Isfahan (also known as Esfahan) was the capital of Persia from 1598-1722. Today, the city is a recognised UNESCO world heritage site, rich with Islamic architecture from the 16th century Safavid period.
It was during the Safavid period that Isfahan's rug weaving industry first flourished. Under the rule of Shah Abbas I (1587-1629) Persia's output of cultural arts increased rapidly to meet the growing demand from prosperous western regions and their clientele, who relished the opportunity to purchase new exotic goods.
To boost production, Isfahan was bestowed with a royal factory allowing skilled artists and weavers to join forces on a mass scale. In turn, new extravagant floor coverings were designed and produced- the like of which the world had never been seen before.
Characteristics of Isfahan Rugs
A typical Isfahan rug is pictured below. As is common with most city woven pieces, a floral design with a central medallion and four corner pieces is featured. Isfahan's like this are usually hand-woven with fine wool and accents of silk.
A defining characteristic is that weavers from Isfahan have a marked interest in achieving technical perfection. As a result, the rugs they produce are consistently of a very high quality with regards to knot-count and symmetry.
Famous Motifs Originating from Isfahan
One popular motif originating from Isfahan is the Shah Abbasi floral design (pictured left).
The motif was originally commissioned by Shah Abbas I to decorate Isfahan's mosques, however as weavers took inspiration from the beautiful illustrations the design quickly became a greater and more widespread symbol in Iran and its surrounding regions.
Due to its popularity in western markets, it is now one of the most commonly used rug motifs in the east, having also found popularity with weavers in India and Afghanistan.
Isfahan's Master Weavers
Isfahan is home to many master weavers, including Haghighi, Seirafian, Mehdee, Asachi, Nael, Zogagi, Dorri and Ghenaat. Rugs with signatures from any of these weavers are highly sought after in the world market.
Pictured below in order: Mehdi Seirafian Isfahan rug, Dorri Isfahan rug, Mohammad Seirafian Isfahan rug, the Seirafian signature.