Persian embroideries have been woven as early as the 4th century BC. They have throughout history been regarded as masterpieces in art form, being sought after by nobles and rich men across the world. Below is an image of a Persian embroidery, the 'Pazyrak Barrow', dating back to the 5th or 4th century BC.
Many great explorers were documented to have made mention of the skill and worksmanship of Persian embroideries. Marco Polo said in c.1300 of his travels through Persia enroute to China,
“The ladies of the country and their daughters...produce exquisite needlework in the embroidery of silk stuffs in different colours, with figures of beasts and birds, trees and flowers, and a variety of other patterns.”
In 'The Book of Ser Marco Polo', the merchant described the decorative hangings in Kerman as 'marvels to see'. There are also mentions of Persian embroideries in the tales of Alexander the Great. It is documented that in the 3rd century BC, the king was so enamoured with the splendour of the region's embroideries that,
“To show his countrymen...he sent home the embroidered tent of Darius." [referring to Darius the Great, the ruler of Persia.]
Types of Embroidery & Textiles
In modern day Iran you can find a large variety of Persian textiles and embroideries being produced, including the following.
Rashti-Duzi: Rashti-Duzi (see image below) refers to embroideries woven in the city of Rasht in Northern Iran. Woven for over 400 years, Rashti-Duzis are famed for their intricately embroidered details and borders of woven 'Boteh' (Paisley motifs). The artform has reached high acclaim in both Iran and Europe. In 2014, Seyyede Khadijeh Jafari who crafts textiles in the Rashti-Duzi style won the UNESCO Award of Excellence in Handicrafts for her creations.
The highly acclaimed HALI Magazine of rugs and textiles also recently published an article about an antique Rashti-Duzi tent used during the travels of Mohammad Qajar (the king of Persia between 1834 and 1848). The tent is a prime example of the magnificence of the Rashti-Duzi style and why textiles from the region of Rasht were so greatly sought after by noblemen and kings of the past.
Zar-Duzi: 'Zar-Duzis' refer to Persian embroideries that are woven with threads of gold, silk and wool. The word 'Zar' in Farsi translates literally into 'gold'. Zar-Duzis were traditionally woven to be used as the elegant attire of royals, in as well as Persia, neighbouring regions like India.
With the high costs of acquiring raw materials, the artform relied almost completely upon the wealthy aristocracy of the region to support production. The artform saw a surge in popularity in the 17th century, when it reached its pinnacle. However as fashion trends evolved and demand for the textiles faded, production of the art form became much more rare.
Qollab-Duzi: 'Qollab-Duzis' are another form of embroidery from the city of Rasht, northern Iran. The difference with these embroideries is the needle used. The needle is curved instead of straight and the thread is pulled through the cloth to create the pattern.
Termeh: 'Termeh' refers to hand woven cloth produced in the Yazd province of Iran. They are woven by master weavers with a couple of assistance to help them. The quality of Termehs is so fine and intricate that only 20-30cm can be woven in a day.
A traditional Persian Termeh can be seen below;
Traditionally it was custom that when a bride was to be married she would weave a Termeh and have her dowry placed within the Termeh to be taken into her new life with her.