If you go to the Victoria and Albert Museum in Cromwell Road, London, you would be able to see arguably the oldest and most important Kashan rug in the world. The Ardebil rug was made in the town of Ardebil in the north west of Iran between Isfahan and Tehran. Ardebil is the burial place of Shaykh Safi Al-Din Ardebil.
It is believed that the Ardebil rug was commissioned by the court for the shrine of the Shaykh. The wool pile of the rug holds around 5300 knots per 10 square centimetre area and would have taken several weavers up to 10 years to complete the whole rug.
It is because of examples like the above that the Kashan rug is synonymous with the highest standards of craftsmanship when considering the various types of Persian rug that are available.
The Kashan or Keshan rug is usually made from sheep’s wool. Silk is rarely used if at all. The wool is knotted over a warp and weft of cotton and the rug will typically have a high density of knots per square inch.
The Ardebil rug is covered in one intricated pattern of swirling flowers and leaves. The magnitude of this can be understood more when we consider that that the rug is over 10 metres in length and over 5 metres in width and would have contained over 26,000,000 knots. Other Kashan rugs would have contained similar patterns although medallions, floral patterns and single themes are popular. The abundance of local flowers and dyes means that traditionally, these rugs typically comprised shades of red, blue and beige
THE STYLE OF THE KASHAN
Kashan rugs have been crafted in the region since the Safavid dynasty in the 16th and 17th century. The inspiration for the design of these rugs dates back to this area being a popular holiday destination for the elite and leaders of the Safavid era. Thus, architecturally stunning buildings and homes were erected which allowed crafts people to visualise what is rooted in the Kashan of the time.
Kashan rugs are the unintentional cliché of Persian rugs in that most people would identify a Persian rug as having a central design (medallion) surrounded by a pattern of red with an ornate border of blue and ivory. This is the style of the Kashan.
If one were to consider purchasing a Kashan today, it is likely that a Kashan from the 19th to the 20th century would be bought. During this time period, a lot of the finest Kashans were commissioned as individual pieces for home owners while others were produced for export or the domestic market.
From the 1930s, vegetable dyes were supplemented with more modern chrome dyes (synthetic acid dyes with a chromium mordant) and weavers used a more curvilinear design that is typical of the modern Kashan rug.
There are types of Kashan that use non traditional designs and colours. The rarest of these is the Mohtasham Kashan which were rugs produced towards the end of the 19th century. These rugs were made of lamb’s wool which gave them a reflective and highly colourised appearance. If you are lucky enough to find one of these rugs, you would likely be encapsulated by an extraordinarily finely knotted rug, displaying a teardrop or medallion centrepiece with a single pattern surrounding. The background would likely be gold or ivory and the pile would have been shaved very short.
IS MY RUG A KASHAN RUG?
Use the information above to look for typical signs of identification for your rug. A Kashan will follow the Isfahan style and usually be designed as a central medallion surrounded by an intricate, single floral design (called a Shah Abassi design). The colours will be red for the floral design with blue and ivory/ gold around the outside. Older Kashans can depict a Tree of Life design as seen in Kashan Motashem Carpets. The Tree of Life will be instantly recognised as a tree but with very ornate and interwoven branches often with flowers, fruits or birds.
If absolute proof is sought for the authenticity of your Kashan then the only real way is to have the rug examined by a recognised expert on Persian Rugs.
THE VALUE OF THE KASHAN
It is true that the Persian rug (under which banner the Kashan falls0 is the most expensive type of rug in the world with the most expensive selling in Sotheby’s for over $33 million. The Kashan, like any work of art, holds two types of value. One type is in the eye of the beholder which is a subjective, individual value. The other is the value given to the item via its materials, quality, time taken to make, knot density, size, age and all of the other specifications that make up the physical aspect of the rug.
Whilst an individual value cannot be given to any piece due to the subjective value of the rug, it is fair to say that the extremely high quality and craftsmanship of the Kashan certainly places it amongst the most valuable of Persian rugs that are available today.
WHY CHOOSE A KASHAN RUG?
If you like Persian rugs then the Kashan would be an excellent choice. Apart from their majestic beauty which will complete any room, they are very durable due to the dense knotting and are certainly built to last for generations. Kashans can not only be used as rugs but make excellent tapestries and their diversity of colour allows them to suit the furniture and existing décor of most houses. Authentic Kashan rugs typically increase in value too and so they are an excellent investment for you and your family.
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