It was in
Lurestan, south of Kurdestan, that the
now famous Lurestan bronzes first came to light in the late
twenties and early thirties of the 20th century. They were all
discovered by p"asants who, quickly realizing what they might
fetch on the market, went systematically through some four to
five hundred burial grounds each containing between ten and
two hundred graves. At the end of four years the bulk of the
graves had been completely rifled; not one had been
scientifically excavated. Few genuine Lurestan bronzes have
appeared on the market since 1934, the majority of which are
believed to date from about 1,000 BC. There are many very fine
examples of metalwork, especially copper and bronze, to be
found in Iran. The earliest object found which can be
identified is a bowl inscribed to a king who reigned from
2,624 to 2,603 BC.
dishes, tea services and jewelry are some of
the most common objects. Gold and silver have traditionally
been an influence of royalty and the very rich, and some
beautiful works are around. Glassware is also something to
look out for.
AND GLASS BLOWING
The continuing flow of
Iranian artistic tradition is nowhere
better illustrated than in the field of ceramic art. Here were
objects made, not for the most part at the behest of church or
state, but by the people for their everyday use, often without
self- conscious artistry. No art is known to have been
practiced so continuously on the plateau -examples of which
have been unearthed from burial mounds (tappehs) from
the Sth millennium BC.
Originally pottery W1IS painted unglazed, but from the start
of the third millennium it began in some places to be glazed.
From the earliest days ceramics were painted with the simple
geometric, floral and animal motifs that developed into the
characteristic Persian style. Some of the early finds can be
seen at Tehran National Museum.
history of Iranian ceramics is so complex and so
full of uncertainties that it would be misleading to try to
give a consecutive account of it. In Iran the art of pottery,
the oldest known to man, goes back to 1,000 BC. The more
developed stage of pottery began here with the marking of
lusterware, which date back to the second millennium BC.
The Golden Age or the classic period of Iranian pottery is
generally regarded as tapering off in the fifteenth century.
Thereafter, there was certainly deterioration and a recession.
Chinese influence became very strong after the Mongol invasion
and remained so until the mid-18th century. But the end of the
17th century, and particularly the reign of Shah Abbas, saw an
astonishing revival. Glazed tile continues to be used until
the late 20th century.
Mand in Gonbad, Lalejin in Hamadan, Maybod in Yazd,
Shahreza in Esfahan, Zonuz in Azarbaijan, Kalpurgan in Sistan
& Baluchestan, Juybar in Mazandaran, and Siahkal in Guilan,
constitute, today, some of the major production centers ofhand-
made pottery in Iran.
Arabesques, floral, flora-fauna, and Cathay designs painted
and engraved inscription in Thulth, Naskh and Kuffic
scripts, with the application of polychrome, white,
enamel, turquoise, and pink glazes as well as under- and
over-glazing, have rendered much fame to the Iranian pottery
around the world.
Iran is one of the few countries in the world with a thriving
glass-blowing industry, which has four thousand years of
tradition behind it. At the present time, glassware is
produced chiefly in Tehran, Maymand in Pars Province and
Tezenje, a village in central Iran.
CARPETS AND KILIMS
would indeed be hard to dispute the Iranian claim to have
produced the most elaborate, the most decorative, the most
valuable, and the most superbly assured carpets, which are
considered as our, cultural exports in the world. Because of
the lack of furniture in most Iranian houses, particularly in
rural areas, carpets are far more than just floor coverings.
It is still partly true to say that Iranians, particularly in
villages, display their wealth on the floor and -because the
most valuable carpets are certainly not for walking over -on
The fascinating floral designs of the Persian carpets
consistently recall the fabled and wonderful landscapes and
versatility of the Persian gardens. Thus, it can be said:
"He, who takes such a carpet home, will be in possession of a
miniature Persian garden indeed. " The most ancient
carpets known to exist are those found nearly three decades
ago at Kizirik in southeastern Siberia. The design and weft of
these carpets, which have been preserved in exceptionally good
condition show that they belong to the Achaemenian period.
of the magnificence of the Persian carpet lies in
the choice of material, the richness of the blends of colors,
the beauty of the design and the fine quality of the
craftsmanship. Except for silk carpets, wool is used as the
basic material in the making omost Persian carpets. Carpet
weavers have an overwhelming preference for wool cut from the
living sheep, from the neck and stomach, believing that such
wool preserves a freshness and shine.
Certain regional characteristics, however, do stand out
clearly. Towards the end of pre-Islamic period, stylized
animal and human figures began to turn up on some carpets.
After the Arab Conquest, Koranic verses were incorporated into
some carpet designs, and prayer rugs began to be produced on a
grand scale; secular carpets too became a major industry and
were highly prized in European courts. The finest carpets
produced before the middle of the sixteenth century came from
Tabriz, and modern Tabriz rugs still show similarities of wool
and weaving. Kashan produced the most opulent carpets,
unrivaled for sumptuous material and brilliance of color.
Esfahan is famous for its ingenuity in the composition of the
highly ornamental characteristic of design; and Kerman for
tile simplicity of its decoration and the silky softness of
subject matter of Persian carpets there is no limit.
Animals abound in the great "hunting" carpets of the Golden
Age. "Garden" carpets portray trim flowering shrubs. Birds
nest everywhere and are freely used fodecpurpin tribal carpets
of every period. Altogether, the dominant note is stylized
floral ornament: lotus flowers and rosettes, reaf palmettos,
arabesques of blossom, swaying vines, and so-called cloud
bands (imported from China in the late 15th century).
It must be said that carpets of superlative quality and good
colors, as well as the interesting and attractive rugs
produced within the last hundred years or so are fairly
readily available; among them characteristically Qajar designs
from Tehran and Tabriz; passable Kashans and Hamadans;
Turkamans, Afghans, Baluchis and so-called Bokharas galore;
rosette designs from Varamin.
Just as beautiful as the carpets, the varieties of kilims
(tribal cotton weave) and summaks are widely woven in
great profusion and variety by women and young girls all over
Iran, many with good peasant designs, much appreciated by the
Western travelers. Unlike carpet weavers who work from a fixed
pattern, the kilim weavers produce the attractive geometrical
designs from memory, and in exactly the same way as the
tapestries of Europe. The weft serves to make the pattern and
to bind the fabric together. It is drawn across the warp only
as far as the particular color is required; it never goes
across the entire rug. The weft threads are beaten so close
that the warp threads become virtually invisible. This is
similar to the process used in piled carpets to achieve the
tight closely packed knots.
materials for a kilim, depending on the quality, usually
consist of wool and cotton and dyes. As with piled carpets the
best quality wool for kilims are the hard and lustrous wool
from the backs of the Iranian sheep rather than the fine
merino wool developed for clothing. Most kilims contain a
mixture ofwool and cotton, and the better quality kilims have
an increasingly higher proportion of wool.
The glorious and sometimes primitive color of the Iranian
kilims was originally derived from a simple range of natural
dyes and long tradition of skillful management. Colors are
achieved by successive dipping in baths of the primaries.
Kilims are produced throughout Iran, particularly in the
tribal regions of Fars, Kermanshahan, Kurdestan, Azarbaijan
and Khorassan. Kilim making in all these provinces is one of
the oldest crafts.
Carpets Are Made
of the sheep is shorn by hand, then washed in a
particular manner to take off dirt and fat. After drying and
classifying, it is carded and then spun. In recent years
several washing, dyeing and spinning machines suitable to
Persian carpet weaving techniques, have been introduced.
The wool is treated with vegetable and animal dyeing material.
In each district there exist special methods and formulas for
dyeing the wool. After dyeing, the wool is washed in clear
water and hanged to dry. Vegetable dyes are obtained from
madder- root, walnut peels, grape leaves, esparak
(spurge) straw, dyers, weed, pomegranate peels and gall nut.
Animal dyes come from cochineal, acidulated milk,
qaraguroot, etc. Minerals and chemicals are also used in
conjunction with the dyeing formula such as caustic soda.
citric acid, hydrosulphide and alum. These chemicals are
required to make the dye fast and prevent the colors from
draws the pattern on pieces of paper pasted side
by side to make one quarter of the area of the carpet. The
design is colored and handed over to the operator who places
it before him in front of the loom and uses such wool in his
weaving that matches exactly with the colors in the drawing.
are used in weaving Persian carpet: the Turkish
and the Farsi (Persian) knots. In the Turkish method
knots are tied with the help of a hooked needle. The Farsi
method uses no needle; knots are tied entirely by hand.
The carpets of the Turkish method are more durable in texture
because of system of knots in the warp, but the texture on the
back of the carpet does not look as even as that of the
carpets of the Farsi method. The Farsi carpet, for reason of a
different method of knots tied in the warp, has an even and
nice-Looking back. The back of these carpets shows itself fine
and smooth, though the number of knots made in every square
inch may be the same as that in the Turkish method.
The loom of classic rugs, namely the ones made in towns are
erected vertically and stand in front of the operator, while
the looms of tribal rugs such as Baluch and Turkman are set
horizontally. The looms of the tribal rugs are smaller
compared to with those used in other areas, which are more
classic in structure.
A loom is
basically a frame of wood on which the warp threads
are.stretched tightly between the upper and lower crossbeams.
The warp consists of threads lying close together (the finer
the carpet the closer and thinner the threads) and running the
length of the loom. Onto these warp threads is knotted the
woolen yarn which forms the pile of the rug. When one row of
knots is completed across the width of the carpet, a weft
thread (of cotton mainly) is inserted down against the knots
as firmly as possible to give the knots and the fabric
strength and firmness. The process is repeated row after row
until the pile of the carpet is completed. Then follows the
last part of the operation, namely the shearing of the pile
which has to be trimmed to the desired length for a thick mass
of woolen threads is still hanging on the front. The tighter
and closer a pile is knotted, the shorter it can be cut. Close
knotting has the advantage that the outline of the design
shows clearly and is not hazy. It has the precision of a
painting. But loose and coarse knotting gives indistinct and
:The knotting must be even and regular for the design to show
clearly. If one looks at the back of a well-knotted carpet the
designs and colors stand out clearly and the more exact and
sharply defined this pattern appears the better the carpet has
been c worked. In the machine-woven carpets, the pattern
appears only very hazily. This is a sure sign that it has not
been hand knotted.