A Brief Introduction To Kashan Rugs

In the carpet world, Kashan is used to describe a hand knotted rug that usually contains a diamond-shaped medallion on a Shah Abbas field. Shah Abbas fields take their name from a Mogul ruler who significantly contributed to the rise of Persian textile art in the 16th and 17th centuries. Shah Abbas fields, which are used in a variety of Persian designs, contain a series of curvilinear floral forms, creating a garden-like background. They are found either in an all-over format or with a central medallion.

Like many other Persian designs, the Kashan rug design takes its name from the city of its origin (found in modern-day Iran).

During the 16th century, the Mogul rulers of the Indian subcontinent brought master weavers and dyers, including those from Kashan, to cities like Lahore (in modern-day Pakistan) and Agra (in today’s India). The craftsmen quickly set up workshops across the Indian Subcontinent and, in time, the Kashan rugs produced in the subcontinent achieved a very high quality standard, matching and often surpassing the fine quality rugs produced by their Persian counterparts.

Below a brief description is given of Kashan rugs produced in modern-day Iran and Pakistan.

Persian Kashan

Classic Royal Persian Kashan

Persian Kashan

Most Iranian Kashans follow a medallion-and-corner pattern, sometimes referred to as the “book-cover” or Koran design. The design, which arose during the 15th and 16th centuries, takes its inspiration from the beautifully tooled leather covers that were used to bind the Koran. The covers themselves were based on the intricate patterns found in the dome of mosques.

The classic royal red Iranian Kashan design is depicted in the image on the left. The traditional colors used in Iranian Kashans are rich reds, blues, ivory, yellow, burnt orange and sometimes green. This classic design, like all hand knotted rugs, comes in a variety of qualities. The carpet has a 100% wool pile on a cotton base. The pile is clipped relatively short to allow the clarity of the design to come through. The rug is dense and heavy in this case the 4’6″ x 7’4″ Kashan depicted on the left weighs about 12 Kg or about 26-27 pounds. As mentioned earlier, the knotting and quality of wool varies from carpet to carpet. For instance, this classic design can be found in qualities of 100 knots per square inch (KPSI) to over 400 KPSI. The Kashan on the left has approximately 200 knots per square inch and uses local wool.

Iran makes several other variations of the Kashan design. Although they most commonly use a wool pile on a cotton base, such as the Kashans depicted in this section, they are sometimes made in other materials. For example, some rare and very beautiful Kashans are made in 100% silk. Some dealers refer to these as Qum Kashans. Qums refer to rugs made in Qum in Iran that have 100% silk piles on silk bases.

Pakistani Kashan

Mogul Kashan

Classic Kashan

As mentioned earlier, when the Mogul rulers spread their rule from Persia to the Indian Subcontinent, they brought with them Persian weavers to set up workshops. Lahore became one of the main carpet-weaving centers in the subcontinent and today produces the vast majority of Pakistani Kashans.

Like Iranian Kashans, Pakistani Kashans use a predominantly wool pile on a cotton base and are made in a wide variety of qualities. The main factors affecting the quality of the rugs are the number of knots per square inch, the clarity of the design, and the quality of the wool.

Depicted on the right is a variation on the classic Iranian design, but produced in Pakistan. This piece is a super-fine quality rug, using top quality New Zealand worsted wool and with 400 KPSI. This particular piece is of a higher quality than the Iranian Kashans above.

On the left another type of Pakistani Kashan is depicted. This particular variation is referred to as a Mogul Kashan, with its design roots in the Mogul rule of the subcontinent, as opposed to more closely following a traditional Iranian Kashan. This piece also has a wool pile on a cotton base and is made using the Senneh knot.

One of the main differences between Pakistani and Iranian Kashans involves the color tones. Pakistani Kashans almost always use pastel shades, such as beige, fawn, champagne, rose, and pale blues. Richer shades are also used, but quite often they also have a pastel cast.

Based on the Senneh knot (or asymmetrical double knot), these Mogul Kashan rugs are dense and heavy, similar to the Iranian Kashans. A 4′ 6″ x 7 Mogul Kashan will typically weigh 10-11 Kg or about 24 pounds. The piles are usually clipped short to allow the clarity of design to come through. Despite the intricate and delicate looking patterns, the rugs are extremely durable.

Symmetrical knot silk and wool Kashan

Symmetrical knot silk and wool Kashan

Apart from Kashan designs originating from Iran and variations following the Mogul’s rule of the subcontinent, Pakistan produces other kinds of medallion rugs with curvilinear or floral patterns. These are based on the symmetrical (single) knot and use a combination of silk and wool for the pile on a cotton base. Unlike most single knot, geometric-pattern rugs with just silk highlights such as in the Jaldar design, these rugs use a high percentage of silk for the pile.

Examples of these rugs are depicted on the left and right. These rugs are often referred to as Kashan designs. Usually having KPSI of about 150 to 200, these rugs are lighter in weight than Senneh-knotted Mogul Kashans or Iranian Kashans. A standard size 4′ x 6′ rug will typically weigh about 6-7 Kg or about 14 pounds. These kinds of rugs are also less dense than the Mogul or Persian Kashans. The feel of the pile is very soft and smooth, however, as the pile is left longer. In addition, the rugs have a very silky appearance and a beautiful shine. The very affordable pricing also makes these rugs an attractive option.