Persian Nomadic Tribal Carpets: Folk Art Underfoot
By Dariush Nateghi
Persian nomadic tribal carpets exemplify folk art in its purest form. Woven by wandering tribes across the vast Iranian countryside, these carpets were practical tools for daily life and imbued with symbolic motifs and luck-bringing patterns. As both functional and cultural treasures, the best antique tribal weavings are sought after worldwide.
Origins and History
Various nomadic tribes including the Qashqai, Afshar, Luri, and Kurdish peoples wove carpets while migrating with their herds across the rugged Persian terrain. These carpets, knotted from handspun wool, served as floor and bedding coverings, storage bags, and decorative furnishings in tribal tents. Their designs incorporated ancient motifs, from cycling cosmic symbols like the "boteh" teardrop pattern to talismanic imagery meant to offer protection and fortune.
Antique tribal carpets are classified by their region of origin, with styles named after areas like Kerman, Turkoman, and Caucasian Georgia. Styles evolved based on tribal traditions, available dyes, and local environmental influences. For example, the Bakhtiari tribe wove garden-themed designs due to their time spent in forest areas while Kurdish weavings show more geometric patterns.
It is estimated there were over 1.2 million nomads in Iran weaving carpets until the mid-20th century disrupted traditional ways. As genuine 19th century carpets become increasingly rare, the unique folk art origins of tribal pieces make them highly coveted today. Their vibrant colors, nuanced abrashvariations, and playful motifs capture free-spirited wanderlust.
The Allure of Serapis
Perhaps the most prized Persian tribal antiques are Serapis from the Heriz region located in the northwest Azerbaijan province. Serapis get their trade name from the town of Seraband. Weavers in villages scattered across the mountains produced these carpets from the highest quality wool, known for its rich, lustrous texture.
Serapis dazzle with their saturated indigo blue tones set against brick red fields ornamented with intricate florals, animals, and medallion patterns. Their exceptional color palette comes from the dyes like madder, cochineal, and indigo available in the region. Designs balanced whimsy with symmetrical layouts containing endless motifs meant for spiritual protection. Their powerfully graphic styles and intricate weaving define Heriz Serapis as the summit of Persian tribal folk art.
Enduring Art Underfoot
As American aesthetics shifted towards more relaxed, casual interiors in the late 20th century, demand rose for tribal carpets that exuded rustic charm. The one-of-a-kind patina and camaraderie of antique Serapis and other tribal weavings resonated with nomadic romanticism. As authentic 19th century carpets become scarce, their folk art origins heighten their collector’s value and status as living history.
Under the foot yet full of heart - antique Persian tribal carpets like Serapis will continue captivating design lovers drawn to textiles infused with cultural heritage. Their cosmic motifs and dynamic colors share untold stories, transporting viewers out of the ordinary and into the magical mindset of wandering artisans who knotted each thread. For folk art and carpet connoisseurs, Serapis remain the epitome of imagination unfettered.
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