Kirman was a very important antique rug weaving center dating from the Golden Age of Persian culture under the Safavid Dynasty in the 16th century, on a par with Tabriz and Kashan in esteem.
Located in the great desert of Southern Persia, Kirman has been an important trading and weaving center even before the time of Marco Polo. Kirman carpets were some of the first antique Persian rugs to make their way to the west, where they were eagerly sought out in Europe and, starting in the late 19th century, among the industrialists of the American Northeast. The Persian carpet weavers of the Kirman region, in turn, were influenced by European culture and from the 16th century developed a soft, graceful style that combines elements of classic Persian court carpets with the colors and designs found in French textiles.
In the early 19th century during a period of civil strife, the city of Kirman was sacked and burned. Escaping the destruction, many of the most skilled Kirman carpet weavers escaped to the village of Laver, north of Kirman where they reset their looms. The weavers of Laver created unusually finely woven and delicate pieces using a silky wool on a cotton foundation. The finest antique Kirman carpets became known as ‘Laver Kirmans’.
Laver Kirman antique rugs possess a complexity of design and subtlety which is unique in Persian weaving. Their small-scale patterns and soft flowing lines of flowerheads and vinery were possible because of their fine weave and the outstanding quality of the wool. The pile of Laver antique carpets was cut very thin to accentuate the workmanship, giving the finest antique Kirman rugs a fabric-like handle.
The color palette of Laver Kirman antique Persian rugs is unusually soft and delicate with a European grace. The weavers had access to the prized and extremely expensive cochineal dye which yielded the rich Renaissance blue-reds found in antique Kirman carpets, rather than the rust red found in other antique Persian rugs. The use of soft gold and yellows juxtaposed against small areas of deep, almost black indigo dyes as well as a range of soft pinks, greens, and blues give Laver Kirman antique Oriental rugs their unique and popular color palette.
An antique best-of-the-best Laver Kirman carpet can be recognized by a number of traits that distinguish it from the typical esteemed Laver Kirman. Most notably are its extraordinary fine weave and extremely closely shorn pile. As well, they present exquisite detail work, with the edges of the designs having a chiseled effect. Finally, many bwst-of-the-best carpets employed a fine grade of lamb’s wool, rather than the sheep’s wool used in the vast majority of antique carpets. This gives their surface a particularly magical luster.
The turn-of-the-20th-century Laver Kirman and 19th-century antique Laver Kirman carpets are seldom-found in today’s market, and are highly sought out by connoisseurs and collectors in Europe and America for their stunning artistic impact.
Laver Kirman antique carpets are most usually found in the roomsize (usually 8ft x 11ft to 10ft x 14ft), or area size (typically 4ft x 6ft to 4ft 6in x 7ft) formats. Only occasionally are they seen in the oversize or palace size format, and unfortunately, runners and keleges (corridor carpets) are virtually never available. They have been traditionally superb art investments, a trend which is now strengthening as highly artistic, antique examples in good condition have become increasingly difficult to find.