Herat Antique Oriental Rugs

South Persian

Armenian Rug 
Southwest Persia

4'2" x 5'9"
(127 x 175 cm)

Dated 1312
(1896 AD)
Cat. #:

This rug has been attributed to 'the Bakhtiyari' or the 'tribal Bakhtiyari' and implicitly thought to be the work of a Bakhtiyari weaver. (Collins, John J., Mostly Afshar, pages 8-9).

However, an exercise in attribution does not necessarily establish the ethnic identity of the weaver.

A cautionary observation is particularly applicable where many anomalies exist between the attribution and the extant visual and historical evidence.

The rug presents a confusing mixture of design, color and to lesser degree structural characteristics of Afshari and Luri/Bakhtiyari weaving.

It has little, if any, of the compositional unity one would expect to see in traditional vase rugs of the period. (Collins, John J., Birds and Vases, plates 5, 7 and 8)

For example, several crudely 'drawn' vase forms are displayed on a central vertical axis; two elaborate vase forms at the bottom corners appear to be stationary. Some vase forms are not completed, some overlap with others. The border construct is organized and structured yet the field is informal, free-lance. There is an incongruent distribution of secondary motifs.

It is here submitted that the visual and historical evidence support the proposition that this is an 'Armenian' rug.

And, that the weaver was a Christian Armenian women living in Southwest Persia in the vicinity of the Zagros Mountains among other Armenians and peoples with the ethnic identities such as Luri, Afshari and Bakhtiyari.

For generations Chahar Mahal villages such as Farah Donbeh, Sar Tishniz, Sefid Dasht and Bardeshah (Azadegan) and others had substantial Armenian populations and an active weaving culture.

It is well established that Armenian weavers adopted traditional Luri/Bakhiyari rug designs and frequently added distinguishing features of their own. (Opie, James, Tribal Rugs, p. 134-135)

On occasion, Armenian Churches with the Christian steeple cross were openly displayed on 'Islamic' rugs. (Collins, John J. Birds and Vases, plate #4)

However, the Armenians were frequently an oppressed people trying to survive in a hostile environment while remaining true to their Christian faith. (Chahin, A., The Kingdom of Armenia)

Christian Armenian weavers living in this environment often resorted to deception and subterfuge.

Visual evidence of that subterfuge and a determination to preserve one's spiritual heritage is seen in this rug.

When this rug is turned upside down, one sees the frontal view of eight church silhouettes including doors, windows and steeples with the Christian cross. (Collins, John J., Flowers of the Desert, plate 44)

This rug does indeed bear an Islamic inscription; this is not necessarily surprising given the social and cultural environment of the period.

Significantly, the inscription is respectful of Islam without denigrating Armenians or the Christian faith.


Wool, natural, ivory, light brown and gray.


Wool, orange-red, orange with two wefts between each row of knots.

Two - three warps bundled into one cord with wool wrapping in red and orange.
Much of the original end braiding has survived good condition.

$20,000 (currency converter)


Kelly, Caitlin, Magic Carpets, Arts & Antiques magazine, Nov. 1999 at pages 71 - 75.

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