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Antique Kashan Rugs are among the very finest Persian rugs and carpets. Kashan was a center of silk production since Safavid times and some of the best classical Persian silk rugs have been attributed to Kashan.
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At the end of the nineteenth century the weavers there began to produce high quality rugs and carpets as well, which continued the high standards of design and technique established in the classical era. The very best antique Kashans carpets are known as Motashem Kashan. They often have medallion designs, but allover Kashans are not uncommon. The palette can be deep and rich in the classical tradition, or it can utilize softer hues appropriate to modern decor.
Though Kashan is now removed from the commercial trade route of Persia, it used to be the largest city in the northwest, and virtually all traffic between Esfahan and the east passed through it. Because of this important location Kashan became the popular stop on a bustling trade route during the Safevid Era. In modern times, nearby mountain ranges prohibit trucks from traveling the route that caravans had so often ventured. During this era in which carpet weaving flourished in Persia, Kashan developed a reputation as one of the finest weaving centers of the east.
Most books on antique Kashan rugs, its history, its art and its artists, its architecture, ceramics, glass, metals, and its textile art and industry, mention a large number of masters and artists, but with regards to carpets, master weavers and laboratories there are only a few references. Signed carpets, for this reason, also become a key instrument of research. By analyzing the structure and decoration, it becomes possible to establish the characteristics of a specific production type. Once this has been identified, other non-signed pieces can be attributed with certainty. It is using this method that many carpets can be attributed to Mohtasham.
Like the rugs of Isfahan, those produced in Kashan can rightly lay claim to a distinguished weaving tradition going back to the Safavid period, if not earlier. There is evidence that Kashan was an early center of sericulture in Persia, and some of the finest silk carpets of the Safavid period were apparently made there.
Even today Kashan continues to play a leading role in Persian silk production. Still, since the late nineteenth century most Kashan rugs are made of wool, although their wool is sometimes known for its exceptional, silk-like softness under the name Motashem. While late nineteenth-century Kashans resembled Sarouks, they were later made with designs in the Kerman tradition. In the last sixty years though, they have become much more closely modeled on classical Safavid carpets, at times using sophisticated pictorial elements.
The ‘domestic’ production system in Kashan is also unusual. It is not arranged around large factory workshops employing male weavers, but rather in private homes, where the rugs are woven by women.