Bijar (Bidjar) is a market center in Northwestern Iran, about 150 miles south of Tabriz. The flat, dusty town of Bijar (Bidjar) and the surrounding countryside are populated mainly by Kurds, whose artistic sense and culture is clearly seen in the region’s grand antique carpets. A small city of 20,000 at the turn of the century, Bijar (Bidjar) was the center of a major weaving area. Superbly crafted rugs were produced in the small workshops of Bijar (Bidjar) itself, the finest of the area size rugs being called “Halvai.” Many of the best antique Bijar (Bidjar) rugs, especially the largest antique carpets, have been commissioned by Westerners and the Persian nobility for the last several hundred years. Spontaneous, asymmetric antique tribal carpets were woven at the family level throughout the surrounding countryside.
Bijar (Bidjar) carpets are world renowned for their superb artistry, craftsmanship, and excellent material, and can be distinguished by their heavy wool foundation (cotton in twentieth-century carpets). As the weaver tied each row of knots, she added an extra weft and literally pounded down the knots. The stiff, heavy foundation that is thus created allows antique Bijar (Bidjar) carpets, known as “the iron rugs of Persia,” to withstand up to 200 years of heavy use.
The region’s weavers have transformed many classic antique carpet designs with their own interpretations. “Mina khani” and “Herati” Persian carpet designs (both highly detailed, overall repeats) and a diamond-shaped medallion were frequently used. An anchor-like design is found in many antique Bijar (Bidjar) rugs at the vertical ends of the medallion or as the pendant motif.
Stylized allover flower and vinery motifs are also found in the small Bijar (Bidjar) village pieces and larger city carpets alike. Two particularly rare and prized carpet designs are “Garrus” and “Guli Farang.” The Garrus design usually employs a cobalt to midnight indigo blue field and a distinctive large scale all-over pattern of split-arabesques and blossoming vinery in the field, along with a ribbon-like, serpentine and cloudband repeat in the main border.
The Guli Farang, translated as “Foreign Flower” antique carpet pattern is also an all-over repeat, that many believe to be a stylized depiction of cabbage blossoms or an English formal garden. In pieces woven before 1900, this motif usually is performed against a dark blue or ivory ground.
The diverse antique Bijar (Bidjar) rug color palette, from soft to emerald greens, a full range of blues and yellows to fiery rich red, tomato or deep terra cotta, demonstrates the great skill of its dyers.
The examples woven by Kurdish women in the small surrounding villages display an exceptional level of spontaneity. Known as “Kurdish Bijar” to differentiate them from the more finely woven and formal “Bijar” (Bidjar) style, the best examples use strong abrash, or tonal changes within one hue, and sometimes radical changes in design. They have the same superb wool and color range as the more finely woven city Bijars (Bidjar).
The culmination of a centuries-old weaving tradition, the finest Bijar antique rugs woven 1900 or before are grand works of refined art, yet they possess tribal elements in their design and coloration which are not found in any other city rugs. They are highly respected by collectors and rug enthusiasts for their uniqueness, strength of construction and great decorative impact. They are commonly compatible with a wide range of traditional and contemporary decors.