Posted on: March 17, 2020
The Nowruz Carpet
As the Persian new year is upon us, this week we look at an antique Nowruz carpet. This celebratory pictorial has a unique history that reveals how Nowruz was celebrated in the royal court hundreds of years ago. Continue reading to learn more!
Nowruz is an ancient Persian celebration that dates back thousands of years. It has been considered one of the most important holidays among the Persian people throughout their history. Marked by the vernal equinox, it lasts for thirteen days filled with celebration. Today, this secular holiday rings in the first day of spring with various symbolic practices. Looking back at antiquity, however, there is a bygone royal ritual that begins the story of this Nowruz carpet.
Under Achaemenid rule (c.550-330 BC), regional kings would bring offerings to the Persian “King of Kings” on Nowruz. This granted them good favor with the king. The practice would reemerge under Persian kings after invasions from foreign rulers such as the Arab caliphate and the Mongol Empire. The Safavid dynasty, which ruled Persia from the 16th to 18th centuries, introduced a golden era of peace and prosperity to the country. A cultural renaissance occurred under their rule that created many of the palaces that continue to amaze visitors today. Chehel Sotoun, built by Shah Abbas II, is one of these impressive palaces. Shah Abbas II honored his predecessors with a Nowruz mural. This mural illustrates Shah Abbass II himself surrounded by dignitaries, foreign ambassadors, and scholars in the midst a Nowruz celebration. Each presented a gift to the king, and in turn, he would bestow an allowance or favor onto them.
In 1925, Reza Shah consolidated power after a coup d’état and thus began the last dynasty of Persian kings. Part of his ruling strategy was to revive national pride in Persian traditions that predated the introduction of Islam in Iran. As such, he reinvigorated the celebration of Nowruz partly by commissioning master weaver Rezaian to weave this Nowruz carpet based on Shah Abbas II’s mural. Using a cotton warp and weft with a wool pile, Rezaian designed this ornate depiction of the king receiving his guests for a Nowruz celebration. Take note that the headpiece of each guest differs. This reflects visitors profession. Before the modernization of the country, people typically dressed according to their line of work, especially when it came to the hat or turban that covered their head. Another nod to the great Safavid kings is the arabesque tendrils and flower motifs that create the multiple boarders that surround the ovular illustration.
Visit Orley Shabahang today to see this celebration come to life in person. There you will find the most impressive collection of antiques, with each carpet having its own story to tell. Until then, we wish you all a happy Nowruz!