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A very unusual, perhaps unique design for Hamadan rugs. We know of plain fields in Caucasian Talish rugs, in Persian Sofrehs, in Turkish prayer rugs, but Hamadan? Several bands of abrashed natural browns and a bit of dark indigo make up the field, which is separated from the border proper by an line of red sawtooth triangles with beautiful irregularities. This device mediating between border and field is often used in plain field flat-woven sofrehs, so this design clearly shows a sofreh influence.
At the bottom of the field, the sawtooth idea only appears in embryonic format, as a row of tiny upward-pointing triangles alternating with small diamonds. The idea then seems to have grown on the weaver and so the sawtooth border grew in size, picking up a white outline a few inches upwards.
I experience this as a very contemplative design; one can get lost in the depth of the field colour and then return to the calm regular border design, the main motive of which I still have to identify. According to P.R.J. Ford's border classification we would have a repeating rosette type, here more precisely some kind of palmette (?) evidently portrayed in profile. The hooks curling inwards below the flower bud remind of the hooks sometimes found on Afshar 'shield' motifs (compare this rug, for example). Or could the four stubs pointing upwards represent the crown of a poppy capsule? Whether the three triangles underneath the palmette are integral to the motif (they are linked, after all) or merely a geometric device is unclear to me. I still hope to come across other examples of this border type.
Willborg, from whom I bought this rug, attributes it to the Zarand district outside Saveh based on the main border design, while leaving the possibility of a Borodjerd attribution due to the structure. A Zarand attribution would be consistent with the knot count of a bit more than 30 knots per dm both vertically and horizontally, giving a V/H ratio close to 1. However the Zarand weave pattern looks less smooth, warps are no as sinuous and prominent as in this rug. In Borodjerd, which is 120 km south of Hamadan, just north of the Saraband area, the back of rugs shows the prominent warps as white spots. The weave pattern of Borodjert No. 34 in Willborgs Hamadan book is pretty close, only that wefts in our rug here are white cotton, not light brown wool as in Willborg's examples. We will have to leave this one undecided.
Willborg gave as provenance Morteza Kalâteh, a dealer in Tehrân, March 2003.
The rug measures 116-123 x 208 cm. Willborg estimates an age between 1910-1930. Warps are ivory cotton (Z4S-plied) with no depression, wefts are one shot, mostly ivory cotton (Z4S2-plied) but also some mixed brown wool (Z2wS-plied). The pile is of course symmetrically knotted wool (Z2-spun). The knot density is vertical 31/10cm, horizontal 32/10 cm = 99.200 knots per sqm, giving a V/H ratio of 1:0.97. The selvages consist of two cables overcast with dark brown wool (not original).
I think all dyes are organic. Apart form the many dark browns in the field there is the madder red and occasional ochre / camel colour of the sawtooth border, with blue-green, madder brown, camel and dark indigo used in the main border, which as off-white ground. The ground of the outer secondary border echoes the abrashed browns of the field (except for the stripe of dark indigo in the lower half) which beautifully and subtly ties together the border and the field.
Willborg thinks some browns have oxidised (which I assume would mean some had been dyed brown) but I cannot see evidence for that. Wear is simply stronger in the centre, nearly down to the knot heads in the very centre, while the pile is longer further outwards, perhaps 7 mm long in the border. I cannot see marked differences of wear across the range of browns.