Mashad rugs are woven in northeastern Iran in the large Khorasan province which borders Turkmenistan. Mashad has transformed from a small village to the second most populous city in Iran, and a popular tourist destination. The Shrine of Imam Reza, the eighth Imam in Shiite Islam, is located in the city of Mashad and each year over 12 million visitors make the religious pilgrimage to pray at his burial site and to see the gold-domed floodlit buildings at night. Since before the 1500s inhabitants of Mashad have produced beautiful large traditional Persian rugs.
History of Mashad Rugs
Weaving rugs in the Khorasan region of Iran began in the time of the Timurid Empire, named for its founder Timur. He is known in the west as Tamerlane. In the late 1300s through the 1400s, rug weaving started to take hold in the region. Because the province lies across a desert, it is isolated from the rest of Iran. This is precisely why Mashad carpet designs remained rooted in tradition throughout the centuries. They were not influenced by foreign trends, patterns, and tastes. Other Persian cities, most notably Isfahan and Kerman (which was on the Silk Road), made rugs with designs that became more sophisticated and worldly over time.
Extraordinary examples of antique Mashad rugs with traditional Persian designs and high quality weave can be found in museums. Other high value Mashad rugs include 100 year old Amoghli Mashad carpets. The Amoghli Brothers were giants in the business who operated between 1900 and 1920. Their master workshop was renowned throughout the world and rugs with the Amoghli signature can fetch at least six figures at auction.
Structure & Weave
The agricultural heritage in the Khorasan province provides vital nutrition for sheep which in turn helps produce soft and supple wool. This lustrous wool sourced locally makes for a high quality rug that is also an affordable choice for many Iranians. As with most traditional Persian rugs, the knots are formed on a cotton foundation for a sturdy base. The medium-thick wool is tightly woven and the pile also kept at a medium length.
The knot count for Mashad rugs generally come in at 100 to 500 knots per square inch. The weavers of Mashad rugs use a typical Persian asymmetrical knot. However, the knots are made over four warps as opposed to the typical two warps. This creates a two-level foundation consisting of one straight weft and one curved weft which alternate. As a result, Mashad rugs tend to be some of the sturdiest and most durable rugs.
Color & Design
More than any other type of Persian rug, Mashad rugs tend to strictly use red and blue as the dominant colors. Ivory, khaki and other colors are utilized only accents in the pattern. Perhaps it is because the region has perfected the art of cultivating beautiful colors from natural vegetation. Some of the vegetation used in this process is unique to the Khorasan province, as such the specific red and blue hues are unique to Mashad rugs.
As with most traditional Persian patterns, Mashad rugs have a curvilinear design often dominated by a central medallion. The central rectangular region is then enclosed by a wide border containing a region of heavier floral design. The heavier florals create a frame of sorts of the rug. The Mashad pattern has remained very traditional over the years. The evolution of its design has been minimal and arose mostly from the architectural influence of the city’s religious buildings. The patterns and shapes found in tile mosaics and elegant minarets and domes have made their way into some rug designs.
Contemporary Use of Mashad Rugs
Mashad rugs are known for their outsized proportions. They are large. A 9 x 12 Mashad is just average. That’s not to say you can’t find smaller Mashads carpets, but in general they tend to be enormous. Comparatively, Ghom and Isfahan Persian rugs which are much smaller. Of course, you don’t need to live in a palace to have a large space. Many homes and apartments built in the last three decades have been designed to suit the open space trends. The uptick in the loft market has also added to the large spaces available. Mashad rugs have deep rich colors and can add a tremendous amount of sophistication and wow to large modern spaces.
In modern spaces, Mashad rugs provide an eye-catching contrast. Their popularity has grown as interior decorators find new and interesting ways to punch up a room with these one-of-a-kind hand knotted rugs. Of course, the traditional Persian design also works well with more traditional spaces and furniture. Mashad rugs help create balance and harmony with dark woods or heavier furniture. And the worn antique or vintage Mashad rugs work brilliantly in practically any space.