Thursday 21 April 2022

Ferahan Solar Panels

Lorenzo Delleani,1880


Although classified as Ferahan,the following group has little in common with the standard type from the area, which is a mechanical repetition of the Herati design ad infintum.The Solar Panel rugs may have their roots in much older Turkish productions,which have left a trace in the distinctive aubergine colour used in the Dombak border.But perhaps the influence is simply input from Azeri dealers out of Tabriz.Some grand medallion carpets were produced in the area before a plague of dozar-size rugs won the day,but we know next to nothing about their makers,or the manufacturing environment.



A central medallion in at least four different variants, invariably on a white ground.Earlier authors christened the design "Sunburn" when of course they actually meant "Sunburst",as in the classical Caucasian carpets.


A pinched medallion with striated aureole frequently occurs,often accompanied by a complex border known as the "Dombakli".

That border is probably a refinement of one found on some Garden carpets, such as an example from the McMullan Collection


4-Pinched medallion

Yet another variant features a squashed medallion


A large scale border with trophy-cups and Turkmen-style large striated florets at the corners,possibly evolved from a Garden carpet of the 18th century,and highly embellished.Described as either the Dombakli border(Iten-Maritz) or Haji-Donbakli border(Azadi) it takes its name from the Persian drum of the same name.However,such an instrument lacks the side handles.A reference to "Victory" in the sense of a large cup(i.e Wimbledon) is more likely,and less prosaic than a drum.

6-Dombakli border

7-A Persian Dombak drum

Variations of statically drawn flowers projecting either laterally or vertically into the field.Probably inspired by Indian Pahari painting.

8-Pahari painting

A large Rams-horn emblem,very Turkmen in the midst of all the Qajar Deco, and    combined  with a vase. Here shown in a saddle cover sold twice at Rippon-Boswell, and which the author had the pleasure of conserving.


A female face inserted above and below the central medallion.Our Lady of the Rugs,whose visage is the sun.


A large trophy-cup with bouquets,often used as a border  device,or in the field,or both.The victory symbolism is also an allusion to the Dombak border.One group has the bouquets place sideways.The design,copied all over Iran, is known as the "Zil-i-Soltan" after a famous 19th century governor of Isfahan.

11-the Zil-i-Soltan

The carpets are usually in Dozar size with an all-cotton structure and Persian-knotted open to the left.Two large carpets are known,and the design was eventually adapted to fit into room-size carpets.

There are a number of silk rugs in the SP design,and the question poses itself:was this originally a design created for silk rugs?It is hard to believe that the immaculate silk rugs from Tabriz-Heriz(the terms are interchangeable) were developed from the simpler woolen examples.One constant amongst the silk rugs not observed in the woolen is the use of a Large-Medallion Ushak layout with one central and two cut-off medallions.There seem to be more silk rugs with the design in the NW Persian area than those in wool.

The earliest publication of such a rug is an example with the allover Dombakli field,in Lewis,Mystery of the Oriental Rug 1914(29)In 1953 Edwards published an example of the Zil-i-Soltan design  which he attributed to Tafrish,in the Hamadan area.He remarks on" the ill-drawn circular medallion"-which reveals the extent of his connoisseurship.Presumably the example reproduced was of relative modern production.One should not apply too much of the Persian rug landscape of the mid-20th century to that of the 19th.It is clear that Edwards had scant knowledge of antique pieces. 


Azadi,Persische Teppiche 1971,Nr.63-Persian knotted to left;with some Turkish knotting.

Herrmann-Konya to Kokand 73: Persian knot open left. 75: Persian knot open left.

Herrmann SOT VII-52: Persian open to left.

Bausback 1981,page 81: Persian knot.

Bausback 1981,page 85-Persian knotted.

Bausback 1987/88-153:Persian knot.

Besim-Maktabi 1999-Persian knotted. 


1973 10 March Sothebys: $7,500; and 132-$6000.

1973 28.4  Edelmann:$17,600.

1976 2 April lefevre-17,000 GBP(Silk rug)

1979 10 October Sothebys 3800 GBP.

1908 27 November Sothebys Florene:7,150,000 Lira.

1983 Nagel 5 December: 8000

1983 28 April Edelmann: $17,600.

1985 17 April Sothebys $21,654.

1985 14 May Dörling DM 29,000.

1985 23 November Sothebys:$27,500;1997 10 April Sothebys $31,050;2004 2 April Sothebys $27,000.

1985 16 October Sothebys:$3,257.

1986 17 April  Christies:$21,578.

1988 13 April Sothebys $ 45,254-a silk rug from Tabriz.

1990 20 January Sothebys $27,500-a silk rug from Tabriz.

1991 16 November Rippon Boswell 15,000 DM

1992 20.February: Anthony Thompson: $8065.

1992 10 December Sothebys $11,550; then again in 1998 15 April at Sothebys: $5,750.

1995 7 June Sothebys (Toms): $12,510 .

1997 Sothebys 10 April: $ 31,050.

1997 Skinner: $16,100;Sothebys  2015 1 October: unsold against an estimate of $15-20,000(Burns Collection).

1997 30 September Christies: unsold against $ 5-7000("Malayer") 2008 11 June Sothebys: $16,250.

1999 12 October Sothebys : 17,250 GBP;then in Herrman VI;$53,125;Sothebys NY 2009 16 December.A Sarouk version.

2003 1 April Sothebys $4500.

2003-2004-2009: Unsold at Christies.

2006 8 Spril Christies 1800 GBP.

2006 Christies 3360 GBP.

2006 9 October Christies:3120 GBP.

2007 19 May Rippon Boswell(saddlecover) 1200 euro.

2008 8 April Bonhams:2040 GBP.

2008 11 June Sothebys $ 16,250.

2009 5 December Rippon Boswell: 17.080 euro.

2012 24 November Rippon Boswell: 14,640 euro.

2013 5 May Rippon Boswell-unsold against an estimate of 12,000 euro; Christies 2013 8 October: unsold against an estimate of  $7600-11,000.

2015 3 June Grogan:$2000; 2018 18 July Grogan:$1600.

2016 3 December Rippon-Boswell-7000 euro.

2018 23 April Sothebys 5000 GBP.

2019 28 April Skinner: $5,228.

Dombakli Border.

There are three types of this border.One is the complete design;a second has the design cut in half;and a third features the border as an allover field pattern.

A rug in Tehran can be seen as the Gold Standard of such things, with a piece sold at Rippon-Boswell in 2001 and 2011 closely following.These two are so well-made that one could a imagine a weaver,furloughed from a silk loom, might have banged it out in a short burst.Virtuoso workmen for whom this was all too easy.


Rugs with empty fields are more inviting;here the two overloaded fields keep us at bay.The weavers were trying to appeal to as wide a taste-spectrum as possible.To modern eyes the empty fields are preferable-the last hundred years were the most anti-decorative since the Neolithic.


At the ICOC in Austria and RB 1991 are two pieces which demonstrate the design as an allover affair a la Turkmen.The main medallion may be a secondary.From the California dealer Birdshakes comes a rug with squeezed medallion format.


A few carpets were produced on blue grounds


Of the rugs with half-Dombakli border three have been recorded.The piece with three medallions is rumoured to have belonged to Kurt Erdmann.


Four rugs with allover Dombakli design are known,including the earliest publication in Lewis,1914.A carpet in Vienna has been with the MAK since 1905.This ties in with the 1880 date on the Delleani painting of two zonked-out individuals at the start of this entry.


Yet another cluster has been embellished with the Victory-Bouquet,either above and  below the medallion,or in a flying formation.The piece from SOT VII employs a Vase shorthand.


Occasionally such items are found with a Herati border


Some very beautiful poshtis were fashioned in these worksheds.

Nrs 106 and 107 were both with Richard Markarian;Nr 107 is one of the rare signed pieces from the area("Woven by command of Prince Husayn")


Another signed poshti was with John Douglas and his lost collection.The admonishment is a common blessing in Farsi and Arabic.It is dated 1286/1869 although this should be taken with a pinch of salt.Poshtis are the yastiks of Persia,and a piece at Sothebys in 2004 shows where the exponential development of design can lead.No size info is available for the Vincent Smith piece,but it does look like a poshti.


The Ram's Horn Vase Design.

With a Dombakli border and each displaying it's own medallion form.


Again, the Herati border was not the preferred choice.The petals emerging from the flower head are derived from the inside of a Kashmir boteh.The large flower in the field of many of these carpets is probably an opium poppy.Opium was a large- scale recreational drug in Iran in the 19th century-as it is today.


A further group has the Ram's Horn without a vase.Although generously filled the ground is treated with lightness.The red flowers placed vertically.


  • Here the red flowers impose laterally upon the field.Birdshakes' rug implies greater age through its noble condition.Self-deception anyone?The space above the Ram`s horn is filled with a flower,there where Our Lady's face should be.


To return to the Saddle blanket theme,the Rippon Boswell rug has a companion in a Cincinnati collection,which however seems to be a simple mat


A truly regal example was published by both Eskenazi and Herrmann (ATT2),who notes the contrast between an intense red and a soft corroded green .The corrosion occurs through the mordant,presumably copper sulphate applied over a faint indigo shade.Herrmann makes an interesting case for the dissected sunbird in the medallion, and he sees the Victory-Bouquet as a Zorastrian depiction of the eternally burning fire.Questo rarissimo!


Edwards published a second carpet with the Solar Panel design, and with a lively pictorial field full of animal-combats.He dated it to around 1930.Another such item appeared at Edelmann's in 1983.


Some very beautiful rugs have been executed on a red ground.



There are three types of such rugs.Two differentiate through their secondary cut medallions.The third features a border design with the vases turned sideways.

The largest group stands out through a chevron half format medallion.Eberhart Herrmann was so enamored of them that he exhibited two examples on white and red grounds,which are certainly amongst BOT.


A carpet published by the Parisian dealer Milani as Bakshaish may well be a clever piece of piracy, whereas a carpet at Christies with an allover vase design has clearly backfired.


Some of the medallions have a pinned aureole,as in the following two lower pieces, creating an extra glory


Some bizarre but very playful variants have been recorded,perhaps indicating the disintegration of the tradition


A second group features a Solar Star design as the emerging and disappearing secondary.


A  third group has the Vase-Bouquet design turned on its side.These are immaculately executed rugs, especially the piece from Fredric Church`s studio at Olana,which onced graced the cover of Oriental Rug Review.


Overkill in the Victory-Cups department was certainly no problem for the maker's of Peter Bausback' s classy blue ground version,the only known example.

36-Bausback 1981

The Qajar doll with her rouge dots is often depicted in Qajar painting 


Although no one ever portrayed Iranian women like the painter Jalayir


Our Lady is portrayed in many guises depending on the whims of the weavers.Six rugs have been recorded with the Dombakli border.


Two rugs are so similar they must have issued forth from the same mill.What big eyes you have.


Two other rugs have been sighted in the field with variant borders,one defined  as Tabriz.


Two last and large pieces are a lesson in rug diversity.A carpet once with Anglo-Persian seems to incorporate all known designs used on such rugs; a carpet once in the Burns Collection is surely the grandest of all.


Woolen copies were made as far away as Kirman,in a strangely impressionistic style.


Whereas in the adjacent Saruk zone a fastidious crispness ruled.


The majority of copies are in silk.Within a few years the attributions at the big auction houses changed from Tabriz(run-of-the-mill reputation) to Heriz(more fashionable up market)


Two virtually identical rugs at Sothebys in 1983 and 1988 were dubbed Heriz and Tabriz respectively.


Sold at lefevre in 1976 for 17,000 GBP,the blueground rug on the left featured the Arms of the Tsar of Russia in the center medallion and an unusual layout.Sothebys 165 from 20 January 1990 is an impeccable production.


Two beautifully executed rugs were at Sothebys in 1990 and RB in 1985 and surely issued from the same workshop.


It is hard to believe the silk rugs descend from the woolen,and not vice versa.If this were so then the silk rugs of Iran take on a whole new meaning and importance.As with most of the rugs in this group,the medallions are more strongly defined,with powerful aureoles.The whole has a festive look.
A rug in London is one of the V&A's great buried treasures.


Carpets and rugs are travellers on ancient roads.One day it may be possible to construct a map of design-seepage between adjacent territories in Iran. The Ferahan Plain would be a good place to start.

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