Iran (Persia) was the oldest and once most powerful empire in the Middle East and is the home of the original oriental carpet. It was under the Safavid Dynasty (1502-1736) that Iran attained its artistic height. This era saw the development of highly qualified carpet factories in the cities of Kerman, Isfahan, Kashan, Tabriz, and Herat.
Iran is the home of most motifs, patterns and traditional colorations produced in rugs throughout the world today. Over the centuries, Persian handknotted carpets have become treasured heirlooms passed on from one generation to the next. Persian carpet exports began in the 16th century. Starting in the 1850s, American, English and German firms established new factories in Mashed, Tabriz, Kerman, and Sultanabad (now Arak), thereby ensuring the art form's continued development. Under Reza Shah Pahlavi, royal factories were established to utilize the finest materials and methods of manufacture.
Persian carpets continue to boast very high quality standards and command a very brisk interest in domestic and international markets. While large city workshops were an important factor in the past, much of today's production is fashioned along cottage industry lines in smaller villages and towns. Handknotted rugs are generally named after the village, town or district where they are woven or collected, or by the weaving tribe in the case of nomadic pieces. Each rug's particular pattern, palette, and weave are uniquely linked with the indigenous culture, and weaving techniques are specific to an identifiable geographic area or nomadic tribe.
Popular rug styles today include Abadeh, Bidjar, Gabbeh, Heriz, Keshan, Kirman (Kerman), Mashad (Mashhad), Meshed, Nain, Tabriz, Kazak, Khan, Nahzat and Zeigler.
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