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‘Beyond Utility: Rugs of Southwest Persia’

A current online exhibition hosted by Georgia Museum of Art features sixteen rugs from Southwest Persia. The exhibition tells a complex story of the way this region’s weavers were able to capture the minds and markets of the world in their designs.

‘Beyond Utility: Rugs of Southwest Persia’ focuses on rugs from four distinct groups, the Qashqa’i, the Lurs, the Khamseh and the Afshar. While these are usually bolder and less refined than the formal rugs produced in Persian city workshops, they are held in high esteem for their forceful artistic impact resulting from strong geometry and explosive colour.The rug pictured below, featured in the online show, is discussed in James Opie’s article ‘Shekarlu Qashqa’i rugs’ in HALI 172.


Shekarlu rug, Qashqa’i Confederacy, southwest Persia, mid-19th century

The exhibition includes ten Qashqa’i rugs containing an abundance of motifs and symbols within the field designs. The Lurs tribe is represented by one rug that bears a remarkable similarity to a specific type of Qashqa’i rug. The Khamseh tribes are represented by one rug that features a field design more widely woven by the Khamseh than by other tribes. The final four rugs are Afshar weavings, two of which contain motifs that suggest an urban weaving influence.


Decorative sofreh eating cloth


Qashqa’i woven rug, southwest Persia

As the four tribes became less nomadic during the early 20th century, much of their weaving culture of earlier centuries was lost. This exhibition provides an excellent opportunity to view some outstanding examples of 19th-century southwest Persian tribal rugs. Guest-curated by James Verbrugge, the online show and photography of the rugs has been sponsored by Material Culture and Arts Foundation (MCAF).

Kilim, southwest Persia



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