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rug no longer available Southern Persian gabbeh—insect medallion design?

Apr 17, 2004

This is what I believe to be a southern Persian gabbeh. I got it a while ago relatively cheaply for about €50 on Ebay, and it is one of the pieces which I do not regret buying. (It is now in Paris, and I hope the rabbit won't eat it.)

South Persian gabbeh

The size is 192 x 129cm (6'2" x 4'2") and the weave coarse (ca. 7 x 6 knots per inch), with four or five brown woolen wefts after each row of knots. That's why I guess it's a Gabbeh even if the design may be more elaborate than on most Gabbehs.

The warps are wool, sometimes brown, sometimes white, the structure is very slightly depressed. The rug has a very floppy handle and is very light - Hans likes to sit on it and wrap the rug around himself like a blanket.

Colours: There are few. The abrashed red looks like madder and the dark blue in the corner like indigo. Besides ivory (undied white wool) and a lighter shade of indigo, there is a vibrant yellow-orange and pink - the former probably, the latter certainly synthetic.

Design: The large medallion fills most of the field and to me looks like an insect with two heads. Of course there should be six legs, not four, and the shape may refer to something quite different. Then there are some simple tulips, diamond shapes and what might be ducks inset into the rows formed by the extensions of the medallion and the negative space in between. The corners have small hexagonal guls which sit a bit lonley and awkwardly on the expanse of the black-blue corner background. The three borders show a band of serrated leaves, diamonds, and flowers respectively.

What is curious is the fact that the red wool has worn much more than the blue in the corners and in the blue diamonds dotted with orange you can see third picture - here, there is a real relief effect. I always thought it was the browns blacks and greens that corroded more quickly than the rest - may be a strong mordant had been used on the red. Or the red pile threads were thinner than the rest. Or the red was clipped shorter on purpose? (This is what I believe is called "Souf technique".)

When I got the rug it has a strong smell of stale tobacco fumes. So I washed it. Unfortunately I couldn't dry it horizontally so the orange has run, which is visible in some white border areas.

I guess the rug may be 60-80 years old but I am not sure. I seem to remember that in Southern Persia even at the beginning of the century synthetic dyes were in use for highlights (here, orange and pink).

Here are more images:

Central area


South Persian gabbeh - back side

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