Posted on: May 11, 2021

Staff Pick – Karim Khan Zand Antique Carpet

Throughout the history of civilizations, there are few emperors known for cultivating peace and prosperity rather than forging battles and tribulations. In this week’s Staff Pick, we immerse ourselves in the vintage golden pile of an exquisite hand-knotted carpet and the story of Karim Khan Zand, an 18th-century ruler whose legacy inspired its creation.

Karim Khan Zand was the primary ruler of late 18th-century Persia and belonged to the Lurs, one of the foremost Luri tribes of the time. During his reign, he strategically moved Luris into power within the empire, instituted foreign policy and trade agreements with Britain, and implemented a fair taxation system and judicial system. When presented with the title of king, he rejected the term and instead deemed himself Vakilol Ro’aya, which means Advocate for the People. Karim Khan continued his legacy by rebuilding the city walls of Shiraz in 1767 and fully restoring the tombs of the Persian poets Hafez and Saadi Shirazi. Additionally, he rectified the public market Vakil Bazaar, the citadel Arg of Karim Khan, and an entertainment space for foreign guests, ambassadors, and official ceremonies Kulah-e Farangi

As a result of Karim Khan’s efforts, the Zand dynasty is still known today for its peacefulness and prosperity. Roads and trade routes, for example, were reportedly free of bandits and robbers throughout his ruling. Karim Khan’s impact was so profound that during the Iranian revolution in 1979, the people of Shiraz refused to change the names of the streets named after him. Evidence of admiration and respect for Karim Khan thus still prevails today, as our carpet example notably illustrates. 

Measuring just about 2’ x 2’, this carpet exhibits an impressive assortment of intricate motifs, detailed with hues of orange, tan, gold, purple, indigo, green, and cream wool. It consists of a traditional Persian weave, with each thread of hand-spun wool hand-knotted onto the foundation to create a lush and dynamic pile. Additionally, organic vegetable dyes lend their beauty to the resonating hues of orange, tan, gold, purple, indigo, and green wools. Still preferred today, weavers chose these organic dyes for their vibrant and fade-resistant hues. Created circa 1880, this carpet retains its beauty and function 140 years on, a testament to its maker’s artistry and skill.

As the central focus of the piece, Karim Khan, detailed in deep indigo, sits stoically atop a traditional Persian flower garden design. Behind him, a triangular structure surrounds most of his form, possibly representing a mountain, path, or cape. Pomegranates, flowers, animals, and caterpillars peacefully coexist, adding depth and interest to the neutral cream background. A deep shade of golden yellow fills the field and provides a balanced contrast to the carpet design’s scale and detailed motifs. Such motifs include animal, flower, butterfly, and human figures detailed in cream, blue, tan, and green yarn. Mimicking a picture frame, an intricate interior border encapsulated Karim Khan’s portrait. With similar hues found within the overall design, a salt and pepper pattern, detailed by deep indigo, creates structural motifs interpreted as columns. Two small medallions, located within the interior border, sponsor two individual flower motifs and create additional contrast. The exterior border exhibits a more traditional design, incorporating flower, butterfly, and vine motifs that interconnect throughout the carpet.

With so much history and meaning behind this piece, it is astonishing to think it was created nearly 100 years after Karim Khan’s death. If this piece interests you, please visit the Orley Shabahang Antique Collection via our website, or dive into our digital showroom on