Posted on: July 30, 2018

Antique Spotlight

The mark of a true Persian carpet, this authentic Haji Jalili Tabriz from 1890 has only grown more magnificent and inspiring over the last century.

Haji Jalili was arguably the foremost master weaver of his time, creating the finest carpets produced in Iran during the later half of the nineteenth century. Born in the historic northwestern city of Tabriz, world-renowned as a center for Persian carpets and handicrafts, Haji Jalili lived in the spirit of a true artist. His designs and use of color went against the trends of the time, and instead, were a reflection of his spirituality and connection to his field’s history. Because of his solidarity, many carpet connoisseurs can recognize his work at a glance. This exquisite 4’4″ x 6′ Haji Jalili original dates back to 1890, and because of his techniques and use of quality materials, it remains in great antique condition today.
The first thing that draws an onlooker to this masterpiece is its remarkable orange field. Unlike most of the carpets that were produced at this time, Haji Jalili’s rugs set themselves apart because of his use of earth tones. Like the generations before him, he mixed his private recipes of vegetable dyes to create these brilliant bright copper hues, soft blues, indigos, cream and beige tones. Despite European markets popularizing Persian carpets with bright reds and deep indigos, Haji Jalili used color to pay homage to the splendor of carpet-making during the 11th and 12th centuries in Persia. During this golden period for the Persian empire, carpets were a reflection of life and culture, a tradition which Haji Jalili wished to continue. The colorway of these carpets were very much inspired by the colors the weavers saw in nature rather than the chemically produced colors that were becoming popular in foreign markets. Haji Jalili did not follow the trends of his time, but rather, he inspired new ones.  As such, his use of color is a defining characteristic of his work according to those who study the history of handmade rugs.
Another important feature that makes this rug an exceptional example of a Haji Jalili carpet is its high level of detail and ornamentation for a rug of its size. Like its use of color, this heirloom’s ornate central medallion and intricate border are a reflection of Persian life and culture. They depict what was the physical center of a traditional Persian home as well as the metaphorical center of Persian life – the Persian garden. Many of the motifs are stylized versions of what one would find in the garden, including flowers, birds, fish, caterpillars, and butterflies. Additionally, the design in its entirety mirrors a plan view of a Persian garden that is surrounded by the walls of the home with a pond in the center.
Digging deeper into the designs and the man who created them, however, it becomes clear that all of these motifs are linked together in a way that emulates unity. As a Sufi, Haji Jalili pictoralizes Tawhid, which is the fundamental belief in Islam that states that there is a oneness that connects all things. Like most medallion designs, the medallion’s center becomes the focal point from which the rest of the carpet grows. Specific to this piece, the center of the medallion is a flower on which the surrounding caterpillars feed. These stylized caterpillars are then surrounded by paisley designs, illustrating the butterflies that these caterpillars eventually become. The design thus depicts of the harmony and balance of Tawhid. More specifically, his art is telling its viewer that one needs to be in harmony with existence to understand the true essence of life.
The design and colorway of this rug are rather sophisticated while still maintaining a casual feel, making it a versatile piece suitable for any room. You can find this Haji Jalili original, along with other spectacular antiques, on Orley Shabahang’s website or 1stdbibs page. For specific inquiries, contact one of our showrooms.