original variety which made it famous.
But aside from this, viewed as a whole its fabrics show, under the present classification, more nearly than those of any other section, all the features of design and color common to Persian rugs, whether recent or traditional, though in all save one variety they are lacking in the peculiar ornamental character, which abides in the Kirman and Tabriz. In examples, which will be noted, it is plain that some of the group has to a certain extent been made in imitation of the medallion rugs. Where they have been the expression solely of the Persian genius they preserve more of apparent spontaneity; there is more of nature in them, more likeness to the carpeting of blossoms upon which, in imagination if not in fact, the Persian treads his whole life through.
There is close resemblance between some of these rugs of Feraghan and the fine fabrics of Sehna, which, as has already been said, are, in spite of proximity to the Turkish towns of Bidjar, Hamadan and Tabriz, fairly loyal to Iranian tenets and fashion in art. The difference between the several products of this comprehensive group lies mainly in the designs adopted and the quality of material used.
As floor coverings they are of about equal value. Exception, however, must be made to the common grades of Feraghan proper. This variety marks in Persia, as the low class Ghiordes does in Turkey, the maximum of deterioration from an artistic standpoint. With quantity alone in view and with an ancient reputation to trade upon, quality, for which its name was for centuries honored, seems to have been lost sight of for a time.
Feraghan Proper. The saving clause in whatever may be said of modern Feraghan rugs must be that until lately they have retained the typical patterns and colors, but it requires some imagination to form from some of the Feraghans of today an idea of what their prototypes were. More wholesome, well wrought and altogether likeable floor coverings than the old-time Feraghans it would be hard to find. To the Persian they are the acme of carpeting. The Herati design, which has been held almost a distinctive mark of the Feraghan, has been, on the whole, quite steadfastly adhered to in one form or another possibly because familiarity enables the weavers to produce it quickly. In the better examples it is repeated upon a ground usually blue, with rich but modest variations of color. The borders, well balanced in width against the body of the rug, are wrought after the common plan of alternating rosettes and palmettes upon a waving vine. The borders have more white and pale tints, and more pronounced blues and red than the body. The ground of the main stripe is often laid in some shade of green. The very old pieces leave no room for doubt that this diaper and the same general character have long been distinctive of Feraghan rugs.
The other design most often found in old and finely wrought Feraghans, is the Guli Hinnai, or Flower of the Henna, to which reference has already been made in the chapter on Design. It is more ornate than the Herati, and when well woven and in the antique coloring makes a much richer and more effective rug.
Within the past year or two the Sultanabad firm, which is paramount in Feraghan, and some weavers in other sections, have begun reproducing this design in some excellent rugs, though chiefly in small sizes. For some time hitherto the Guli Hinnai had been much used in large, slipshod form, in coarse rugs.
Many modern Feraghans, borrowing from all sources whatever will fill space, have a huge medallion in the central field, which, with the small corner spaces, has usually an ivory or white ground. The medallion is broken by three more or less geometrical diamond shaped devices, two in blue, supporting a central and larger one in red. All of the central field not taken up by these labor-savers is filled with the recognized small Herat pattern on a blue ground. This design for Feraghan has been largely adopted by the manufacturers of Persian rugs in America as well as in the factory towns of Persia and Turkey. Its borders sometimes preserve vaguely the old conventional Herat or Persian ideas, but more often the main stripe is made up of separate flower devices. Running patterns are retained in the small border stripes. Some of the latter Feraghans have wandered so far from their traditional designs as to use, for the central medallion, geometrical shapes somewhat like those of the Caucasians, or the singular medallion with plain ground so common in the Hamadans.
The true Feraghans are worked in the Sehna knot. The weft is of cotton, which in the moderns has deteriorated commensurately with the rest of the fabrics. Their pile is of wool. Instead of from ninety to one hundred and fifty knots to the square inch, moderns sometimes run as low as thirty.
Sultanabad Rugs. In its practical phase the whole enormous rug industry of the province of Feraghan itself and much of that of the surrounding territory centers in Sultanabad. It is the rug head quarters of the European firm, which controls so large a part of the weaving business of this section of Persia. Aside from the old designs and the modifications of them to which reference has been made above, the Sultanabad rugs are the conceits of European and American designers, working, in a way, on the old Persian models, but changing the colors and supplying such additions as seem likely to meet capricious demands. The regulation grades are heavy rugs of the same sizes as those made in Ghiordes and Oushak, but rather superior to those in quality. In the American markets the Sultanabads are often called "Savalans", after the range of mountains which towers to the north of the district. In the wholesale trade they are classed as " Extra Modern Persians". The designs of this order are known to the weavers as tereh Lemsa. The groundwork is usually of a pale yellowish cast, and the patterns, vines, flowers and the like, are boldly drawn, in stable shades of red, blue and green. The general effect is brilliant and the rugs have on the whole given satisfaction. Harsh criticism has been passed on the Sultanabad enterprise, in various quarters, on the ground that it had urged the weavers to hasty work and by confining them strictly to the designs placed in their hands had substituted European ideas for the "spontaneous originality " which in times past has been the greatest charm of all Oriental art. On the other hand it may be, and is, contended that the Persian populace, having little or no means to prosecute the work of rug-making, would have been forced to forget its craft entirely if some competent agency had not intervened to supply the necessary materials and support. In this measure, at least, concerns of this sort have been conservative forces and the employment which they have afforded has without question kept life in the body of many a poverty-stricken Persian who otherwise would long ago have surrendered in the struggle for the wretched bread of the country.
Saraband Rugs. It has been commonly believed that the name Saraband, as applied to floor coverings, had some connection with the Saraband dance. In a way it has. The Saraband rugs are made in the district of Sarawan, lying immediately to the south of Feraghan. It is easy to understand how the Mediterranean dealers, familiar with the graceful terpsichorean function known as Saraband, interpreted the Persian Sarawan into something that was sure to strike gratefully upon Western ears.
In the Sarawan district the tereh Mir, so called from the village where it is said to have originated, is the almost universal design, and outside influences have not availed to wean the weavers from it. Artisans in other localities have copied the Mir Saraband, changing the borders or coloration to suit their fancy. Even the Heriz peasants have taken to making large kali in this design, but after their own textile methods.
The pure Saraband rugs are probably as clearly defined and adhere as closely to type as any class of rugs in Persia. Almost without exception the field is filled with the pear pattern.
In its arrangement in the Saraband alternate rows will in most instances be found to have the stems turned in opposite directions, which adds more than might be believed to the balanced effect of the design. The colors are quiet but rich. The deepest Persian red and blue are used for ground-colors, one almost invariably appearing in the border when the other is used for the field. Sometimes the main ground is white or ivory color. In such cases the pear pattern appears in red or blue.
A feature of the Saraband, which adds much to its attractiveness and decorum, is the multiplication of the border stripes. These are all narrow, but of different widths, and sometimes there are as many as a dozen of them. The undulating vine is always present, but in very small form, and little rectilinear flowers are thrown in in place of the recognized lotus forms. The narrowness of these border stripes could scarcely be defended if the design in the body of the rug were other than what it is. If it were pretentious and coordinate the multiplicity of small stripes would be beneath it in dignity, and the imposing Herat or Persian borders would be in order. But the adaptation of the border value to the small pear shapes, which make up the filling, shows these Sarawan weavers to possess a sense of balance and harmony, which could scarcely be improved.
The adoption of geometrical elements into the borders is only one of the several evidences in the Saraband of influence other than Persian. Another is what has been called the reciprocal trefoil, referred to as a feature of the " Polish " rugs and having a place in certain Caucasian fabrics. It is found in a vast number of Sarabands, and the reciprocal saw tooth is perhaps even more common.
The genuine Mir Sarabands are tied in the Sehna knot. It is not unusual to find the date of manufacture worked in them.
There is common in the Levantine marts, and frequently found in rug stores in this country, a fabric known to the Turkish dealers as Selvile. It is nothing more or less than a coarser form of Saraband, made by the mountaineers and copied by the weavers in other sections. It is tied with the Ghiordes knot, and is of about the quality of the upper middle class Shirvan, which in some of the border patterns it much resembles. It presents the pear pattern in large, loose form, and the field is overweighted by the number and solidity of its border stripes. It has a two-thread overcasting at the sides, made with the colored weft. The narrow web at the ends is of the same color. On one end there is a rather long knotted fringe of the warp, which is of fine, grayish wool. On the other end the loop of the warp through which the rod has passed is allowed to twist and left for finishing. Rugs of this description are sold in this country under whatever name happens to be most convenient at the time.
Hamadan Rugs. the shadows of Mount Elwund, in and around the city of Hamadan (ancient Ecbatana, burial-place of Esther and Mordecai), a great rug industry is carried on. Most of the fabrics made here have, until lately, followed an established theory in design, and to a large extent in color as well. Within the past two or three years, so great was the success of the Hamadan weavings, looms have been set up in nearby neighborhoods where before no rug making was done. In these the designs of other parts have been imitated, and the object is to substitute a regular " factory " output for the old production, which was wholly characteristic of Hamadan. Cause for this may be found in the decline in popularity, which the typical rugs of the district have suffered. There is little difficulty in distinguishing the Hamadan rug from all other weavings, unless it be from others made in imitation of them at the time when their vogue was greatest.
A considerable quantity of filik, as well as camel's-hair in the natural color, is used in the pile. The prevailing colors are red, blue and yellow, all in strong values, which gain a lustre from the materials. The real camel's-hair antique examples are very rare now, and vast prices are demanded for them. The moderns, while rougher, and harsher in color than the older rugs, are honest and service able fabrics.
They have generally a plain color, in most cases ivory-white or some shade of camel's-hair, for the groundwork of the central field; if not this, then a fret diaper in camel's-hair shade upon a background of ivory-white or cream color. There is a medallion of some pretension in the middle, and the corner spaces are set off to accord with it. These divisions are very positive, but the outlines are shapely. The flower patterns, with which the enclosed areas are adorned, are laid in a rather light blue and striking shades of red. Around the outside of the rug is the tevehr, or broad band of natural camel's-hair, of a tint like that used in the body, or of wool dyed in some pale ivory or primrose tint. Sometimes a stripe of rich red is thrown in just inside this band, fetching up against the border stripes, which are adorned with rectilinear forms of the vine and flower pattern.
There are also some peculiarly compact diaper patterns used in the Hamadans, which are seldom found in any other fabrics. The most common of these is known as Ina Dar or the " Mirror " design. It is complex and leaves little if any of the ground space visible. The essential outline of the design is at first glance indistinct. It is involved with the accessories in such a way as to obscure it. The colors, dull red, blue and yellow, are so intermingled as to give the whole design a dull pinkish tinge, which comports well with the plain band of camel's-hair with which it is enclosed at the sides and ends. The general color effects of the typical Hamadans are shown in Plate XIV of the illustrations.
Among the principal tributaries of the Hamadan market is the Kara-Geuz field, lying to the east. It has long been a weaving section and the workmanship is fairly well up to the Hamadan standards, solid and substantial. In order to supply a demand made upon the Tabriz, Tiflis and Constantinople dealers, runners from twenty five to thirty-five feet long are now made in the Kara-Geuz. They are in all sorts of designs, and in some of them the anilines are rampant.
The old Kara-Geuz runners resembled in many respects certain rugs of Kurdistan. They have been sold in America under the name of Iran, a never-failing retreat for the vendor who is in doubt about the precise origin of a Persian rug. The warp and weft in most cases are of cotton and the sides are overcast. The texture constitutes the chief difference between them and the Kurdistans.
On the road leading south from Hamadan is a group of villages, chief of which are Oustri-Nan and Burujird, where some sterling rugs are woven for the Hamadan trade. They are compactly made; the ground of the border is white, with some conventional device remotely derived from the pear set at short intervals transversely of the border, and with the apex of the cone pointing inward. The Saraband pattern is used for the field, and but for the borders and texture the rugs might be taken for Saraband. They have cotton warp and weft, the latter dyed. They are overcast with colored wool. There is a solid finish at one end and a fringe at the other. The knot is Turkish and the average from seventy-five to ninety to the square inch.
A new and important branch of the Hamadan system is Bibikabad, where the industry has recently been begun upon a considerable scale. The designs are diverse, the texture somewhat looser than that of the Kara-Geuz rugs and the colors, up to the time of the Shah's edict, not all that could be wished for.
Teheran-Ispahan-Saruk Rugs. Nothing could illustrate better the way market places throughout the Orient give their names to commodities brought to them for sale, than the survival of these names in rug nomenclature. Just how long a time has elapsed since rugs in any number were made in either the present or former capital of Persia, it would be difficult to determine, but there is scarcely a rugs shop of note, which has not Teheran and Ispahan rugs to offer to the customer. In the Tabriz bazaars the dealer has no idea what is meant by Teheran and Ispahan. And yet the types, as represented in America, are fairly well defined. After careful inquiry, and examination of rugs sold in Persia, I believe that all the fabrics called Teheran and Ispahan are the products of the village of Saruk in the Feraghan district, and, for the rest, vagrant pieces which come from the looms of Kirman, by the way of Bushire or the Indian ports, to England. In Kirman, longer, perhaps, than in any other place in Persia, the ability to weave well the pure floral and realistic designs has endured. A similar form of craftsmanship still exists in Saruk; the old designs of this order are also copied faithfully in the great factories of Tabriz.
In these "Teheran" and "Ispahan" fabrics the national genius for rich realistic floral decoration maintains very clear expression. There is in them a profusion that makes them known instantly. The freedom with which the designers have gone abroad in the whole realm of nature in quest of forms has resulted in a prodigality of ornamentation, which only halts short of redundancy. All the forms and hues of trees and plant life, birds, animals, fishes, clouds, arabesques, thus broad is the field in which the designer of these rugs counts it his privilege to gather materials. With such a range it is plainly impossible to suggest anything nearly approaching a common design. It is the very richness and multiformity, which are typical.
There can be little doubt that many of the designs seen to-day were devised in another century, and that they have been copied with slight variation, generation after generation. The best of them reflect an artistic spontaneity, which does not abide in the atmosphere of Persia or any other part of the Orient in our time. It is likely that such designs of this class as impress us as being meagre and inept have undergone the greater changes and express more truthfully the present tendency.
In most of the " Ispahan " rugs there are to be found, prominent among the forms upon the dark red or blue field, the clearly marked cones of the cypress tree. Its peculiar dull green, in such perfect complement to the value of the red, which is usually dominant, lends a sombre suggestion, a note somewhat funereal in the midst of all the vernal brightness. It is strikingly demonstrative of the artistic melancholy, which pervades the Persian mind. This cypress, indirectly an emblem of mourning, but really conveying, as all trees do, the idea of perfect and renewed life, distinguishes the great rugs made for use in the mosques and the grave rugs, once so much used in Persia. Additional evidence of their character is afforded, especially in those of Ispahan, so called, by the presence of a willow with solemnly trailing branches a combination recognized by Persian weavers under the name of Terek Asskur. The cypress and willow, carved upon headstones in the old graveyards of our own land, may perhaps be a survival of this design. The prayer rugs of this variety often have the willow in the center, and a succession of cypresses along the sides of the field, with two of them so inclined as to meet at the top, forming the prayer arch.
Some of the " Teheran " rugs show a more formal tendency in design and while retaining the local richness of color have their fields covered with small pear patterns of the elongated forms found in Persian and Indian shawls. Sometimes the effect is made diagonal, when the small patterns are used, by alternating the colors.
In the borders the old pattern of vines carrying rosettes at regular intervals, is common; so in the " Ispahans" is the Herat border. In many " Teherans " the realistic flowers take on a formal decorative character, and the spaces between them are occupied by the long medallion forms known as "cartouches". In rugs of the highest class these cartouches often contain, after the Moorish fashion as preserved in the decoration of the Alhambra, verses from the national poets, appropriate to the designs, or though religious scruples make this rare passages from the Koran.
The designs here described have recently been made in the factory towns in very large, almost whole-rug sizes another indication of the change which has come over the weaving art of the East. Rugs are now looked upon as carpetings and little more. But these big, new pieces have retained the old patterns and coloring, and to a remarkable degree the fineness of stitch. There has been for some time past, until the present year, a scarcity of rugs of this order, which showed any sign of age. This year has found the markets of Constantinople well supplied with the profuse floral pieces.
A word further should be said concerning the village of Saruk and it's weaving. It is situated in the Feraghan district proper, but its rug-makers have stubbornly refused to come under the protection of the European firms. They turn out only a limited number of pieces in a year, pieces of a fineness to put Tabriz to the blush. Nearly all these are taken to Teheran and immediately bought up by wealthy Persians, who pay for them a far higher price than they would command if offered for sale in the open market. The interesting feature of it is that these same Persian magnates, who might reasonably be expected to stickle for rugs dyed with vegetable tingents, never demur at the loose colors, which are the only drawback to the Saruks. This contradiction seems to be universal throughout the kingdom. I visited the home of a Persian merchant, and upon arrival, was ushered into a reception room where we had tea Persian fashion, that is, sitting on the floor. In the apartment there were spread half a dozen or more sedjadeh pieces the floral panels of Kirman. From all of them the color had faded. In some only misty shadows remained of the designs, ghosts of what and not so very long ago had been riotous masses of color. The master of the house, with Persian quickness, saw that his rugs had attracted notice. " I know what you are thinking", he said. "You are thinking it is strange that a Persian who can afford anything else should content himself with rugs dyed with anilines. The truth is, I like them. The softer the tone of the rug, the less aware you are of the colors in it, the more restful it is. These loose dyes fade quickly under the sun, and then you have that. It is beautiful".
And so the fine, flower-strewn rugs of Saruk, with their questionable dyestuffs, are sold for three prices, before the warp of them is stretched upon the loom.
"Josheghan Rugs" or Djushaghan. Among the best rugs in Persia are the soft-toned but hard-woven fabrics, which are called Josheghan rugs. The name is another of those, which are brought in for every emergency. The genuine rugs of this variety have not been largely sold in America, since the district where they are made is within easier reach of the Persian Gulf ports than the markets of the North. The fabrics are therefore better known in England than here.
The Djushaghan or Dshushekan district is some distance south of Feraghan. Its weavers, like those of Feraghan, have shown a decided loyalty to the local design, which, when in its purity and well woven and colored, is one of the most pleasing to be found in Persia. In general effect it resembles the Saraband, but the design has not the definition, which is afforded by even the most delicate rendition of the pear pattern. It has something of likeness to the " Mirror" pattern found in the Hamadans in point of color, and also in the fact that the main features do not obtrude themselves upon notice. The foundation of it is Arabic, and the outline, like so many of the Arabic traceries, is continuous, passing on from one figure to another. The principal element is a cross, the ends of which, instead of being square, are angular, and the lines forming this angle intersect each other, and are carried along to form points of adjoining crosses. This, it will be seen, leaves an eight-pointed star space between every four crosses. This space is filled with the subordinate elements of the design, and the center and arms of the cross itself are likewise adorned with conventional floral figures four-petaled flowers and a diagonal arrangement of leaves. The border ground is of much lighter red than the body of the rug, and the patterns are small floral shapes in dull colors, relieving a geometrical key shape similar in conception to the X-shape in the Shiraz rugs. The entire fabric is usually in a soft tone of red.
The warp is wool, and there is a hard, thin, narrow web at the end. The sides are overcast, and the knot is Turkish. There are from nine to twelve knots to the inch measuring horizontally and eight to eleven perpendicularly.