Arab Baluch Rugs
Guide to Arab Baluch Rugs & Carpets
In the dozen or more groups that make up what we call the Baluch group there are some rugs that fall into a mysterious and somewhat intriguing subgroup. We call these the Arab Baluch or sometimes the Afshar Baluch. As a group they look like Baluch. Baluch rugs to most collectors are rather like the US Supreme Court and Pornography. We may not be able to define it exactly but we know it when we see it.
Ninety percent or better of all Baluch Group rugs use an asymmetrical knot open left using an AS1 or AS3 knot as shown below. The Arab/Afshar subgroup primarily uses the AS2 or AS4 knot or T1, 2, or 3. Do some of the Arab/Afshar subgroup use the AS1 or AS3 knot? Possibly but color usage tends to differ as well so if they do it is a small number.
The pile rug weaving group of the so-called Arabs also needs to be mentioned, more because of geographical proximity than because of similarities of their carpets with those of the Baluch. These Arabs are almost without exception villagers, who became sedentary a long time ago, and who derive their name — maybe out of reasons of prestige — from those Arabs who Islamized their homeland in the 7th century. Their main settlements are in the area of Ferdows with Ayask, Arisk, Dohuk, Seghale, and Serayan as the most important pile rug weaving centers in 1951. Motifs, structures, and colors of those farmers’ carpets seldom resemble products made by Baluch from the same area2. Apart from a few exceptions most of the pieces are coarsely knotted, had a long pile and were very colorful. They were a favorite among the rich Arabs from the emirates of the Persian Gulf, who preferred the summer in Iran to that of an even hotter home country. The demand caused an almost assembly-line type of cottage industry , a general degradation of the product, and to a very superficial reproduction of the patterns. We see very crude Afshar designs in the central field and even more so in the borders. These pile rugs must, however, not be confused with other carpets that also have a distinct Afshar influence, that were without doubt made by Baluch in Sistan, about 500 kilometers from Ferdows. In contrast to Arab products, these Sistan Baluch rugs have central fields rich with small, carefully designed motifs and a stepped and/or incised central medallion, similar to those on runners made by southeast Iranian Afshar (Fig. 2.). The main border has an alternating latch-hook pattern, which is favored by some Baluch groups, but is originally a Turkoman pattern (Fig. 3).
As a rule the fabric structure of these rugs points to Baluch weavers. Some fabrics from very small groups, who were semi-nomadic at least until 1960, and who call themselves and are called by their neighboring Baluch, Arabzadeh, descendants of the Arabs, show how difficult it is to classify the rugs. In 1955 a group of 50 Arabzadeh could be in close neighborhood to the Moreidari and the Said-Mohammad-Khani in the eastern Djulghe Khaf. The few small pieces they had woven, however, were not distinguished from those made by the Moreidari (Fig. 4). Wegner’s Pile Rugs of the Baluch and Their Neighbors
Baluch Prayer Rug
Size: 3 ft. 8 in. x 2 ft. 2 in.
Region: West Asia, Persia, Northeast Persia, Baluch
Date: 19th century
Arabesque Qainate Arab Rug Persia, 3rd quarter 19th century
Date: 3rd quarter, 19th century
Size: 3 ft. 4 in. x 6 ft. 10 in.
Materials: wool and camel
Technique: pile, asymmetric knot open right
Conditon: near full pile, selvedge wrap not original, some weakness developing in corrosive areas
Arabesque Afshar of the Qainate Arab tribes Rug, circa 1870
Provenance: Qainate, Khorassan, east Iran
Function: possibly a latent prayer rug
Size: 3 ft. 6 in. x 5 ft. 5 in.
Materials: wool and camel
Technique: pile, asymmetrical knot open right
Conditon: Missing the kilim end and several rows of knot at the bottom end, as well as most of the kilim end at the top. The pile is in fair to good condition but low in the corrosive areas.
Popular thought has the Afshar tribe vacating Khorassan after the blinding and subsequent murder of Nadir Shah’s nephew, the governor of Khorassan Shah Rokh, around 1790. A number of weavings, executed in the Khorassan (‘Belouch’) style containing characteristics of the Qainate Arabs and the Timuris of Khaf suggest that this exodus was not total.
This particular rug is an example of the vestigial remains of Khorassan Afshar clans. Though double ended, the emphasis effected by the scale and proliferation of iconography at the bottom end lends directionality and suggests this this rug served as a prayer rug.
Arab Baluch Tree of Life Rug, late 19th century
Arab Baluch Tree of Life rug, Khorasan area, late 19th century. 2 ft. 7 in. x 4 ft. 8 in.
Arab Baluch Rug, late 19th century
Arab Baluch Rug, Tree of Life design, late 19th century. 2 ft. 7 in. x 4 ft. 8 in.
Cole Afshar Baluch Rug, 19th century
Baluch Rug, Northeast Persia, 19th century, 3 ft. 4 in. x 5 ft. 10 in.
An extremely unusual composition with element from different weaving groups harmoniously incorporated into this Baluch group rug from the Khorassan province of Northeast Persia. The field pattern is closely related to Afshar element with a single flower head situated in the center flanked by minor floral forms on camel wool ground. The primary border, on the other hand, is very much related to those weavings from East Turkestan, rugs that exhibit qualities associated to Moghul period weaving from India.
The colours are unusual, with a smattering of green in the border and a clear lemon yellow in addtiion to the classic Khorassan orange/red and a very vibrant indigo blue. The condition is ok, there is some corrosion and the selvedges are slightly ragged in places. However, this is an extremely collectible example of Baluch weaving from Northeast Persia.
Arab Baluch w/ Turquoise Blue
“Afshar” Baluch Rug, Northeast Persia, 19th century
Baluch Rug, Northeast Persia, 19th century. 4 ft. 1 in. x 6 ft. 11 in.
A regal example of Baluch weaving from Northeast Persia with all natural dyes and no repairs. There is some obvious corrosion, but nothing obtrusive that would prevent this rug from being used on a floor or displayed on a wall.
A fabulous example of a classic type. Few understand nor would guess that this rug is woven with an asymmetric knot, open to the right. But with a field design that is often associated with Afshar groups, the open right structure is not unexpected. Some have speculated that there are Afshar groups living in Khorassan, weaving in the Baluch style. This may be just such an example.
The colours (all natural dyes) are quite lovely, and the palettte appears to take advantage of the liberal use of cochineal. While it is a dye eschewed by the Turkmen collectors, its appearance in Baluch group weavings is considered desirable as well as an indicator of good age.
The unmistakable intentions of the weaver are apparent as this use of reciprocal space is emphasized in smaller elements (kotchanak devices, etc).
The wealth of interesting tertiary devices randomaly floating on the blue field are amazing, and extremely pleasing. There is even some silk in the weaving, including a bit of blue and yellow silk used sparingly in some of these minor ornaments. The secondary border, a Turkic/Turkmen scrolling vine border, is drawn on an exceptionally large and spacious scale, given that it acts here as a mere minor border.
The primary border, often seen in the finest Baluch weavings from Khorassan, is nicely done and pleasing as well. Such borders may be seen in Anatolian weavings dating to the Seljuk period, 14th century.
Arab Baluch Zili Zultan Prayer Rug circa 1880
This is an Arab Baluch prayer rug woven about 1880. It is in very good condition and the size is about 2 ft. 6 in. x 4 ft. 3 in. The design is never found on Baluch carpets. It is called the Zili Zultan design. This makes it a very rare piece.
Baluch or Afshar East Persian Pictorial Rug
The origin of rugs of this group is a matter of some contention. Whatever the origin of the group, however, it’s clear that this is an early example of its type with good quality wool, saturated colours, and a pleasingly eccentric and asymmetrical design.