About Persian Kashan Antique Oriental Rugs
The city of Kashan in North Central Iran, with a population of approximately ¼ million, is the capital of Kashan County in Isfahan Province. Internationally famous both for the manufacture of carpets and the style of rug that bears its name, Kashan - once known in the 17th and early 18th century for hand-producing Persian carpet at Royal workshops - today houses most of Iran's mechanized carpet-weaving factories. According to L. M. Helfgott Ties That Bind Kashan became a major carpet center from 1870 - 1914 and that in the mid-to-late 19th century there was a transition in the textile market and the local industry went from the production of fine wool cloth for the garment industry - to the production of fine wool carpets.
The Kashan Rug Style
The Kashan Rug Style -- according to Walter A. Hawley in Oriental Rugs Antique and Modern, consists of "fields of graceful foliated stalks and floral forms resting on concentric medallions. with a fine firm texture of weave, short velvety nap and dark rich colours." He goes on further to state that "Kashan is the best of the Perisan rugs with the closest and finest woven texture." It could also be said that Kashan rugs are the most conservative of all Persian carpet designs and adhere more-consistently to a traditional format. All sizes of rug were made there including large rugs (10' × 13' and larger) that featured, until 1930, the superior-quality wool sourced from Manchester, UK - typically with a knot density of 200 - 250 KPSI using the Persian-type (asymmetrical) knot.
Surrounded by the snow-covered Karkas mountain range to the west, and the expansive Maranjab Desert to the north & east, the landscape of Kashan is a study in extreme - though impressively scenic - contrasts. A popular tourist destination, Kashan and nearby Abyaneh (to the south) feature ancient villages with a number of beautiful homes dating from the 18th and 19th century - some having been transformed into museums or even a World Heritage Site. The 300 year-old Bagh-e Fin Garden (pictured below) is one of the most famous of these and features the near-perfect merging of lush landscape and spectacular architecture.
Recent examples of Kashan antique rugs that have appeared in Sotheby's Fine Oriental Rug auctions include a Late 19th-century Mohtasham Kashan Carpet measuring 15' 11" × 12' 1" as well as a larger-sized, circa 1910, Kashan Kurk Carpet measuring 17' 1" × 10' 1" (note: Mohtashem refers to the name of the workshop while Kurk refers to the type of wool). Though now produced in a variety of places, some of the best Kashans today are from Ardistan, while excellent ones are also produced in Yezd and Kashmar, Khorasan. There are three distinct grades of Kashan starting from the Bazaar quality to the high-end ultra-fine examples (400+ KPSI typically in smaller sizes and silks) - higher knot densities making possible a finer, wider variety of detail (angles, curves etc).