The Persian Empires: Chapter 1

The Achaemenid Dynasty: 500 - 330BC

 The Achaemenid Dynasty is the first of the Persian Empires and its creator was Cyrus the Great. It is widely regarded as the largest empire to ever exist encompassing 40% of the worlds population at its vastest moment. It stretched from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west to the Indus Valley in the east. Its structure was copied by many of the great world empires, including the Greeks and Romans.

It was the first successful model of a centralized bureaucratic administration through satraps under the king. It brought us building infrastructure such as road systems, the postal system, use of an official language across all territories, development of civil services and a large professional army. The legendary "Immortals" were part of this great army. According to Herodotus the Immortals consisted of a steady force of 10,000 highly trained soldiers (men and women, as both sexes enjoyed equality under the Achaemenids). The force was kept steady by replacing dead, injured or ill soldiers immediately and it was only disbanded in 1979 with the Revolution, at which time it was only 5,000 men strong, lasting an astonishing 2,500 years!

Its' founder, Cyrus the Great, was the son of Cambyses I, king of Anshan, and Mandane, daughter of Astyages - king of Media. According to legend Cyrus' grandfather, Astyages, had two dreams in which a flood and then a series of fruit bearing vines emerged from his daughter's pelvis and covered his entire kingdom. This happened while Mundane was pregnant and his advisers interpreted this as a foreboding sign that his coming grandson will dethrone him. So Astyages summoned Mandane back to Ecbatana and ordered the baby to be killed upon birth. The task was given to Mithradates, a shepherd, who instead passed off his own stillborn infant as the dead baby and raised Cyrus as his own son. At the age of 10, however, Cyrus was reunited with his real family when the truth was revealed. After his father's death Cyrus inherited his throne. Astyages wanted to overthrow Cyrus but after key figures of his army defected to the side of Cyrus, a 3 year war ensued that saw Cyrus as the victor and for the first time the Achaemenid kingdoms were united.

Cyrus had to defend the borders of his newly founded kingdom and in so doing conquered more lands. He was a just king and demanded tolerance and respect towards all races and religions inside the borders of his kingdom. He wrote the first human right's charter (contained in the Cyrus cylinder) of which the original is held in the British Museum and a replica in the United Nations headquarters. He was called "the father" by all inhabitants of the empire and is still called that by all Persians. As part of his empire's expansion he encountered the Massagatae, a tribe from the southern desserts of Kwharezm and Kyzyl Kum. During one of the battles he was fatally wounded by an arrow and buried in his capital city, Pasargade, where his tomb stands to this day. The translated ancient Roman and Greek accounts give a vivid description of the tomb both geometrically and aesthetically; the tomb's geometric shape has changed little over the years, still maintaining a large stone of quadrangular form at the base, followed by a pyramidal succession of smaller rectangular stones, until after a few slabs, the structure is curtailed by an edifice, with an arched roof composed of a pyramidal shaped stone, and a small opening or window on the side, where the slenderest man could barely squeeze through.

Within this edifice was a golden coffin, resting on a table with golden supports, inside of which the body of Cyrus the Great was interred. Upon his resting place, was a covering of tapestry and drapes made from the best available Babylonian materials, utilizing fine Median worksmanship; below his bed was a fine red carpet, covering the narrow rectangular area of his tomb. Translated Greek accounts describe the tomb as having been placed in the fertile Pasargadae gardens, surrounded by trees and ornamental shrubs, with a group of Achaemenian protectors called the "Magi", stationed nearby to protect the edifice from theft or damage.

After his death various successive kings expanded on his empire until it was finally brought to an end by Alexander the Great. A part of the empire survived in the Pontic Empire, founded by the Persian, Mithridates. It is believed that it was directly related to Darius the Great and the Achaemenid dynasty. The kingdom was proclaimed by Mithridates I in 281 BCE and lasted until its conquest by the Roman Republic in 63 BCE. It reached its largest extent under Mithridates VI the Great, who conquered Colchis, Cappadocia, Bithynia, the Greek colonies of the Tauric Chersonesos, and for a brief time the Roman province of Asia. After a long struggle with Rome in the Mithridatic Wars, Pontus was defeated; part of it was incorporated into the Roman Republic as the province Bithynia et Pontus, and the eastern half survived as a client kingdom.

Here are some key innovations, inventions, and contribution of the ancient Persian Empire: the Persians were the first people in history to give men and women equal rights, abolish slavery and write the very first human and animal bill of rights. They also built in 400s BC the very first stadium, the Apadana in Persepolis (later burnt down by Alexander). The Apadana was able to seat 15 (fifteen thousand) people in it, with space left for a grand ceremony. This massive building was roofed. Unlike the Colosseum, the architectural and worth of this single building, if it lived through the fire Alexander put it through, would have dwarfed the city of Rome. Persian emperors of the 6th century BC are among the first to make a display of lavish floor coverings. Carpets became one of the characteristic art forms of people living on the high plateau of West Asia, from Turkey through Iran, where winters can be extremely cold.

The Achaemenids built an efficient infrastructure of roads and ports. They bought water to remote areas throughout the empire through the use of qanats, (underground irrigation system). Darius the Great, had a canal built to link the Nile to the Red Sea (an early precursor of the Suez Canal). Embroidery was first invented by the Scythian people (a branch of Persians). The first travelers Inns called caravansaray (Inns of caravan) some of which still exist along the Silk Road, were built in Persia. The largest mud-brick structure is the citadel of Bam, in Kerman Province of Iran. King Cambyses II, of Persia, was the first person that examined the dead bodies of the mummies of Egypt, after conquering the Egyptian City of Memphis.

The Prehistoric Mound Of Tall-i-Bakun - 4200-3800 BC

Tall-i Bakun or Tall-e Bakun (in modern Fars Province, Iran) was a prehistoric site in the Ancient Near East about 3 km south of Persepolis. It was inhabited around 4000-3500 BC.

Additional work was done at the site in 1937 by Erich Schmidt leading the Persepolis Expedition of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

Some limited work was done at Tall-i Bakun by a team from the Tokyo University led by Namio Egami and Seiichi Masuda in 1956. The most recent excavations were by a joint team of the Oriental Institute and the Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organisation. The site was active from circa 6th millennium BC to circa 4th millennium BC.

Three kilometers south of Persepolis, in the plain of Marv Dasht, lies the prehistoric site of Tall-i-Bakun, consisting of two flat hillocks. Here in 1928, Ernst Herzfeld, of the University of Berlin, decided to undertake a trial excavation of the western mound, where he had previously discovered many prehistoric sherds Iying about on the ground. Later, in 1932, he conducted more extensive excavations, subsequently continued by Erich F. Schmidt (1935–37).

The main deposits of the western hill produced a large quantity of ceramics with unusually beautiful painted patterns dating mostly to the fourth millennium B .C. Unexpectedly, many rooms of the settlement contained a substantial number of unbroken vessels, many of them standing on the floors of the houses, sometimes nested one in another. A great wealth of designs and variations are seen in this cream-colored ware. Many show different geometrical patterns, some simple, some intricate. Fewer have beautifully stylized animal designs depicting either ibexes or mouflons. These vessels manifest a remarkable artistic balance between geometric ornament and animal design. Large jars, usually made in two parts, show distinct markings characteristic of a vessel turned by hand.

Besides these pottery vessels, numerous painted clay figurines of humans and animals were discovered. Other ceramic objects consisted of scrapers, in the form of stirrups, which were used for smoothing and decorating vessel surfaces before the vessels were fired. These scrapers—although made of clay—were so strong, and their scraping edges so sharp, that they were also used for scraping hides. In addition to this vast amount of pottery, there were large quantities of knives, blades, and copper daggers. There were also many button seals, mostly made of green stone, showing beautifully incised designs. Finally, some well-preserved clay labels and seal impressions were excavated.

Tall-i Bakun phase A was inhabited c. 4000-3500 BCE. Four layers can be distinguished. Layer III was the best preserved and shows a settlement in which the residential buildings were built close together with no roads or paths. Individual houses consisted of several rooms. Remains of mural paintings and of wooden columns suggest a once rich interior.

Richly painted pottery was produced. There were also ceramic female figurines and those of animals. There were also cylinder seals, which indicates some type of administrative activities.

Artifactual remains from the site include objects made of copper, pottery and stone.

The wealth and variety of material items at Bakun and the evidence of large workshop areas point to the existence of local industry and connection/trade with distant regions such as the Persian Gulf, the central plateau, Kerman, and northeastern Iran whence goods like shells, copper, steatite, lapis, and turquoise were procured. If my inferences are correct, we have a settlement that is spatially arranged according to its functional needs and socio-economic organization.

Bakun culture

The Bakun culture flourished in the Fars Province of Iran in the fifth and early fourth millenniums BC. It had a long duration and wide geographical distribution. Its pottery tradition was as sophisticated as that of Susa I. Nevertheless, it was mostly a nomadic culture, and its settlements were typically much smaller than those of Susa.

Bakun pottery is known in the Fars region in the form of bowls and jugs with green, reddish brown or deep brown bands and stripes.

Outside Fars this pottery has been found in northern Khuzestan, in the Bakhtiari mountains, and in the Behbahan and Zuhreh regions.

In the late fifth and early fourth millennia BC, Bakun A settlements were at once manufacturing sites and centres for the administration of production and trade. Their painted pottery featured some unusual specific motifs, such as large-horned mountain sheep and goats, that were rare or unique elsewhere.

After the decline of Bakun, Lapui period followed. In recent publications, Bakun period is dated 4800-4100 BC, and the Lapui period is dated to 4100-3500 BC.

Source of images:The Oriental Institute of
The University of Chicago

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The Abegg-Stiftung

The Abegg-Stiftung is committed to the collection, conservation and study of historical textiles. It is based just outside the village of Riggisberg in the foothills of the Bernese Alps, which is where the museum of textiles and applied art, the research library and the Villa Abegg, the Abeggs’ former home that is now a museum, are situated.

The studio for textile conservation and restoration is also a training centre for budding young conservators. The Abegg-Stiftung publishes books and papers in which it shares its research findings with fellow historians and conservators as well as a lay readership. Year after year, its annual exhibitions shed new light on a material that has served humanity for thousands of years, whether made up into objects of everyday use or in the form of exquisite works of art.

Pictured here: Griffin

This wall hanging is patterned with circular medallions containing winged horses, each with rigorously geometrical coat markings and fluttering white ribbons attached to the neck and fetlocks. Both the pattern itself and the individual motifs were derived from existing silks, especially those made in Persia in Late Antiquity. The Sasanid Dynasty that came to power in the 3rd century presided over the ascendancy of a great empire, whose arts and culture made waves throughout the Orient.
Egypt or the eastern Mediterranean, 4th–6th century, wool tapestry, h. 250 cm, w. 158 cm, inv. no. 2191

#ghorbanycarpets #mondaymuseums #collection #ancienthistory #sassanid #textiles #monday #love #fun

Glencairn Museum

Glencairn (1928-39) is a castle-like mansion in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, that was home to the Pitcairn family for more than 40 years.


Now the Glencairn Museum, it contains a collection of about 8,000 artworks, mostly religious in nature, from cultures such as ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, the Roman Empire and medieval Europe, as well as Islamic, Asian, and Native American works. The museum is affiliated with The New Church, and the building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko Museum of Arts - Kiev, Ukraine

The house was owned by a famous collector of art and benefactor Bohdan Khanenko (1849-1917), and his wife Varvara (1852-1922). In 1919, on the base of their private collection, a museum was opened in this house. For a long period of time it was known as Kyiv State Museum of Western and Eastern Art. Now its initial name has been given back. The embellishments of the collection are works of outstanding Renaissance masters. Rich diversity of genres distinguishes the museum’s holdings of North European countries. The exposition of Spanish art includes two true gems from the XVII century - “Portrait of Infant Margarita” by Diego Velasquez and “Still Life with Chocolate Milk” by Juan de Zurbaran.... The Museum of Art named after Bogdan and Varvara Khanenko was founded in 1919 on the basis of their private museum. The museum is also called the Museum of Western and Oriental Art. Now it keeps one of the best collections of foreign art in Ukraine. From 1919 the number of exhibits has been more than 13 times increased - from 1,250 to nearly 17,000 artworks, with 2,000 pieces exposed in museum halls. Visitors can view many remarkable samples of foreign art: Ancient Greek, Roman, Italian, French, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, Persian, Turkish, Egyptian, etc.

Famous founders of museum's collections Bogdan Khanenko and his wife Varvara always dreamt to open the public museum of art in Kiev, while collecting works of famous artists and sculptors. Finally their dreams came true. In 1999 the museum they have created celebrated its 80th anniversary. The collection of the museum consists of 25 thousands of exhibits and is considered to be the biggest foreign art collection in Ukraine. Among the museum's collection there are real fine art masterpieces. There is, for example, the world-famous work of Diego Velasquez, The Portrait of Infanta Margaret, located in the Spanish hall of the museum.
The famous portrait appeared in Kiev after Bogdan Khanenko had purchased it in Berlin on the sale of Hamburg council Weber's collections. The presentation of the painting in Kiev was arranged very mysteriously. Khanenko hasn't informed the guests of the banquet about the real reasons. When the curtain was taken away from the Velasquez' masterpiece, the audience was really impressed. The picture created a real furore in cultural life of Kiev at that time.

Khanenko's cultural heritage is the core of the museum's collection. The breadth of collectors' range of interest is impressive. There are Egyptian statues and bronze sculptures, antic terracotta and glassware, Roman and Greek sculptures, Byzantine exhibits, ivory, church stained-glass, icons, fabrics, jewelry of Kievan Russia. With time the collection enriched and formed, thanks to the efforts of many famous people. The famous patron of art from Saint Petersburg, V. Shavinskiy, donated about 200 priceless masterpieces of Flemish, Netherlands and Dutch painting schools. The museum's stock was enriched with unique Chinese paintings of the 16th-20th centuries. Taisia Jasparre, native Ukrainian wife of French ambassador in Peking Andre Stephen Jasparre, presented 400 scrolls of paintings to the museum.
Every item of the museum's collection has its interesting history. The appearance of valuable Juan de Zurbaran's still-life painting is the whole story. Once famous stud-owner from Moscow Malyutin decided to get rid of old things left from the previous owner on the attic of his new house. Moscow millionaire was not interested in the stuff kept there but also hasn't allowed Khanenko to research it. He was forcing Khanenko to buy all the stuff at once. Khanenko have decided to take a risk. The result was not a loose. Among these things there was the valuable masterpiece of famous Spanish painter, a fantastic boon for an art collector and also some of excellent paintings of Dutch masters.

The building of museum was constructed under the project of famous architect from Saint Petersburg F. Meltzer in the 80s of the 19th century. Then it was reconstructed and decorated several times according to plans of Khanenko family. Being the famous specialist in the history of Kiev V. Kovalinsky once said "this building was the shell and the architectural addition to the great art collections of Khanenko family."
Although the collection covers a wide range of countries, it does not claim to complete representation of periods and styles of the foreign art and creative manners of foreign artist. It is not the number of art pieces, but unique nature of many of them that makes Kiev Museum of Western and Oriental Art famous not only in Ukraine but far abroad as well.

Hermitage Museum, Russia

The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia is the second-largest art museum in the world that was founded in 1764 when Empress Catherine the Great acquired an impressive collection of paintings from the Berlin merchant Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky. It has been open to the public since 1852.

Its collections, of which only a small part is on permanent display, comprise over three million items (the numismatic collection accounts for about one-third of them), including the largest collection of paintings in the world. The collections occupy a large complex of six historic buildings along Palace Embankment, including the Winter Palace, a former residence of Russian emperors. Apart from them, the Menshikov Palace, Museum of Porcelain, Storage Facility at Staraya Derevnya, and the eastern wing of the General Staff Building are also part of the museum. The museum has several exhibition centers abroad.

Oriental Art

Over 180,000 items including paintings, sculptures and examples of applied art (jewellery, domestic and cult objects), give an idea of a remarkable cultural heritage of the Orient from the time of the ancient civilizations emergence to the present. The exhibitions occupying 50 museum rooms contain the collections of items from Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Central Asia, Byzantium, countries of the Near and Far East.

Pazyryk Carpet

Created: Russia. Pazyryk Culture. 5th - 4th century BC

Found: Pazyryk Barrow No. 5 (excavations by S.I. Rudenko, 1949). Altai Territory, Pazyryk Boundary, the Valley of the River Bolshoy Ulagan

The world's most ancient pile carpet was found in the largest of the Pazyryk burial mounds. Its decoration is rich and varied: the central field is occupied by 24 cross-shaped figures, each of which consists of 4 stylized lotus buds. This composition is framed by a border of griffins, followed by another one of 24 fallow deer. The widest border contains 28 figures of men on horseback and dismounted. The once bright yellows, blues and reds of the carpet are now faded, but must originally have provided a glowing range of colours. The Pazyryk carpet was woven in the technique of the symmetrical double knot (3600 knots per 1 dm2, more than 1,250,000 knots in the whole carpet), and therefore its pile is rather dense. The exact origin of this unique carpet is unknown. There is a version of its Iranian provenance. But perhaps it was produced in Central Asia through which the contacts of ancient Altaians with Iran and the Near East took place. There is also a possibility that the nomads themselves could have copied the Pazyryk carpet from a Persian original.

History of French silk

Italian silk cloth was very expensive, as much a result of the cost of the raw material as of the production costs. The craftsmen in Italy proved unable to keep up with the exigencies of French fashion, which continuously demanded lighter and less expensive materials.[38] These materials were used for clothing, and garment production began to be done locally. Nevertheless, Italian silk long remained among the most prized, mostly for furnishings and the brilliant colours of the dyes.

Following the example of the wealthy Italian city-states of the era, such as Venice, Florence, and Lucca, which had become the center of the luxury-textile industry, Lyon obtained a similar function in the French market. In 1466, King Louis XI decided to develop a national silk industry in Lyon. In the face of protests by the Lyonnais, he conceded and moved the silk fabrication to Tours, but the industry in Tours stayed relatively marginal. His main objective was to reduce France's trade deficit with the Italian states, which caused France to lose 400,000 to 500,000 golden écus a year. It was under Francis I in around 1535 that a royal charter was granted to two merchants, Étienne Turquet and Barthélemy Naris, to develop a silk trade in Lyon. In 1540, the king granted a monopoly on silk production to the city of Lyon. Starting in the 16th century, Lyon became the capital of the European silk trade, notably producing many reputable fashions. Gaining confidence, the silks produced in the city began to abandon the original oriental styles in favor of their own distinctive style, which emphasized landscapes. Thousand of workers, the canuts, devoted themselves to the flourishing industry. Fabrics were diversified with the first mechanical looms. By the 18th century, silk production was the pillar of Lyon’s economy: 28,000 people were registered as silk workers in 1788.

In the early 19th century, the Napoleonic era gave new impetus to the silk business, as did the invention of the Jacquard loom in 1801. Fabric dying techniques helped drive the development of the chemical industry, solidly in place by the mid-1800s. By 1870, the silk industry accounted for 75% of Lyon’s total industrial activity, with about 100,000 looms in operation.

But the history of silk in Lyon also saw dark moments during the revolt of the “Canuts” silk workers. These weavers, concentrated in the Croix-Rousse district of Lyon, were employed by the great silk merchants. In 1831, they revolted against the prices set for silk weaving and their exhausting working conditions. At the end of November that year, the Canuts took control of the Croix-Rousse and Presqu’Ile areas, but on December 2nd, the army took back the city and crushed the uprising. In February 1834, a second revolt erupted and the Canuts held out against 12,000 soldiers for six days, before another violent repression (300 killed and hundreds injured).

Today, automatic looms and new weaving techniques have replaced the Canuts. Silk makers turned to other fibers or shifted to highly specialized skills such as restoration of historic fabrics or supplying haute-couture designers.

The Museum of Textiles preserves the history and heritage of Lyon’s silk industry. Though the future of the museum is currently uncertain, the epic history of silk nonetheless continues, as can be seen in the recent opening of a train service between China and Lyon running along the old Silk Road.

The Musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs, Lyon, France

The Musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs is a museum in the city of Lyon, France. Located in two 18th century hôtels particuliers of Lyon's 2nd arrondissement, the institution consists in two distinct museums although they are administered as one : the Musée des Tissus (Museum of Textiles) and the Musée des arts décoratifs (Decorative Arts Museum).

Founded in 1864, the musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs houses one of the largest international collection of textiles, the holdings amounting to 2,500,000 units. The collection spans a 4,000 year period, from Antiquity to the present, and covers a wide range of techniques and all the geographical areas of the world. The history of Lyon's silk industry is particularly well represented in the collection.

The musée des Arts Décoratifs holds works in many different fields: furniture, majolica, drawings, jewelry, painting, sculpture etc.


The Pergamonmuseum - Berlin, Germany

The Museum für Islamische Kunst presents its diverse collection of Islamic art at the Pergamonmuseum on the Museumsinsel Berlin. It is after the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo the oldest and one of the most important collections of its kind in the world. It occupies an unrivalled position in Germany – no other institution contains such a systematic and comprehensive collection of masterpieces of art and applied arts and objects of material culture stemming from Islamic societies as well as the Christian and Jewish communities living among them.

The pièce de résistance in the collection is the ornately decorated yet no less monumental façade from the palace of Mshatta, which the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II presented to the museum as a gift. Together with this seminal work of architecture, the collection’s array of objects spanning all genres are testimony to the high aesthetic, artistic, artisanal, and technical skill of the masters who crafted them. They include centuries-old pages of the Koran, with their splendidly colourful decorations, prayer rugs, ivory carvings, and the dazzling turquoise faience mosaics of mihrabs (prayer niches). These objects boast a bewildering and intense sense of colour, form, and pattern. The collection’s holdings span all epochs of Islamic history from the 7th to 19th century, and also include Old South Arabian antiquities and ancient Iranian artefacts.

Besides showcasing such works, the Museum für Islamische Kunst is also one of the leading research institutions in its field and is active, both at home and abroad, in the areas of conservation, cultural heritage protection in Islamic countries, international cultural exchange, and (inter)cultural education in Germany.

About the collection

The collection contains works of art, cultural artefacts, and archaeological finds from Islamic peoples and societies that range in date from late antiquity to the last century. Its exhibits stem objects from an area that extends from the southern and eastern Mediterranean region and Spain across Anatolia, the Middle East and Central Asia all the way to India.

In this way, the museum’s exhibitions interrelate, both geographically and culturally, to the displays of classical antiquities in the Antikensammlung and of ancient Near-Eastern art from the Vorderasiatisches Museum, also on show in the Pergamonmuseum. Visitors to the Pergamonmuseum can thus explore at length the art and cultural history of these regions spread over several millennia.

The tour through the Museum für Islamische Kunst’s collection is chronological and follows the successive dynasties of various epochs. The exhibition begins with the early Islamic period and the great empires of the first caliphs (7th to 10th century) that emerged against the wider backdrop of the pre-Islamic cultures of the ancient world and Iran. A high point from this period is the façade of the Mshatta desert palace. It is joined by stucco walls from homes and palaces from Samarra – the legendary Abbasid caliphate capital in the today’s Iraq and one of the largest cities in the world in its day. Seen together, these pieces of architecture create a unique survey of early Islamic history.

Objects from the Middle Period (11th to 15th century) include glazed prayer niches from Kashan (Iran) and Konya (Turkey), fine damascened inlay work on metal vessels, and the famous carved wooden ceiling from a domed tower in the Alhambra in Granada, with its entrancingly rich detail.

The famous Berlin collection of carpets, with its array of intensely luminous patterns, largely ranges in date from the early Modern Period (16th to 18th century). It was also in this period that the Aleppo Room was crafted. Its astonishingly ornate, painted wood panelling makes it an undoubted highlight in the collection.

The museum also presides over a specialist library of the most outstanding quality dedicated to Islamic art, archaeology, and material culture. The museum is furthermore internationally active as a research facility, cooperating with universities and museums, particularly in regions from where the objects in its collection originate.

In the difficult climate currently surrounding the public discourse on Islam, the Museum für Islamische Kunst sees itself as a mediator of a culture of great sophistication. Its exhibitions uncover the history of other cultures, something which in turn helps foster a better understanding of the present. This lends the collection its sharp political relevance, both within Germany and abroad, as a cultural storehouse for Islamic societies.

The Louvre, Paris

History of the Louvre From château to museum A visit to the Louvre and its collections lets visitors discover Western art from the Middle Ages to 1848, as well as a large number of ancient civilizations. Yet it also offers another history to explore. The grand palace that houses the museum, which dates back to the late twelfth century, is a true lesson in architecture: from 1200 to 2011, the most innovative architects have in turn built and developed the Louvre. Long the seat of power, this royal residence was also home to French heads of state until 1870 and is one of the major backdrops to the history of Paris and of France.


History of the Islamic art department

In 1893, a “Muslim art” section was created at the Musée du Louvre and in 1905 the first room dedicated to the Islamic collection was opened within the Department of Decorative Arts. The collection was expanded considerably under two curators, notably Gaston Migeon. The bequest of Baroness Delort de Gléon in 1912 enriched the section with prestigious objects from her husband's collection and led to the creation of the Salle Delort de Gléon in 1922 in the Pavillon de l'Horloge.

In 1932, the Department of Asian Arts was created and housed the Islamic collections. After World War II, in 1945, the Far Eastern works were transferred to the Musée Guimet, and the Islamic section was incorporated into the Department of Near Eastern Antiquities; the works were first exhibited in the Salle de la Chapelle of the Pavillon de l'Horloge and then in two rooms at the end of the Department of Near Eastern Antiquities.

In 1993, the creation of the Grand Louvre and the departure of the Ministry of Finance from the Richelieu wing made room for the Islamic collections in 1,000 sq.m of exhibition space.

In 2003, the Musée du Louvre created its eighth department dedicated to Islamic art.

Embracing new horizons, the department opened on September 22, 2012 to 3,000 sq.m of new exhibition space, nestled between the restored facades of the Cour Visconti. Led by Rudy Ricciotti and Mario Bellini, the project is the museum’s greatest architectural work since the Grand Louvre; soon visitors can admire the new glass veil of undulating gold metal covering the courtyard like the wing of a dragonfly.

Creation of the collection

Boasting 14,000 objects and admirably complemented by 3,500 works from the Musée des Arts Décoratifs — many of which are being exhibited for the first time — the department's collection reflects the wealth and breadth of artistic creation from Islamic lands.The history of the collections reflects both history in the broadest sense and the history of artistic taste.

The first Islamic objects exhibited at the Louvre came from royal collections, following the creation of the Museum Central des Arts in the wake of the Revolution, in 1793. Notable works include an inlaid metal basin known as the “Baptistère de saint Louis,” made in Syria in the 14th century, as well as Ottoman jade bowls that had belonged to Louis XIV. There are also the works from the royal abbey of Saint Denis (like the rock crystal ewer made in Egypt in the early 11th century).

From the final decade of the 19th century to World War I, Paris was a locus for the creation of Islamic art collections. The museum owes many of its finest acquisitions (the candlestick with ducks bequeathed by Charles Piet-Lataudrie, the Delort de Gléon family bequests, the Mughal miniatures from the Georges Marteau collection, etc.) to its public of art lovers and collectors. In addition to these generous gifts, the collections were enriched with prestigious purchases such as the Pyxis of al-Mughira, the Mantes carpet, the Barberini vase and the Mughal miniatures acquired from Mme Duffeuty, to name a few.

The collections still received large donations after World War I: bequests in 1922 from the Rothschild collection and from Mr and Mrs Koechlin in 1932 (including the Peacock dish). The movement subsided slightly thereafter but has gained momentum since the creation of the new department in 2003. The museum received over 100 artworks in 2009 (from the Pantanella-Signorini collection), the most important donation since that of Count François Chandon de Briailles in 1955.

Collections at the Musée du Louvre

The display of the department’s new exhibition spaces provides an overview of artistic creation from the dawn of Islam in the 7th century to the early 19th century, encompassing architectural elements, stone and ivory objects, metalwork, glasswork, ceramics, textiles and carpets, manuscripts and so on. Based on the juxtaposition of various cultures and the constant exchange between the different regions of the Islamic world, the installation highlights both the homogeneity of Islamic art (which makes it instantly recognizable) and its extraordinary creativity with regard to common themes expressed throughout the centuries.

A sustained acquisition policy as as well the major holdings of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs have enriched the collections in areas that had been less represented until now, such as the Maghreb and Mughal India, thus offering a more comprehensive view of the art of the last great Islamic empires.

Francis Cabot Lowell and the Power Loom

By Mary Bellis - ThoughtCo Thanks to the invention of the power loom, Great Britain dominated the global textile industry at the turn of the 19th century. Hampered by inferior looming machinery, mills in the United States struggled to compete until a Boston merchant with a penchant for industrial espionage named Francis Cabot Lowell came along.

Origins of the Power Loom

Looms, which are used to weave fabric, have been around for thousands of years. But until the 18th century, they were manually operated, which made the production of cloth a slow process. That changed in 1784 when the English inventor Edmund Cartwright designed the first mechanical loom. His first version was impractical to operate on a commercial basis, but within five years Cartwright had improved his design and was weaving fabric in Doncaster, England.

Cartwright's mill was a commercial failure, and he was forced to relinquish his equipment as part of filing for bankruptcy in 1793. But Britain's textile industry was booming, and other inventors continued to refine Cartwright's invention. In 1842, James Bullough and William Kenworthy had introduced a fully automated loom, a design that would become the industry standard for the next century.

America vs. Britain

As Industrial Revolution boomed in Great Britain, that nation's leaders passed a number of laws designed to protect their dominance. It was illegal to sell power looms or the plans for building them to foreigners, and mill workers were forbidden to emigrate. This prohibition didn't just protect the British textile industry, it also made it nearly impossible for American textile manufacturers, who were still using manual looms, to compete.

Enter Francis Cabot Lowell (1775-1817), a Boston-based merchant who specialized in the international trade of textiles and other goods. Lowell had seen firsthand how international conflict jeopardized the American economy with its dependence on foreign goods. The only way to neutralize this threat, Lowell reasoned, was for America to develop a domestic textile industry of its own that was capable of mass production.

During a visit to Great Britain in 1811, Francis Cabot Lowell spied on the new British textile industry. Using his contacts, he visited a number of mills in England, sometimes in disguise. Unable to buy drawings or a model of a power loom, he committed the power loom design to memory. Upon his return to Boston, he recruited master mechanic Paul Moody to help him recreate what he had seen.

Backed by a group of investors called Boston Associates, Lowell and Moody opened their first functional power mill in Waltham, Mass., in 1814. Congress imposed a series of duty tariffs on imported cotton in 1816, 1824, and 1828, making American textiles more competitive still.

The Lowell Mill Girls

Lowell's power mill wasn't his only contribution to American industry. He also set a new standard for working conditions by hiring young women to run the machinery, something nearly unheard of in that era. In exchange for signing a one-year contract, Lowell paid the women relatively well by contemporary standards, provided housing, and offered educational and training opportunities.

When the mill cut wages and increased hours in 1834, the Lowell Mill Girls, as his employees were known, formed the Factory Girls Association to agitate for better compensation. Although their efforts at organizing met with mixed success, they earned the attention of author Charles Dickens, who visited the mill in 1842.

Dickens praised what he saw, noting that, "The rooms in which they worked were as well ordered as themselves. In the windows of some there were green plants, which were trained to shade the glass; in all, there was as much fresh air, cleanliness, and comfort as the nature of the occupation would possibly admit of."

Lowell's Legacy

Francis Cabot Lowell died in 1817 at the age of 42, but his work did not die with him. Capitalized at $400,000, the Waltham mill dwarfed its competition. So great were the profits at Waltham that the Boston Associates soon established additional mills in Massachusetts, first at East Chelmsford (later renamed in Lowell's honor), and then Chicopee, Manchester, and Lawrence.

By 1850, Boston Associates controlled one-fifth of America's textile production and had expanded into other industries, including railroads, finance, and insurance. As their fortunes grew, the Boston Associates turned to philanthropy, establishing hospitals and schools, and to politics, playing a prominent role in the Whig Party in Massachusetts. The company would continue to operate until 1930 when it collapsed during the Great Depression.

Dallas Museum of Art

The museum's history began with the establishment in 1903 of the Dallas Art Association, which initially exhibited paintings in the Dallas Public Library. Frank Reaugh, a Texas artist, saw in the new library the opportunity to display works of art. This idea was championed by May Dickson Exall, who was the first president of the Dallas Public Library. Her intention was the following: “to offer art interest and education through exhibitions and lectures, to form a permanent collection, to sponsor the work of local artists, to solicit support of the arts from individuals and businesses, and to honor citizens who support the arts.”

The museum’s collections started growing from this moment on. It soon became necessary to find a new permanent home. The museum, renamed the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in 1932, relocated to a new art deco facility within Fair Park in 1936, on the occasion of the Texas Centennial Exposition. This new facility was designed by a consortium of Dallas architects in consultation with Paul Cret of Philadelphia. It is still possible to visit this building.

In 1943, Jerry Bywaters became the director of the museum, a position he held for the next twenty-one years. Artist, art critic, and teacher, Bywaters gave a sense of identity and community to the museum. Gustave Courbet, Fox in the Snow, 1860 Under Bywaters' tenure, impressionist, abstract, and contemporary masterpieces were acquired and the Texas identity of the museum was emphasized. This identity is today represented by works by Alexandre Hogue, Olin Herman Travis, Bywaters himself, and others.

In 1963, the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts merged with the Dallas Museum of Contemporary Art, whose director for the previous four years had been Douglas MacAgy. In 1964 Merrill C. Rueppel became the director of the newly merged Museum. The permanent collections of the two museums were then housed within the DMFA facility, suddenly holding significant works by Paul Gauguin, Odilon Redon, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Gerald Murphy, and Francis Bacon. In 1965, the museum held an exhibition called The Art of Piet Mondrian and one entitled Sculpture: Twentieth Century.

By the late 1970s, the greatly enlarged permanent collection and the ambitious exhibition program fostered a need for a new museum facility. Under Harry Parker’s direction, the museum was able to move once again, to its current venue, at the northern edge of the city’s business district (the now designated Dallas Arts District). The $54 million facility, designed by New York architect Edward Larrabee Barnes, was financed by a 1979 City bond election, together with private donations. The project was galvanized by the slogan “A Great City Deserves a Great Museum,” and the new building opened in January 1984.

The Keir Collection Gallery presents a selection of masterworks of Islamic art from the Keir Collection, now on long-term loan to the Dallas Museum of Art. Ranking among the finest private collections of Islamic art in the world, the collection is particularly strong in Islamic ceramics, encompassing almost the whole range of innovations in ceramic design and technology from the 8th to the 19th century. The collection also includes fascinating examples of medieval Islamic metalwork, including a bronze ewer with silver inlay made for a Christian monastery in Mosul, Iraq, by famed artisan Ahmad al-Dhaki al-Mawsili. Perhaps the most emblematic object in the Keir Collection is a 10th-century rock crystal ewer (pitcher) made for a Fatimid caliph in Cairo from a single, massive quartz crystal. It has gold enameled mounts added by French jeweler Jean-Valentin Morel in the late 19th century.

Every four months, the presentation is refreshed with a new selection of rare manuscripts, book paintings, textiles, carpets, and other organic materials. This practice helps conserve delicate, centuries-old materials by limiting their exposure to the effects of light. Works of art by contemporary artists from the Islamic world are also displayed in rotation from time to time.

Easter eggs

Eating and giving eggs during Easter time has a long and interesting past and comes from various different cultures. The oldest decorated eggs have been found in Diepkloof, South Africa - ostrich eggs dated 60,000 years old!

In the Ancient World eggs were always given as gifts during the Spring equinox as a symbol of rebirth and life and in Ancient Persia, these eggs were painted and decorated since 1500 BCE. It is a practice that is still done to this day during Nowrooz. Not just were eggs coloured and decorated but many games were also played with them and the winner would win all the eggs.

After harsh Winter months eggs were revered as food that would give instant life and energy and thus to receive it as a gift at the start of Spring was regarded as a very special gift. After the spread of Christianity in Europe, boiled eggs were eaten after the strict fasting periods preceding Easter Friday and parents later would start treasure hunts for their children with the eggs. Colouring these eggs was part of the festivities prior to Easter to excite children for the treasure hunt. Happy Easter everyone!

The Victoria and Albert Museum

This history of the V&A is a story like no other. From its early beginnings as a Museum of Manufactures in 1852, to the foundation stone laid by Queen Victoria in 1899, to today's state-of-the-art galleries, the Museum has constantly evolved in its collecting and public interpretation of art and design. Its collections span 5,000 years of human creativity in virtually every medium, housed in one of the finest groups of Victorian and modern buildings in Britain.

Henry Cole, the V&A's first Director, declared that the Museum should be a "schoolroom for everyone". Its mission was to improve the standards of British industry by educating designers, manufacturers and consumers in art and science. Acquiring and displaying the best examples of art and design contributed to this mission, but the 'schoolroom' itself was also intended to demonstrate exemplary design and decoration. The story of the design and construction of the V&A's buildings, and of the personalities who guided this process, is one of persistent vision and ingenuity, amid the changing artistic, political and economic circumstances of the last 150 years.

The V&A holds over 19,000 items from the Middle East and North Africa, ranging from the early Islamic period (the 7th century) to the early 20th century. These vibrant collections include holdings of metalwork, ceramics, architectural woodwork and textiles, in particular from Iran, and also from Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Syria and the countries of North Africa. Highlights include the Ardabil Carpet, the world's oldest dated carpet and one of the largest, most beautiful and historically important.

Ghardaia Carpet Festival - Algeria

The picturesque city of Ghardaia is located in the Gharadaia Province of Algeria and is situated approximately three hundred and seventy miles outside of Algiers. It is a historical city that was established in the eleventh century. Its structures and buildings have survived for centuries and the city has remained true to its ancient cultures and traditions, maintaining its uniqueness through urban planning; thus the Ghardaia Province was recognized in 1982 on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


The city is surrounded by the Sahara Desert, the Wadi Mzab and the M’zab Valley. Locals in Ghardaia still practice traditional agricultural farming to earn a living. The city boasts an estimated sixty thousand palm trees, on which locals are dependant for dates. No trees are cut down in the city as locals believe they are living forms, so wood is only used for roofing and other crafts once a tree has died. This oasis has also been a popular trading post for centuries, with nomads and traders moving through the city. But there is one craft that the city is famous for, and that is carpet making.

They weave their unique carpets from goat hair and their patterns are geometric and simple, but absolute masterpieces. Generally the carpets are black and white, but with the annual Ghardaia Carpet Festival each year, it has become a contest amongst the best carpet weavers. Weavers from across Algeria attend the Ghardaia Festival each year to enter into competitions to find out who is the best weaver of the year and to display their great variety of carpets to the thousands of visitors who attend the festival each year.

Rugs and cloths of all sizes are available for purchase and make wonderful gifts and souvenirs to take home. The festival is filled with color and rhythm as Karkabou bands fill the air with music and dance, processions entertain the crowds and the fragrances of traditional meals lure hungry visitors. The Ghardaia Carpet Festival is one of the biggest events of the year and usually takes place during the month of March.

Dr Erika Pohl-Ströher (18 January 1919 - 18 December 2016)

In the upcoming Sotheby’s auction , Arts of the Islamic world on first of May ,one of the names for the provenance of some great carpets is Dr Erika Pohl-Ströher (18 January 1919 - 18 December 2016) who was a German business executive, heiress, and collector of miniature and German folk art. She was resident in Switzerland for much of her life.

Pohl-Stroher was born on 18 January 1919 in Wurzen in Saxony, East Germany and grew up in Rothenkirchen in Vogtland.

She studied chemistry and biology at the University of Jena and received a doctorate in biology.She died on 18 December 2016 at the age of 97.

Pohl-Stroher's grandparents, Franz and Marie Stroeher, founded the hair care and cosmetics company Wella AG in the 19th century. When Procter & Gamble bought the company for more than $4 billion in 2003, Pohl-Stroher received around $1.1 billion for her 23% stake.Her net worth was estimated by Forbes magazine to be USD 1.3 billion making her the 101st wealthiest person in Germany at the time of her death....She had a great taste in collecting many arts including carpets ...lot 287: An Oushak 'small medallion' double-niche Rug, West Anatolia
12,000 — 18,000 GBP...

Azerbaijan Carpet Museum

The Azerbaijan Carpet Museum was created under the Decree No. 130 dated March 13, 1967 of the Council of Ministers of the Azerbaijan SSR. From 1967 to 1993, the museum was called the Azerbaijan State Museum of Carpet and Folk Applied Arts, from 1993 to 2014 - State Museum of Carpet and Applied Arts named after Latif Karimov, from 2014 to the present time the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum.

At the time of establishing, it was the only museum that was dedicated to the art of carpet weaving. The main purpose of the creation of the museum was to store, research, and demonstrate unique examples of the carpet weaving art, which are the Azerbaijan’s national heritage. The initiator of the museum was Latif Karimov – an outstanding scientist and carpet weaver, the founder of the science of Azerbaijan Carpet Weaving Art, artist and teacher, author of the fundamental work Azerbaijani carpet.

In 2004, a law on the Preservation and Development of Azerbaijan Carpet was enacted with the museum’s participation. The law aimed to implement the registration of Azerbaijan carpets, protect and support their development, and coordinate scientific and methodical training. In 2010, the Azerbaijan Carpet Weaving Art was included in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity through the assistance of Mehriban Aliyeva, First Lady of Azerbaijan, the President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, member of Milli Majlis (National Parliament of the Republic of Azerbaijan), and Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO and ISESCO.

Today, the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum, which is located in one of the country’s most modern buildings, not only stores a rich collection of artifacts and carpets (our nation’s most valuable heritage), but also operates as the site for the comprehensive research of traditional carpet weaving art and its popularization within world culture.

The Carpet Industry in Qajar, Persia.

by Annette Ittig This was the winning entry in the ORR Essay Competition. Annette Ittig obtained her Ph. D. at the Oriental Institute, Oxford University, where she has studied under Mae Beattie. Her thesis topic is:

Even a brief glance at one of the bibliographies of Oriental carpet literature demonstrates that the Middle Eastern rug producing world consists of an intricate mosaic of geographical regions populated by diverse linguistic, ethnic and religious groups. It is therefore not surprising to find tremendous variations in the designs, palettes and structures among the rugs woven in Turkey, Persia, the Caucasus, India and Egypt. A review of the vast literature of each of these types of rugs is beyond the scope of this essay. Instead, this article focuses upon previous studies 
and other sources relevant to the Persian carpet. The writer's previous fieldwork and researches, particularly a familiarity with the primary and secondary sources for 
Persia, determined this choice.

Previous Studies: The Classical Persian Carpet

The scope and number of works published hitherto is clearly indicated by Enay and Azadi's Einhundert Jahre Orientteppich-Literatur, (Hannover, 1977), the most 
comprehensive carpet bibliography. Within this extensive literature are two broad categories: 
a) works concerned with rugs produced during the Safavid era and
b) publications dealing with later carpets. These will be dealt with in turn.

The works concerned with Safavid carpets are primarily art historical studies which analyze designs. They have established the criteria by which all other Persian rugs 
have been judged, and have strongly influenced the attitude of scholars towards later Persian weaving. Scholars agree that Julius Lessing's Orientalische 
Teppichmuster nach Bildern and Originalen des XV bis XVI Jahrhunderts (Berlin, 1877)1 initiated art historical research about the Oriental carpet. Through presentation of carpet patterns in mediaeval European paintings, Lessing aimed to provide the designers of modern carpets with "classical" models (2). He maintained that the finest carpet designs, an "Idealtypus", were produced during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and that they deteriorated thereafter (3). Later art historical literature has assessed Persian carpets by these same criteria.

The 1891 Vienna Exhibition, which was the first international show devoted to carpets, invalidated Lessing's assumption that very few very old carpets had
survived. Of the 515 pieces exhibited in Vienna; many were antique. The three volumes resulting from this exhibition (4) contain superb plates and excellent articles 
about carpet manufacture at that time. For example, the article by Churchill, a British diplomat interested in commerce, is informative about the organization of the 
contemporary Persian carpet industry, including the materials and personnel employed. There is also an Exhibition handbook (5) which lists the prices of exhibits 
from commercial houses. It thus provides an index of contemporary taste and investment patterns. The exhibits and articles illustrate the organizers recognition of 
a need for co-operation between academia and the trade in the study of carpets. It is regrettable that later authors have largely ignored this approach.

At the time of the exhibition, the organizers also requested F. R. Martin to produce a history of the Oriental carpet. Martin's text, A History of Oriental Carpets Before 
1800 (Vienna, 1908) was not published until some seventeen years later, after he had undertaken extensive fieldwork in the Middle East. Martin's dating and 
provenance of Persian carpets were based not only on comparative designs in other Persian media and European paintings, because of his field experience, he 
also utilized information about antique and contemporary carpets from the trade. His attribution of the "vase" rugs to Kirman on the basis of both textual evidence and the 
similarity of their weave to that of modern Kirmani Carpets (6) is upheld by recent scholarship. Because of his consideration of carpet weaves as a factor in determining provenance, Martin also illustrated the backs of some antique pieces (7).

Another important work on early carpets was Wilhelm von Bode's Vorderasiatische K & uumlpfteppiche aus alterer Zeit (Leipzig, 1901). This book was subsequently 
revised with K & Umlhnel and later translated into English by Ellis (8). Bode and K &Umlhnel were mainly concerned with design as an indication of provenance. They based part of their chronology for Persian rugs upon comparative examples in European paintings. However, their dating based upon designs in Persian miniature paintings is questionable, as none of these exactly correspond to any extant carpets. Moreover their assertion that "The golden age of the (classical) class doubtless falls within the first half of the sixteenth century (9) is unproven: only two 
dated pieces support their case.

The section on "The Art of Carpet Making" in A. U. Pope's A Survey of Persian Art (New York, 1938-39) is still the most comprehensive work on pre-nineteenth century 
Persian carpets. In this section, Jacoby's article on "Materials used in the Making of Carpets" (pp. 2456-65) gives an adequate description of the types of wool and 
dyestuffs traditionally employed. Mankowski's article, "Some Documents from Polish Sources Relating to Carpet Making in the Time of Shah Abbas I" (pp. 2431-36) 
provides the first documentary evidence for the attribution of certain "Polonaise" carpets to Kashan.

In his article on "The History of Carpet Making", Pope classifies surviving carpets into groups according to their design, and attributes these groups to particular centres of manufacture. He defines the four major centres of Safavid production as Tabriz or northwest Persia; Herat or northeast Persia; Kirman or southeast Persia; and central Persia. His attributions are sometimes questionable. For example, despite the evidence presented by Mankowski and several European travellers to Safavid Persia regarding the weaving of "Polonaise" carpets in Isfahan and Kashan; Pope attributes the majority of the Polonaise rugs to Joshagan (10). Pope's opinion was based on oral tradition related to him by local residents and upon the nisba of the weaver of the Qum shrine fragments (11).

His rejection of reliable European sources in favor of hearsay and a nisba which merely indicates that the Ustad Ni'matulla, or his family, was from Joshagan, seems 

Pope's use of nisba was in any case inconsistent. He rejected the Kirmani signature on a vase rug and the Mahani nisba on the Sarajevo fragments as evidence for 
their having been produced in the Kirman region. Rather, he attributed these rugs to Joshagan (12), again on the basis of oral tradition. Almost all later writers have 
rejected Pope's contention that Joshagan produced most of the surviving Polonaise and vase rugs as inadequate. More recent scholarship has followed Mankowski's 
attribution for an Isfahan or Kashan provenance for the former and Martin's Kirman attribution for the latter (13).

While many of Pope's local attributions indicate a superficial scholarship, the achievements of the "Carpet" section of the Survey are undeniable. The scope of 
the work is enormous with 153 carpets represented. Some of these pieces, such as the fragments from the Qum shrine and the Sarajevo carpet, had not previously 
been published. Moreover, Pope recognized the need for structural analysis to supplement design for provenance (14). His illustrations of carpet structures demonstrated that many "classical" carpets have similar weaves (15).

In his review of the Survey "The Art of Carpet Making (16) as well as in his book Oriental Carpets: An Account of Their History (17) Erdmann generally concurred 
with Pope regarding places of manufacture. However, Erdmann followed Martin in suggesting a Kirman provenance for the "vase" carpets (18). He also cited Kashan as the location of manufacture for the Sangusko carpets19 as opposed to Pope's attribution of Kirman or Yazd. Erdmann's researches into the Oriental carpet
focused primarily on Turkish material. It is therefore not surprising that one of his greatest contributions to Persian Carpet studies was the identification of the so-called Salting pieces as later Turkish rugs (20). Indeed, his was one of the first works to discuss the problem of artful, modern reproductions of "classical" carpets. Erdmann based his provenance of Persian rugs primarily upon comparative design analyses. Moreover, he adhered to the earlier art historical concept of the "Idealtypus" of classical carpet design, and he therefore viewed any deviation from 
this "court" style as indicative of later manufacture (21). His failure to recognise that several types of carpet weaving existed in Persia analogous to those he saw in Turkey, e.g., nomadic, cottage, and urban as well as court production, can be best explained by his lack of fieldwork in Iran.

In Seven Hundred Years of Oriental Carpets (22) Erdmann briefly extended his comments about classical Persian rugs to include eighteenth and nineteenth century pieces. An indication of his superficial treatment of the latter is his statement that dated Persian carpets always contain the signature of the weaver (23), moreover his discussion of the alteration of dates in carpets is adjacent to the 
illustration of a rug whose forged date he accepted (24).

The first publication to rigorously base the classification of classical Persian carpets upon structure was Beattie's catalogue of the exhibition Carpets of Central Persia 
(Sheffield, 1976). Many of the carpets exhibited had vase motifs in their fields. The type of weave common to most of the rugs on display was accordingly defined by 
Beattie as "vase technique". She then arranged the vase-technique rugs in subgroups according to their designs.

Beattie does not attribute the vase-technique rugs to any particular centre. However, she does include a nineteenth century Kirman Carpet (25) because of its structural similarity to the other entries. She thus appears to agree with Martin's statement about Kirman as a place of manufacture for at least some of the vase-technique rugs.

Beattie's stress on structure as an indication of provenance has encouraged recent carpet studies to emphasize technique; and descriptions of structure, colour and dyes are now often noted. There is, however, some controversy about the manner in which technical information should be presented.

In summary, not only has the literature on classical Persian carpets advanced little from the turn of the century until Beattie's publication on vase -technique, but it has 
consistently considered the Persian carpet from a purely Western perspective. In other words, scholars have judged the Persian carpet in the same way as European 
art: by the standard of court, and in the European context, church products. This approach to Persian carpets is questionable on several counts. Firstly, no pieces 
known to me had been specifically ordered by the Safavid court. Secondly, there is no well-defined chronology of Safavid carpets. With the exception of five dated 
pieces (26); we are unable to place or date any carpets with any certainty. Thirdly, little attention has been paid to the substantial body of Persian sources such as 
court histories, administrative manuals, decrees and shrine inventories for information about the organization of workshops: specific commissions and donations; or the trade in carpet materials. For example, both Persian and 
European sources indicate that in Safavid times, there were both specially commissioned carpets and rugs woven for a mass market. Moreover, a court workshop was permitted to undertake outside commissions (27). Noting the high quality of carpets woven in some provincial centres in the nineteenth century (28), it is possible that many extant classical Persian rugs were not court commissions. Fourthly, the theory that designs filtered from court workshops into other urban and non-urban products in degenerate forms disregards the interdependence of the 
urban and non-urban sectors of Persian society. Hence, court carpets may arguably represent refined descendants of non-urban folk weaving.

Previous Studies: The Modern Persian Carpet

Most of the publications about modern Persian carpets are essentially "buyer's guides". Generally written by dealers, such books usually consider rugs as either investments and/or furnishings. As a result, nomenclature often refers to a rug's quality, or the market in which it was purchased, rather than to design. The first publication of this type was J. K. Mumford's Oriental Rugs (New York, 1900). Because it emphasizes rugs on the market, this work referred to carpets by their trade names (29). In a table, Mumford listed those Oriental rugs most commonly seen on the Western market, with their technical characteristics (30) 
Some of this technical information is incorrect. Indeed, Mumford is partially responsible for some of the misinformation concerning the origins and uses of 
oriental rugs later perpetuated in trade publications. However, Mumford's book was a pioneering effort. It was the first work to devote itself essentially to contemporary 
rugs and their classification according to both design and weave.

Apart from Mumford, two other significant buyers' guides should be noted. A. U. Dilley's Oriental Rugs and Carpets (New York, 1931) was one of the earliest works to describe the ways in which Western market demand affected the design and quality of the modern Persian carpet. On the basis of trade sources, he concluded that the bulk of carpet weaving in Persia at that time was produced for export to the West.

Chandler Robbins Clifford's Oriental Rugs (New York. 1911) was the first publication on modern rug's to illustrate specific local weave patterns with photographs of their 
backs. A more recent attempt to identify modern rugs on the basis of their weave patterns is Neff and Magg's Dictionary of Oriental Rugs (31). The colour plates in 
this publication more clearly illustrate weave than Clifford's black and white photographs. The Dictionary's material is also more coherently organized. However, the authors are clearly indebted to the works of Clifford and other earlier writers for their historical background.

The only book to place contemporary Persian rugs in the context of the modern industry is A. C. Edwards' The Persian Carpet (London. 1953). Edwards was the 
manager of the Oriental Carpet Manufacturer's operations in Persia from 1908 to 1924. His first hand observations about the designs, craftsmen, and weaves of the 
various rug manufacturing regions in Persia are thus particularly valuable. Edwards' book also demonstrates the great extent to which foreign capital was involved in 
Persia's rug industry in the early twentieth century. The Persian Carpet is, moreover, the first rug book to name the Azerbaijani entrepreneurs who organized an export industry prior to OCM's. Sadly, as The Persian Carpet was written for a general audience, it does not give specific details about OCM itself, the "second generation" (after Ziegler's) of Western involvement in the Persian carpet industry. Apart from buyers' guides, other publications about modern Persian weavings include exhibition catalogues. Bierman and Bacharach's The Warp and Weft of Islam (Seattle, 1978) is particularly relevant. Here, Bierman discusses the fashion 
for Oriental carpets in America at the turn of the century, and she presents evidence from the trade about sizes and colours demanded by that market. Using this historical information with technical and stylistic analysis, Bierman and Bacharach are able to identify certain Persian rugs made for American clientele. Thus, The Warp and Weft of Islam, is one of the few recent publications to utilize 
information from both art historians and dealers.

Another important catalogue is Azadi's Farsh-i Iran/Persian Carpets (32) with its illustrations and technical analyses of forty carpets in the Carpet Museum of Iran. Most of these pieces were originally in the Gulistan Palace and were either presented to or commissioned by members of the Qajar and Pahlavi dynasties. They are thus invaluable primary documents for the study of later Persian carpets.
Azadi had prefaced the catalogue with a brief discussion of past studies of the Persian carpet. In this, he particularly disagrees with the emphasis by art historians on Safavid carpets which, he points out, has hindered research into later rugs. The quality of the colour plates and the technical diagrams in the catalogue are superb. However, the English translation included in the text is awkward, and Azadi's comments on design are unfortunately omitted from it.33 Another significant Persian catalogue is Sirus Parham's Namayishgah-yi Qali-yi Kirman (n.p., 1978) in which cartoons are illustrated. Parham's dating for them is based principally upon the styles demanded by Western firms between circa 1901 and 1950. Unfortunately, 
none of them are signed or dated. The English summary of the Persian text omits several interesting details -- mention of the master designers' names and the existence of the naqshkhauni "design caller". Parham's work demonstrates the importance of local sources and artifacts in the study of later Persian carpet manufacture. It thus suggests a guideline for future fieldwork, when that is again possible.

Some of the more recent publications consider modern Persian rugs from perspectives other than those of the art historian or dealer. A comprehensive and well-illustrated example of an interdisciplinary approach is Housego's Tribal Rugs (London, 1978). Her book, which is based upon fieldwork over several years, combines historical, art historical and ethnographic perspectives. It describes 
contemporary non-urban weaving and weaving techniques by region and demonstrates that technically complex, attractive carpets continue to be produced in non-commercial situations.

Another important publication which has taken an ethnographic approach to its subject is The Qashqa'i of Iran (34). This work examines textile crafts within the 
context of tribal life. From their first hand observations, the compilers describe contemporary dye stuffs, dye and fibre preparation, weaving implements and techniques, and the uses of textiles, data not normally available through a more 
traditional art historical approach. This type of information demonstrates the vitality of contemporary weaving and gives greater meaning to the objects.

A primarily technical approach to contemporary carpets is taken in The Traditional Crafts of Persia (35) by H. E. Wulff, who was the principal of the Technical College 
in Shiraz between 1937 and 1941. In his section on "Textile Crafts", Wulff discusses carpet weaving as well as the development of textile techniques, preparation of 
fibres, dyes and looms. He provides evidence from archaeological, historical and literary sources to support his first hand observations. Moreover, he includes Persian terms for materials and techniques. Wulff clearly illustrates his discussion of carpet techniques and structures with diagrams and black and white plates. With his knowledge of Persian and his keen observation of materials, Wulff demolishes some traditional trade terminology: for example, he shows that the term shuturi refers not 
to camel wool, but to camel-coloured wool (36). His comprehensive bibliography notes, historical, literary, archaeological, technological and anthropological works 
relevant to the study of both antique and modern carpets.

The publications of Whiting (37) demonstrate another type of technical approach to later Persian rugs. Whiting, an organic chemist, is interested in dye analyses for their indications of carpet dating and provenance. Certainly the presence of synthetic dyestuffs indicates 1854 as the terminus post quem for manufacture. However, the relevance of dye analyses to provenance of later Persian rugs is somewhat questionable. In view of the scale of inter-provincial trade in dyestuffs in Qajar Persia, one of the most interesting results of Whiting's meticulous work is the documentation of the wide variety of vegetable materials used in the production of Persian carpet dyes.

A regional approach to the modern Persian carpet is seen in Bazin's Le travail du tapis dans la region de Qum.38 As a geographer Bazin is concerned with the symbiotic relationship between the city and its surrounding villages in the carpet industry. His first hand observations provide valuable insights into the collection and distribution of orders, materials and carpets. These demonstrate the dominance of the city over the organization of finance, production and marketing of the region's rugs.

Future Directions: Archival and Historical Sources

Certain of the aforementioned approaches to study of the Persian carpet are now unfortunately curtailed due to the difficulties in undertaking fieldwork in Iran. However, considerable documentation about Persian carpets is to be found in the material collected in Iran by European and American government officials, merchants and travellers, much of which is available in Western governmental 
archives such as those of the U. S. Department of State.

Many of the European consuls were appointed from the Western mercantile community in Persia. As appointees were permitted to combine their consular duties with their business activities, their observations are particularly valuable to the study of Persian foreign and domestic trade. Since these consuls were more concerned with Western commercial interests than Persian internal trade, most of their statistics relate to imports and exports. The major source of data on foreign trade utilized by consuls and businessmen was the Persian masters of the various customs houses, until the customs reform of 1900-01. Such figures are problematic, as there is no evidence, that they were derived from systematic registration of all the articles passing through any particular customs house. Nor were goods in transit through Persia generally differentiated. Moreover, noting the references to contraband trade in the sources, smuggling must have been, widespread. Thus, although they do not 
provide useful indications of commercial trends, the custom house figures cannot be considered absolute.

The economic surveys by Blau (39) and Polak (40) also contain data on carpets as articles of trade. Polak, who was personal physician to Nasir al-Din Shah from 1855 
to 1860, wrote a very detailed description of the handicrafts in Persia including Persian terms for various objects. The Burgess letters (41) also provide details on 
Persia's import-export trade, particularly for woollen cloth imports and raw silk exports.

Accounts by other travellers supplement this economic information. In this respect, the works by Isabell Bird Bishop (42) and Ella Sykes are of particular interest. Both 
were keen observers of Persian domestic life, the daily routine of which generally included carpet weaving. As women, both were permitted access to the women's 
quarters, generally inaccessible to men outside the immediate family.

Secondary sources particularly relevant to study of the Persian carpet include the researches of Issawi (44) and Floor (45). Issawi's Economic History of Iran, which 
presents excerpts from a variety of primary sources, concentrates on themes such as international trade and technological advances. As such, this work gives a well 
organized introduction to a complex topic, and his extensive bibliography is a valuable source of reference. Issawi has relied heavily on Western sources for his 
information. On the other hand, Floor's study of the merchants in Qajar Persia utilizes several local sources. The latter provide valuable information on the dynamics of local commerce.

In comparison with Western records, contemporary Persian sources provide little quantitative data about the carpet industry. They do, however, provide insight into 
both the Qajar social hierarchy and local economies. There are extensive collections of nineteenth century court and local histories and travellers accounts in Western libraries such as the British Museum; the Bodelian; the New York Public Library; and the oriental libraries of Harvard and Princeton.

One example of an informative Persian traveller is Hajj Sayyah (46), the peripatetic landowner from Mahallat. His description of the miserable conditions under which 
the weavers of Kirman worked, and their low wages, shows the darker side of the boom described by Western writers.

There may be relevant records in Iran which are not accessible at present. Material in the Gulistan relating to the Carpet Museum collection, or inventories in shrines 
such as those at Qum or Mashad, would be invaluable in establishing provenance for carpets. The papers of merchants or notables involved in the carpet trade and 
manufacture might also provide insights into the organization of the industry. In summary, there are numerous historical and archival sources, in both Persian 
and Western languages which have not yet been extensively used in carpet studies and which are accessible without travel to Iran. Interestingly, most of these sources are based on first hand observations made in Iran. Such information is invaluable in 
supplementing observations derived from examination of the carpets themselves. Archival research is generally considered the prerogative of academia, and "hands 
on" knowledge of carpets that of the trade. It is hoped that this essay will encourage greater cooperation between these groups in future carpet studies.


1. The English version of Lessing's book is Ancient Carpet Patterns After Originals of the 15th and 16th Centuries, (London, 1879).
2. Lessing op. cit. p. 5: "These patterns form such very superior models for modern productions that the author has considered it eminently desirable to bring them into notice with that object in mind."
3. Lessing, p. 6.
4. C. Purdin-Clarke (ed.), Oriental Carpets (Vienna, 1897).
5. Austellung Orientalische Teppiche im K. Osterreiches Handels Museum, (Vienna, 1891). I am indebted to Mr. Jack Haldane for this reference.
6. F. R. Martin, A History of Oriental Carpets Before 1800 (Vienna, 1908). P. 76
7. Martin, op. cit., figs. 365-74.
8. W. von Bode and E. K&uumlhnel, Antique Rugs from the Near East trans. C. G. Ellis (Berlin, 1958).
9. Bode-K&uumlhnel, op. cit., p. 87.
l0. A. U. Pope. "History of Carpet Making", Survey of Persian Art. ed. A. U. Pope (New York; 1938-39) p. 2393
11. Ibid.
12. Survey, op. cit., pp. 2386-87.
l3. See, for example, Colloquium on the Car- pets of Central Persia (Sheffield, l976).
14. Survey, pp. 2444-46.
15. Survey, p. 2446 and fig. 801.
16. K. Erdmann, "Rezension, ‘The Art of Carpetmaking', in a Survey of Persian Art", Ars Islamica VIII (1941), pp. 121-91.
17. K. Erdmann, Oriental Carpets: An Account of Their History, trans. C. G. Ellis (London, 1960).
18. "Rezension", op. cit. p. 189.
19. "Rezension", p. 111.
20. "Rezension", p. 167.
21. Erdmann, Oriental Carpets, op. cit., p. 45: "Whatever survives or is reanimated in the course of the nineteenth century is but a remnant of the wealth that once 
22. K. Erdmann, Seven Hundred Years of Oriental Carpets, trans. M. H. Beattie and H. Herzog (London, 1970).
23. Seven Hundred Years op. cit. p. 175.
24. Seven Hundred Years pp. 111-2. For a discussion of this rug, the correct date of which is 1309/1891-2 rather than 1209/1794, see A. Ittig. "A Group of Inscribed 
Carpets from Persian Kurdistan", Hali, IV/2 (1981).
25. M. H. Beattie, Carpets of Central Persia (Sheffield, 1976), no. 59.
26 These are the Victoria and Albert and Los Angeles County Ardabil carpets dated 942\1535-6 (Survey, pls. 1134-6); the Poli- Pezzoli hunting carpet of 929/1522-3 
(Survey, pl. 1118); the Sarajevo fragments dated 1066/1655-56, (Survey pl. 1238); and the Qum fragments dated 1082/1661-2, (Survey pls. 258-60).
27. J. Chardin, Voyages du Chevalier Chardin en Perse(Paris, 1811), vol. VII, pp. 329-34. 28. See Ittig, op. cit.
29. J. K. Mumford, Oriental Rugs (New York, 1900), p. 196.
30. Mumford, op. cit. p.268.
31. I. C. Neff and C. V. Maggs, Dictionary of Oriental Rugs (London, 1977).
32. S. Azadi, Farsh-i Iran/Persian Carpets. (Hamburg, 1978).
33. Azadi, op. cit. p. 19.
34. The Qashqa'i of Iran (exhibition catalogue), Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester University (Manchester, 1976).
35. H. E. Wulff, The Traditional Crafts of Persia (Cambridge, Mass., 1966).
36. Wulff, op. cit.
37. M. Whiting and J. Harvey, "An Analysis of Dyes in Rugs and Bagfaces from Fars", Woven Gardens, D. Black and C. Loveless (London, 1979)
38. M. Bazin, "Le Travail du Tapis dons la region du Qom", Bulletin de la Societe Lanquedoc cienne de Geographic, t. Vll (1973), pp. 83-92.
39. F. O. Blau, Commerzielle Zustande Persiens (Berlin, 1858).
40. J. E. Polak, Persien, das Land und seine Bewohner (Leipzig, 1865).
41. C. and E. Burgess, Letters from Persia, ed. B. Schwartz, (New York, 1942).
42. I. B. Bishop, Journeys in Persia and Kurdistan (London, 1891).
43. E. Sykes, Through Persia on a Sidesaddle (London, 1898).
44. C. Issawi, ed., The Economic History of Iran, 1800 - 1914 (Chicago, 1971).
45. W. Floor, "The Merchants (Tujjur) in Qajar Iran", Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft, Bd. 126 (19?6).
46. Hajj Muhammad Ali Mahallati Sayyah, Khatirat-i Hajj Sayyah, ed. Hamid Sayyah 
(Tehran, 1346/1968).


The MAK is home to an unparalleled collection of applied arts, design, architecture, and contemporary art which has developed in the course of 150 years.

In the way by which its collection came into being, the Imperial Royal Austrian Museum of Art and Industry, opened in 1864, was an exceptional case amidst the nascent Viennese museum landscape.

The museum, officially established in 1863 with an eye to promoting innovation, was a cultural institution based not on an imperial or noble collection but on one to be compiled from scratch, thereby following an entirely new concept that was closer to the bourgeois and liberal notion of advancing the trades than it was to any aristocratic representational desires. It was a modern museum oriented toward the needs of both the general populace and producers of goods.

The collection of oriental carpets in the MAK is one of the finest, most valuable, and best known in the world, although not one of the most extensive. The collection's emphasis on "classic" carpets of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries derives from the former Austrian Imperial Family, whose carpets passed to the Museum after World War I. Examples of these are the silk hunting carpet and the silk Mameluke carpet, the only one in the world to have survived. It is still not certain how the carpets came into the possession of the Austrian Imperial Family, in which they were treated as very highly valued household objects, not as collector's items. In the East Asian world, the knotted carpet laid on the floor is the most important element of interior decoration, both in the nomadic period and in the ruler's palace. Artistic inventiveness, manual dexterity, and precious materials are therefore plentifully applied. Another source of the collection, which had started acquiring its own oriental carpets very early, is the Imperial and Royal Oriental or Trade Museum, whose carpets passed to the MAK when it was closed in 1907. / Angela Völker (curator of the MAK Textiles and Carpets Collection during the phase of the reinstallation of the MAK Permanent Collection in the early 1990s).

Carpet pages

A beautiful element of the insular illuminated manuscripts from the 7th Century monasteries, is the “carpet pages” preceding the gospels. Each of the pages are decorated with exquisite and fine geometric patterns thought to imitate the woven prayer rugs of the time and providing the reader the same spiritual experience when reading the Bible, as did prayer rugs for those kneeling on them for prayer.

There are exquisite surviving examples like the Lindisfarne Gospels and Book of Kells. Similarly there are also beautiful surviving examples of Hebrew, Islamic and Egyptian Coptic carpet pages, albeit they are not generally called that. It is speculated that the monastery carpet pages were introduced to scribes in monasteries, through contact and trade with the east.

A closer look at the Cosmati pavement in Westminster Abbey also reminds us of a “carpet page” laid down in stone. What do you think?


When The Met was founded in 1870, it owned not a single work of art. Through the combined efforts of generations of curators, researchers, and collectors, our collection has grown to represent more than 5,000 years of art from across the globe—from the first cities of the ancient world to the works of our time.

Islamic Art

The Met's collection of Islamic art ranges in date from the seventh to the twenty-first century. Its more than 15,000 objects reflect the great diversity and range of the cultural traditions of Islam, with works from as far westward as Spain and Morocco and as far eastward as Central Asia and India. Comprising both sacred and secular objects, the collection reveals the mutual influence of artistic practices such as calligraphy, and the exchange of motifs such as vegetal ornament (the arabesque) and geometric patterning in both realms.

Although the Museum acquired some seals and jewelry from Islamic countries as early as 1874, and a number of Turkish textiles in 1879, it received its first major group of Islamic objects in 1891, as a bequest of Edward C. Moore. Since then, the collection has grown through gifts, bequests, and purchases, as well as through Museum-sponsored excavations at Nishapur, Iran, in 1935–39 and in 1947. Until 1932, when the Department of Near Eastern Art was established, all of these objects were overseen by the Department of Decorative Arts. By 1963, the number of objects had increased to a point that necessitated an official departmental division between the ancient Near Eastern and the Islamic portions of the collection, and the Department of Islamic Art was founded.

In 2011, after an extensive renovation, the Museum opened fifteen dramatic new Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia. The greatly enlarged and freshly conceived galleries highlight both the diversity and the interconnectedness of the numerous cultures represented, with multiple entryways that allow visitors to approach the galleries—and the art displayed within—from different perspectives.

The Declaration of Human rights by Cyrus the Great

It has been hailed as the first charter of human rights (circa 500BC), predating the Magna Carta by nearly two millenniums (~1700 years) and in 1971 the United Nations published translations of it in all the official U.N. languages. It is now kept in the British Museum and it is no exaggeration to say that it is one of the most precious historical records of the world. Also a replica of the Cyrus cylinder is kept at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Cyrus read the Charter of Freedom out after he put on the crown:

"Now that I put the crown of kingdom of Persia I announce that I will respect the traditions, customs and religions of the nations of my empire and never let any of my governors and subordinates look down on or insult them. I will impose my monarchy on no nation. Each is free to accept it, and if any one of them rejects it, I never resolve on war to reign. I will never let anyone oppress any others, and if it occurs, I will take his or her right back and penalize the oppressor. I will never let anyone take possession of movable and landed properties of the others by force or without compensation. Until I am alive, I prevent unpaid, forced labor. Today, I announce that everyone is free to choose a religion. People are free to live in all regions and take up a job provided that they never violate other’s rights. No one can be penalized for his or her relatives’ faults. I prevent slavery and my governors and subordinates are obliged to prohibit exchanging men and women as slaves within their own ruling domains. Such a tradition should be exterminated the world over..."

It was a wise political strategy of king Cyrus to issue the charter especially considering the vastness of the Persian Empire and all the different cultures that now lived within her borders. This resulted in the survival of the Achaemenid Dynasty for a few hundred years. - Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, Map by Mapporn
#ghorbanycarpets #throwbacktuesday #cyrus #arcchaemendi #dynasty #humanrights #cyruscylinder #ancient #history #love #timeless

Persia & Purim

The jolly festival of Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar. It commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day,” as recorded in the Megillah (book of Esther).

The Story in a Nutshell

The Persian Empire of the 4th century BCE extended over 127 lands, and all the Jews were its subjects. When King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) had his wife, Queen Vashti, executed for failing to follow his orders, he arranged a beauty pageant to find a new queen. A Jewish girl, Esther, found favor in his eyes and became the new queen, though she refused to divulge her nationality.

Meanwhile, Haman was appointed prime minister of the empire. Mordechai, the leader of the Jews (and Esther’s cousin), defied the king’s orders and refused to bow to Haman. Haman was incensed, and he convinced the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of all the Jews on the 13th of Adar, a date chosen by a lottery Haman made.

Mordechai galvanized all the Jews, convincing them to repent, fast and pray to G‑d. Meanwhile, Esther asked the king and Haman to join her for a feast. At a subsequent feast, Esther revealed to the king her Jewish identity. Haman was hanged, Mordechai was appointed prime minister in his stead, and a new decree was issued, granting the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies.

On the 13th of Adar, the Jews mobilized and killed many of their enemies. On the 14th of Adar, they rested and celebrated. In the capital city of Shushan, they took one more day to finish the job.

The shrine of Esther and Mordechai still stands in Hamadan, Iran, today. 

Nowruz - Persian New Year

The Persian calendar is linked to the solar cycles, unlike other lunar calendars. This means that the time of the Persian New Year differs every year.

What is the Nowruz Persian New Year?

The Nowruz New Year, otherwise known as the Persian New Year, is the name used for the Iranian New Year’s Day.

Every year the Nowruz Persian New Year is celebrated by millions of Iranians and non-Iranians all around the world by giving their homes a polish and wishing for good luck in the New Year.

In 2010, the United Nations formally recognised the Nowruz Persian New Year as an international holiday.

When is Nowruz Persian New Year Celebrated?

The Nowruz Persian New Year marks the day of the March equinox (i.e. the beginning of Spring). The equinox usually happens between 19-21st March. This year (2019) it will occur on the evening of March 20th.

Before this exact day, however, there is much anticipation and preparation for the event. So, unlike a Western New Year which is over in one evening, the Persian New Year is dragged out over a few days.

Who celebrates Nowruz Persian New Year?

Nowruz Persian New Year has Iranian and Zoroastrian (one of the world’s oldest religions) origins.

Despite this, is celebrated all over the globe by various countries and communities. This includes a wide range of countries in Western and Central Asia, as well as the Balkans and the Caucasus.

Where Did Nowruz Persian New Year Come From?

The Nowruz Persian New Year is much older than the one celebrated in the Gregorian calendar, which is in its 2019th year of celebrations.

It is not known exactly how long the Nowruz has been celebrated for, but best estimates guess at over 3,000 years.

Chaharshanbe suri & Zoraostriasm

Leading up the Persian New Year/Nowrooz (generally 21 March) a festival is held on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year. The festival entails jumping over fires and the kids dressing up in traditional clothing walking from door to door with bowls (clanging with spoons against it) asking for sweets. This festival is part of the Zoroastrian religion that was started in Persia 600BC, thus making it one of the oldest religions in the World. Even though Zoroastrianism is no longer the main religion in Iran, the festival is so ingrained in Persian culture that it is celebrated throughout the country and World by Persians every year. Situated in Yazd, Central Iran, is Atashkadeh, the Zoroastrian Temple, and its' main purpose is to guard the everlasting fire (a representation of God) that is burning inside.

This fire has been burning since the Temple was built nearly 2500 years ago and is kept burning by the priests that reside there. Due to this religion's influence, the Iranian calendar follows the movement of the Sun and NOT the Moon as with the rest of the Middle East and thus the exact time of their New year differs annually according to the turning of the Sun for the Spring Equinox. The symbol of Zoroastrianism is the Farvahar (or Ascending symbol) and is prevalent all over Iran and in Iranian culture. It is the Ascended One holding a ring in his hand (representing a promise to ascend and enlighten the others) and three layers of wings (representing thinking good thoughts, speaking good words and performing good deeds), all part of the Zoroastrian doctrine.

Carpet Museum of Iran

In 1978, the founders of the Carpet Museum of Iran established this Museum with a limited number of Persian carpets and kilims, in order to revive and develop the art of carpet-weaving in the country, and to provide a source to satisfy the need for research about the historical background and evolution of this art

The Carpet Museum of Iran, with its beautiful architecture and facade resembling a carpet-weaving loom is located on the northwest of Laleh Park in Tehran. It is composed of two exhibition galleries covering an area of 3400 m2.The ground floor gallery is assigned for permanent exhibitions and the upper floor gallery is considered for the temporary exhibitions of carpets, kilims, and carpet designs.

Woven tattoos and the power of symbols

Woven tattoos and the power of symbols Tattooing has been a practice since the immemorable ancient times. It's part of humanity. And we've been doing this up to the present to adorn our bodies, to mark ourselves with our life stories, or to express a belief or a part of our creative souls. Through archaeological finds it is clear that the cultures who tattooed their bodies were highly skilled craftsmen who wove these symbols into their textiles and decorated their weaponry, pottery and arts with the same symbols. Most of these cultures existed pre-writing times and it is widely believed that these symbols served, among other things, as a form of "unwritten history". In this article we will look at the symbol practices of the ancients and some of its purposes.


When the mummified tattooed Iceman, Otzi, was found in the Alps, it became clear that the practice of tattooing was far older than once thought. It was estimated that Otzi lived between 3400 and 3100 BCE, a much earlier date than the other tattooed mummies found in Egypt. Ötzi had a total of 61 tattoos consisting of 19 groups of black lines. These include groups of parallel lines running along the longitudinal axis of his body and to both sides of the lumbar spine, as well as a cruciform mark behind the right knee and on the right ankle, and parallel lines around the left wrist. The greatest concentration of markings is found on his legs, which together exhibit 12 groups of lines. Radiological examination of Ötzi's bones showed "age-conditioned or strain-induced degeneration" corresponding to many tattooed areas, including osteochondrosis and slight spondylosis in the lumbar spine and wear-and-tear degeneration in the knee and especially in the ankle joints. It has been speculated that these tattoos may have been related to pain relief treatments similar to acupressure or acupuncture. There are some other "younger" mummies found sporting geometrical tattoos made from plant based dyes/inks, that researchers believe had medicinal qualities as these tattoos were placed on acupuncture points as well, further strengthening the case of medicinal tattoos. The ancient cultures not only tattooed themselves with healing symbols but also carried it on their person either as talismans, on their garments and even carpets. The Navajo healing carpets are a great example of this where the shaman makes a sand carpet with healing symbols believing that each of these symbols are living beings, who will assist the ailed person to regain harmony and balance in their bodies and ultimately heal.

Identification and status

Ancient tattoos (called khalkubi in Persian) also indicated the bearers identity or status in society. A beautiful example of this were the Scythians. From 700 - 200 BC the Scythians in the Altai Mountain region were a powerful warrior society known for their tattooed mummies and glorious art forms. The oldest surviving carpet, the Pazyryk, was found in the grave of a Scythian prince and depicts horses, stags and griffins, all of which are prominent in all their art forms. On their mummies glorious tattoos of stags, horses and goats can be found as well as birds of prey (representing heaven), herbivores (representing earth) and feline hunters such as leopards and lions (representing the afterlife/underworld). These symbols were also beautifully woven onto their garments, their weaponry masterfully crafted with it and many exquisite golden statues with these animals were made. The women were also warriors and due to their fierceness gave birth to the "Amazon" legends. In this civilization the tattoos they carried indicated their status in society (i.e. royalty, warriors and also rights of passage) and also their shaman culture. They were not just warriors but great traders and merchants and through their dealings with surrounding kingdoms, it is believed that their tattoo culture caught on and soon many other cultures sported tattoos as well. In the Roman Empire, however, tattoos were only used to identify criminals or slaves, for everyone else it was strictly forbidden, yet the early Christians tattooed themselves with a small cross on their wrist to identify each other. This tattoo could easily be concealed from the Romans who were persecuting them and it was imperative in knowing who could be trusted in this "secret society". This practice was later outlawed by Constantinople, after he converted to Christianity, citing as his justification Leviticus 19:28, which says,”You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord.” During the Crusades, however, the knights had the Cross of Jerusalem tattooed on them so that they could be identified and buried as Christians in the event of their death. They also had this cross woven in their flags and garments. The Japanese were another culture who had a ban against tattoos and only used it to identify criminals. The peasants rebelled against this due to the fact that only the royals and elite could wear colourful kimonos with elaborate designs. They secretly got body suit tattoos depicting popular Japanese paintings that they could hide under their plain clothing. Even today visible tattoos are not widely accepted in Japan but the infamous Yakuza still have their entire bodies tattood by tattoo masters. The Ainu culture in Japan (believed to be Iranian peoples) used to tattoo the mouths of women as a right of passage. In fact, a woman could only get married if she had her mouth tattooed. They also made beautiful garments, tapestries and kilims. In the Polynesian Islands the warriors had elaborate facial tattoos, each unique to the wearer and also near full body suit tattoos with different geometric designs and lines. Not only did it identify the specific tribe and their status in it, but it also indicated the strength and power of the person who could endure the pain of receiving these tattoos. After the Europeans came in contact with these tribes the tattoo culture caught on in Europe and the royals and elite started getting tattoos of their family crests. They too had these crests woven in flags, tapestries and clothing. In the handmade carpet culture each tribe's carpets can also be identified by the symbols and colours that they use. Some cities use only certain colours in their carpets, such as weaving centers in Nain. Some carpets are signed by the designer or weaver that serves as identification.

Protection, fertility and blessings

Ancient tattoo cultures believed that they embody the powers of the symbols that they tattooed on their bodies and that is till true in the Japanese culture of bodysuits. Ancient Egyptian female mummies have been found with tattooed symbols of fertility on their abdomens and on their thighs. The Scythian warriors often had tattoos of birds of prey, stags and griffons that empowered them in battle. The Celts (Scythians who migrated West) carried on this tradition of protective and fertility tattooes. In 50 BC, the infamous Julius Caesar wrote, “All Britons paint themselves with woad, which turns the skin a bluish-green colour, hence their appearance is all the more horrific in battle.” These cultures also crafted items of protection on their weaponry, in the form of talismans, on their garments and also their carpets. The Celtic knot was widely used in all Celtic art forms. This tradition is still carried on in tribal handwoven carpets with symbols such as the scorpion that denotes protection, fertility and blessings. The ram horn and snake symbols both denote rebirth, for the sheep's ability to continuously create new wool and the serpent's ability to shed it's old skin. The serpent was also a sign of healing since it's poison was often used in medicine. In Tibetan monestries tiger carpets were and are widely used since tiger skin in Tantric Buddhism represents the transformation of anger into wisdom and insight, and is thought to protect the meditator from outside harm or spiritual interference. Tibetan tantric rugs are the seats of power employed by practitioners of Esoteric Buddhism. These rugs typically depicted the flayed skin of an animal or human and, together with associated ritual utensils, are the tools employed in the enactment of Esoteric rites associated with protective deities. The employment of these images and ritual tools celebrate the power of detachment from the corporal body that advanced Buddhist practitioners strive to attain. In some cultures facial tattoos were applied to disguise gravely ill people so that the Angel of Death could not find them. This was also believed to alter their life path. In a similar fashion in Judaism when a person falls gravely ill their name is changed so as to change their vibration and life path. We believe that woven carpets played a similar role. Based on the symbols and colours present in the carpet and the space it was placed, it would alter the presiding energy of the space and alter the course of the individual.

Investigating the tattoo cultures, it becomes clear that many of them originated in the Iranian plateau and all of them had a weaving culture as well. Could the tattoo artists and weaving designers have been the same people? We think so. Was the tattoo culture born from the weaving culture? We think so. Were both tattoo and weaving cultures born from shamanism and rituals? We say a resounding "YES"! Carpets were not just woven to protect against the elements, just like tattoos were not just done for protection. They were status symbols, luxurious and lush, and both of them required (and require) tremendous skill and a lot of time to perfect! The creators of these art forms no doubt had to have extensive knowledge of cultural symbolism, shamanism, craftsmanship, herbalism, biology, medicine, art and much more! Shervin Ghorbany firmly believes that, based on this, the theory that carpets were woven out of necessity and later changed to luxury items, is entirely incorrect. He believes that it was woven for decorative and spiritual purposes, that later changed to protection against the elements out of necessity. Just as the art of tattooing has survived and continues, so too does the art of weaving carpets. Neither can be rushed and both requires attention to detail, perseverance and a love and knowledge of art and symbolism.

TIEM, The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts has the unique distinction of being both the last museum to be opened in the era of the Ottoman Empire and also the first Turkish museum to bring together Turkish and Islamic works.

It was opened up for visitors in 1914 in the Imaret building (Alms house) inside the Sulemaniye Mosque Complex, one of the finest buildings of architect Mimar Sinan, and was called the ‘Evkâf-ı İslâmiye’ (Museum of Islamic Foundations). The greatest factor in the establishment of the museum was the theft of works from the buildings of pious foundations such as mosques, masjids, monasteries and lodges. Due to this problem, letters signed by Grand Vizier Hüseyin Hilmi Pasha were sent out to customs posts, calling for vigilance to prevent the works being smuggled out to European Museums.

However, the thefts continued despite all the precautions, and works including rugs, kilims, manuscripts, wooden containers, book stands (rehal), lamps, mihrabs and ceramics were taken. Increasing theft put the imperative need to gather the items together in one safe place back onto the agenda. Works were gathered from the plundered buildings of religious foundations such as mosques, masjids and tombs, and the ‘Evkâf-ı İslâmiye’ (Museum of Islamic Foundations) was founded by a commission under the leadership of Osman Hamdi Bey, manager of the Imperial Museum.

After the declaration of the Turkish Republic, the museum was renamed as ‘The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts’, and in 1983 it was moved from the Sulemaniye Alms house to its current location in the Ibrahim Pasha Palace. The palace is one of the most important buildings of 16th century Ottoman civil architecture. It is situated in Istanbul’s famous historical site, the Hippodrome, rising up over its old tiers. Ibrahim Pasha Palace was renovated by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1520 and bestowed on his son-in-law and vizier, Ibrahim Pasha. As well as being the palace of the vizier, in certain periods it also functioned as a ‘Spectator Palace’. In 1530, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent watched the circumcision festivities of princes Mustafa, Mehmed and Selim from the oriel of Ibrahim Pasha Palace.

The collections of the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts are extremely diverse, hosting a vast selection of works from the earliest period of Islamic art up to the 20th century, including items from the Umayyad, Abbasid, North African (Moorish), Andalusian, Fatimid, Seljuk, Ayyubid, Ilkhanid, Mamluk, Timurid and Safavid dynasties, the beylik and Ottoman periods and from various countries of the Caucasus. In addition to this, the records kept by religious foundations, stating where most of the works came from, make this collection an invaluable historical testimonial.

Many sections of the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts are rich enough to constitute a museum all on their own. These are the carpet, manuscript, wood, glass-metal-ceramic and ethnography sections. The museum’s manuscript collection is so unique that hardly any other collection can be compared to it. As well as spanning a long period from the early Islamic era up to the 20th century, and the wide geographical area of the Islamic countries, the collection is made all the more distinguished through the inclusion of works produced by the most sophisticated artists and calligraphers of the day. These were commissioned by Ottoman sultans for the libraries of holy foundations built in their name or presented to them as gifts. The museum also contains decrees, charters, deeds and other unique documents, making up a total collection of 18,298 works, which has earned the deserved recognition of the world of knowledge.

Containing 1,700 pieces, the museum’s carpet collection is the most important in the world. Its richness and diversity led to it being described in foreign publications for many years as a ‘Carpet Museum’. Together with significant examples from the Seljuk era, all groupings of Ottoman carpets are represented here in the utmost diversity: 15th century prayer rugs and carpets with animal figures; carpets made in Anatolia from the 15th to 17th centuries in a style referred to in the West as Holbein and Lotto, and the renowned Uşak (Ushak) carpets, with their characteristic medallions and stars, which were made in Uşak and the surrounding areas. Iran and the Caucasus also have a sumptuous carpet tradition and huge carpets from across these areas make up another important part of this collection.

Fun alternative uses of Persian carpets

We all know that the No 1 use of Persian carpets is as floor covering with wall hangings as a strong No 2.

But we simply love when people get creative and think outside the box! Here are some of our favourite alternative uses for Persian carpets!

Ghorbany Carpets' favourite handmade carpet collections

There are many fine Oriental collections around the world that ensure the survival of historically important art and serves as important points of reference for ancient cultures. Woven textile art forms a very important part of these collections and we here list some of our favourites:

Moshe Tabibnia Gallery

Located in the heart of Milan, the Moshe Tabibnia Gallery holds a treasure trove of woven textile art. The collection is made up of carpets, tapestries and woven textiles from various weaving countries and ages, and offers the opportunity to scholars, enthusiasts and customers to experience and explore the world of woven textile art.

Keir Collection

The Keir Collection was amassed by Edmund de Unger, a Hungarian who fled Budapest in 1949 following a series of arrests and moved permanently to England, working first as a manservant. After further training, he entered the legal profession as a barrister. He later worked as Crown Counsel in Ghana for the Colonial Office. The period in West Africa permitted visits to Egypt, where he developed an interest in Coptic and Islamic art. On returning to England, de Unger became a property developer, which provided him with the means to build up his post-war art collection, which he named the "Keir Collection", after one of his first homes The Keir on Wimbledon Common in London.

The ever-increasing Keir Collection was moved in the late 1960s to his house in Ham, Surrey. The collection, which started in his youth with carpets, gradually grew to include ceramics, in particular rare items of lustreware from Mesopotamia, Persian and Moghul miniatures, medieval and Renaissance enamels, sculptures, and textiles from Italy and France (including the medieval enamels collection of Ernst and Martha Kofler-Truniger). Widely knowledgeable on the area in which he collected, de Unger founded the Islamic Art Circle in 1964 and lectured frequently on his expertise all over the world.

The majority of carpets that form the core of the Keir Collection remain in the 18th century Manor House on Ham Street in Richmond, London, which was de Unger's home up to his death in 2011. A small but representative portion of classical oriental carpets from Persia, Turkey and Mughal India are on display in the Dallas Museum of Arts.

Gulbenkian Collection

Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian was a businessman and philanthropist of British nationality and Armenian origin. Through the oil industry Mr Gulbenkian amassed a fortune and an art collection which he kept in a private museum at his Paris house. An art expert said in a 1950 issue of Life magazine that "Never in modern history has one man owned so much." While Gulbenkian's art collection may be found in many museum across the world, most of his art is exhibited at the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon, Portugal. The museum was founded according to his will, in order to accommodate and display his collection, now belonging to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Of the roughly 6,000 items in the museum's collections, a selection of around 1000 is on permanent display.

David Collection

The David Collection is a museum of fine and applied art in Copenhagen, Denmark, built around the private collections of lawyer, businessman and art collector C. L. David. The museum is particularly noted for its collection of Islamic art from the 8th to the 19th century, which is one of the largest in Northern Europe. The museum also holds fine and applied art from Europe in the 18th century and the Danish Golden Age as well as a small collection of Danish early modern art. All the works of art in the collection of Danish early modern art were acquired by C. L. David himself.

Aga Khan Museum

The Aga Khan Museum is a museum of Islamic art, Iranian (Persian) art and Muslim culture in the North York district of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The museum is an initiative of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network. It houses collections of Islamic art and heritage, including artifacts from the private collections of His Highness the Aga Khan, the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, and Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan, which showcase the artistic, intellectual and scientific contributions of Muslim civilizations. The museum is dedicated to the acquisition, preservation, display and interpretation of artefacts relating to the intellectual, cultural, artistic and religious traditions of Muslim communities, past and present. Artefacts include ceramics, metalwork, and paintings covering all periods of Islamic history. Manuscripts in the collection include the earliest known copy of Avicenna's Qanun fi'l-Tibb (“The Canon of Medicine") dated 1052.