Hamadan District, Northwest Persia
Malayer is a large village located between the major weaving areas of Hamadan and Sarouk in Northwest Persia. In Malayer and the small villages surrounding it, production was almost exclusively small rugs and runners made by individual weavers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. An extremely limited number of larger carpets up to 10ft by 13ft were woven on the family level in some of the larger villages. Oversize carpets are seen very rarely and were woven on commission.
Malayer and the surrounding villages produced some of the most decorative of Persian village weavings. At the finer levels, each Malayer carpet is distinct, the weavers having drawn on a large pool of designs, investing much originality in their creation.
This richness of motifs makes Malayer rugs endlessly interesting. The "boteh" or sprouting seed (a sign of rebirth and growth in nature) was a favorite motif of the weavers, sometimes covering the field in small rugs and runners. Stylized birds were another beloved design, adding a whimsical touch. Flower head and vinery lattice patterns and the well-known Herati design (diamonds flanked by flower heads and leaves) were all employed by the tribal weavers. Inspiration also came from the sophisticated carpets of the Ferahan plain to the East.
Both allover field designs and central medallion carpets were woven. Natural dyes were employed in the best pieces with deep navy blue frequently used as a field color. This acted as a rich backdrop for their exquisite spectrum of secondary tones: sage green, watermelon, sky blue, soft salmon, gold, and tan. Rich rust-to-crimson grounds were also used; undyed camelhair was employed less frequently.
Finely woven for village carpets, the best Malayer carpets were woven in the village of Mishin, and use a lustrous, resilient wool and subtle, mesmerizing, repeating patterns. Many of the weavers were of ethnic Turkish stock and the "Ghiordes" or symmetric knot was used in all Malayer carpets. The wool pile is often cut fairly short to accentuate the detail and clarity of the design.
Like all of the most artistic village rugs, older Malayer carpets are excellent investments which are now just beginning to approach the full recognition they deserve.
Jan David Winitz, President and Founder of Claremont Rug Company in Oakland, CA, has built a global reputation among carpet collectors and connoisseurs since he founded the company-at age 25-in 1980. Born into a New York family of art collectors and scientists, "Winitz inherited two things from his grandmother: a collection of great rugs and a love of art." (Financial Times). His stated vision was, "to introduce fine families to antique carpets possessing equal or greater artistic magnitude as works of art usually displayed on the wall." Claremont Rug Company continues to be a leading source of 19th century museum-level Oriental carpets in the world. The author of "The Guide to Purchasing an Oriental Rug," Winitz has an international clientele for whom antiques are a great passion.