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Guide to Mohtashem Kashan Rugs and Carpets

JBOC Comments: See also my older Kashan Rugs and Carpets Guide

From the late-19th to the early 20th century the finest quality rugs from Kashan were  called Mohtashem and said to be from the workshop of "Mohtashem". Today it is generally assumed that Mohtashem is an indication of fine Kashan workshop production rather than a firm attribution. However with the existence of some signed Mohtashem rugs it is certain that the workshop existed.

The early Kashan carpets were made with imported merino wool that was called Manchester wool. in the trade. The wool is softer and finer than the native Iranian rug wool. This came to an end with he financial collapse that started the Great Depression. At the same time as the collapse of the stock market the world rug market collapsed as well. The major British and German rug companies defaulted on their commitments and Reza Shah stepped in to nationalize the major carpet companies. At this point the use of the more expensive imported wool ceased and what we know as a Mohtashem Kashan carpet ceased as well.

Persian Rugs: Guide to Mohtashem Kashan Rugs and Carpets

The Vance N. Jordan "Motashem" Kashan Rug C. 1900 Lot 83

The Origin of Mohtashem Kashan Carpets

In The Persian Carpet A. Cecil Edwards suggested that Haj Mullah Hassan introduced the modern Kashan carpet through his Arak born wife. This certainly has the ring of truth at least to the Arak origin of Mohtashem Kashan. A significant number of the older Mohtashem Kashan carpets use what I call a tulip and blossom border. Old Mahal Carpets also use a variation of the tulip and blossom border. Mohtashem Kashan carpets and Mahal carpets both use an asymmetrical knot open to the left.  Mahal carpets ranges from 60 to 150 knots per square inch, with the older ones tending towards the lower end of the scale. Mohtashem Kashans ranges from 200 to 300 knots per square inch, with the older ones tending towards the upper end of the scale. An interesting thing about Mohtashem Kashans is that the oldest examples tend to have the highest knot counts but a certain crudeness of design. This seems completely logical if they were created by weavers using Mahal carpets as their model. Compare the two sections of border below:


Sotheby's Mahal prayer rug C. 1900 lot 419

Motashem Kashan Carpet C. 1890 Lot 100

I suggest that Mohtashem Kashan carpets derive from Arak carpets. That the tulip and blossom border of the Mohtashem Kashan is an old border that we see in carpets from Arak. That the differences between to are a result of taking a design that works well at 60 knots per square inch and translate it to 300 knots per square inch. Why then did they have to go from 60 kpsi to 300 kpsi? In Arak they were using native wool but in Kashan they switched to much finer "Manchester" wool. Once the weavers adapted to higher knot counts the designs became more sophisticated. As I move deeper into this line of reason I believe the border is derived from a Luri border. See Bakhtiari Rug, Shahr Kord, Chahar 1930, Bahktiari Rugs: Bakhtiari Rug, Shahr Kord, Chahar 1930

 

Silk Kashan Prayer Rug circa 1920 Lot 3

Mohtashem Prayer Rugs

Examples

Mohtashem Kashan Carpets

Pictorial Mohtashem Kashan Carpets

There is a tradition of Mohtashem Kashan pictorial rugs that dates back to the oldest examples.

Pictorial "Motashem" Kashan Rug C. 1890 Lot 75

"Motashem" Pictorial Kashan Rug C. 1890 Lot 77

Motashem Kashan Pictorial Rug d. 1912 Lot 63

Jesus, Mary and Gabriel "Motashem" Kashan Rug C. 1900 Lot 85

Structure:Persian knot Asymmetrical knot open to the left.

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