By Jan David Winitz, President & Founder
With distinctive large-scale motifs and a wide ranging palette of warm colors, the antique Heriz carpet is probably the most popular of the Persian village carpets. In constant, increasing demand for the past decade, the finer old pieces have become scarce and have risen significantly in value and esteem.
These antique Persian carpets are named after the largest town in a district of over 30 villages, in the mountainous area of Northwest Persia, 50 miles east of Tabriz. The inception of the classic “diamond on a square” medallion Heriz was probably in the third quarter of the nineteenth century. It is believed that enterprising Tabriz merchants, wanting roomsize Persian carpets for export, showed local weavers the fine city rugs or maybe even scraps of fabric and asked them to weave large carpets. The weavers, skilled in the more spontaneous and angular weaving of tribal origin, adapted these antique carpet designs. The result, the Heriz carpet, is a marvelously effective hybrid, a rustic, charming village carpet with a richness and grandeur equal to the Persian court pieces.
The virtues of the antique Heriz carpets are found in their design style and color. The signature of a Heriz is the large medallion with overscale cornerpieces filled with angular oak leaves and foliage, at once bold and captivating. Older antique Heriz rugs, echoing the famous antique Serapi carpets from the same district, tend to be more spacious in design, while the Heriz rugs woven in the last 60 years tend to be more densely designed. Other formats more rarely seen include allover flower or leaf antique carpet designs and occasionally a “Tree of Life” motif reminiscent of some antique Caucasian rugs.
Once asked how she chose the colors to be used for her rug, a Heriz rug weaver pointed at the sunset that was just occurring. Certainly, the antique Heriz rug makers were consummate masters of vegetable dyeing. While the Heriz rugs of the last 20-40 years are often chemically dyed, with the best using a mixture of natural and chemical, older antique Heriz carpets tend to have been made with pure vegetable dyes. These have mellowed and attained a wonderful patina with age. The technique of abrash, or intentional variation within one color tone, is masterfully used in the finest antique Heriz rugs. The well-developed technique of double or even triple outlining, which also distinguishes the best Heriz antique rugs, creates remarkable strength and depth of color and design.
The better semi-antique and antique Heriz rugs used the lustrous wool from the Shahsavan, a nomadic tribe residing in the nearby Elbrus Mountains. Later, wool was imported from Tabriz, but it was always top quality and high in lanolin. They are quite loosely knotted, but employ a thick, sturdy cotton foundation with tightly packed knots, making for their well-known durability.
In home design, Heriz carpets are beloved for their versatility. Their geometry complements modern furnishings and their warm colors and artistic depth enhances antiques of all kinds. Their richness of color and strength of design make them a common choice for corporate settings as well. Exemplary Heriz Persian rugs make an excellent investment carpet because of their artistic individuality and enduring appeal.