Posted on: April 23, 2018
Bijar Halvai, circa 1880
This Bijar Halvai carpet circa 1880 is a true testament to the longevity and beauty of a well-made Persian carpet. The perfect condition of this village rug can be attributed to its geographic location, which was known for the quality of its raw materials and vegetable dyes as well as its construction and weaving technique. Bijar rugs have since been coined the “Iron Rugs of Iran” because of their unique approach wherein a tight weave is achieved by forcefully pounding down each row of knots after the relatively thick weft has passed through. This results in a plusher and more compact carpet whose thickness was born out of necessity in the Bijar mountains, where temperatures can cool significantly. The robustness of the wool begins with the sheep who produce it. Thanks to the high altitude, the sheep that graze in this area develop thicker wool to protect themselves in the unpredictable mountain climate. This antique Bijar Halvai in particular has a wool foundation upon which the the hand-spun wool yarn is knotted.
Bijar is a Kurdish town in the northwest region of the country, and Halvai is a village that has historically produced the finest carpets in the area. This weaving tradition continued through generations of mothers and daughters. Like most artistic endeavors, one has a higher likelihood of being better at their craft when they have a good teacher, which was definitely the instance here. Furthermore, Halvai rugs are distinct from most other Bijar rugs because the weavers use the Senneh, or Persian, knot rather than the Turkish knot. And although this piece was coarse and rough when it was made in 1880, it has since achieved arguably the most spectacular patina over the years when compared to carpets from other regions of Iran. The softening of the wool through use is another testament to the quality of the wool that created it.
Measuring 4’7″ x 6′, this Bijar Halvai is a unique depiction of what the weaver experienced in her everyday life. The scene paints a Persian courtyard, with its four gardens surrounding a central pool of water known as the hōz. The blue diamond medallion in the the center represents this hōz, with anchors at each end, a motif commonly found in Bijar designs. Within the hōz one will find stylized flowers and fish. In the courtyard are more stylized flowers and vines along with depictions of animals such as caterpillars, butterflies, beetles, and birds. There is even a human figure woven in the upper left garden. The three borders of the rug tell the story of caterpillars inching along vines, eventually turning into beautiful butterflies. As a result of its remote location at a high elevation, the Halvai village rugs from this period showcase unique designs because they were not as impacted as other villages and cities by foreign buyers.
You can find this antique, along with a variety of other beautifully aged carpets, at Orley Shabahang where owners Bahram Shabahang and Geoffrey Orley have spent a lifetime collecting one-of-a-kind heirloom pieces.