Archive for the ‘Portraiture in War Rugs’ Category

Portrait Rug 4: Khomeini

April 22, 2006


This image thanks to Kevin Sudeith from

The text in white appears to be a (mystic) love poem in praise of K, admiring his beauty (the mole on his lip), and e.g. “lovesick at the beauty of your eyes”, and “without the love of K you cannot love Muhammad al Mahdi (the 12th Imam)”.

And see the text in white below the image, remarkably contradicting the kind of orthodoxy we might associate with Khomieni: “They open the door of the drinking house and we go there day and night as we are sick of going to the mosque and the school.”

For information about Muhammad al Mahdi, see the Encylopedia of the Orient.

From Wikipedia:
Ayatollah Seyyed Ruhollah Khomeini (Persian: آیت الله روح الله خمینی Arabic: آية الله روح الله الخميني) (May 17, 1900? – June 3, 1989) was a Shi’a Muslim cleric and marja, and the political and spiritual leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution which saw the overthrow of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran. Following the Revolution, Khomeini held the office of Supreme Leader, the paramount figure in the political system of the new Islamic Republic, and retained this position until his death.

Khomeini was considered a spiritual leader to many Shi’a Muslims, and in Iran is officially addressed as Imam rather than Ayatollah, and his supporters also adhere to this convention.


Portrait Rug 3: Stalin

April 16, 2006


This is a rug which Muhammad Sajid (at has estimated to be more than 30 years old. We have no information as to where it was made – or who could achieve such extraordinary photographic verisimilitude? When it came to venerating their “great leaders”, nobody surpassed Stalinist regimes. Pity the poor workers who built this remarkable image knot by knot…



and here’s another:


This rug is described as follows: “made by Tekke women of Turkmenistan, who built this remarkable image knot by knot. Very extraordinary rug, all hand made using wool base and wool weft. All dyes are from natural sources. Measurements: 47″ x 31″. Made in circa 1980s.”

The “I” may stand for Josef, but I have not been able to find a “w” as the initial of Stalin’s middle name… The dates refer to the duration of the Soviet involvement in WW2.


Portraiture and figuration in rugs

April 15, 2006

The following account of figuration in Iranian rugs is to be found at, based in Vancouver, Canada – the webmaster is the photographer Masoud Soheili.

I’ll be making contact to find out the author of this entry…

The 20th century must be known as reveal(ing) portrait making in Iran. Since, in this century, there was considerable attention toward portrait and naturalism; portrait making was attracted by artists and craftsmen, as (a) public movement.

Print curtain makers were the first artists who joined (the) portrait movement and instead of using usual flowers, they printed pictures of (the) old and classic tales and myth(s) of Iran on curtains, in large scale, such as Khosro and Shirin, (and) Leili and Majnoun. Printed portrait curtains found their ways to people’s houses; urban rug weavers were interested … and very soon, this became their patterns.

Printed portrait curtains were ideal for rug weavers, in all ways, as (the) size and composition of it were almost the same as those of the rug. As it has (a) margin (and) ground … it was not far from nature of rug. So, some of portrait rugs were woven from printed curtains; these rugs were called “Curtain”, as well as rug sellers have used this expression, yet. (more…)

Portrait 2: Lenin

March 30, 2006

This arrived today on the new website launched by Vugar R. Dadash at Azerbaijan Rugs:



Portrait Rugs: Nur Mohammed Taraki

March 28, 2006

With this image (with due recognition for the contributions of our unpaid researcher par excellence Max Allen) we begin a series of portrait rugs. From the Max Allen collection:


Some information about the subject:

Nur Mohammed Taraki was the leader of the communist coup on 1978 which preceded the Soviet occupation of the following year. In April 1978, leftist military officers overthrew and killed Daoud. PDPA leader Noor Muhammad Taraki became President of the new Republic on 27 April and proclaimed the nation “socialist”. He was deposed and executed September 1979.

Portraits of Massoud

January 2, 2006

Max Allen, again, for comparison with the previous post. If this is a portrait of Massoud, then clearly the previous post is not…

I’d appreciate some discussion of the text in these works…

Leyli and Majnun in the modern world

January 2, 2006

Max Allen in Toronto sends us another version of this ambiguous representation of the Leyli and Majnun story. If the mujahideen figure is identifiable, who might it be? My copy was sold to me as a “portrait” of Osama bin Laden, but I was always very sceptical of this attribution. There’s further discussion of this in our other posts considering Leyli – the images appear when you click on the post titles.


When you compare the two, while some elements are missing from the image below, many are reproduced quite carefully, such as the profile of the male figure, which is surely distinctive enough to be reccognisable?


September 9, 2005

Nasser Palangi, (an Iranian artist living in Canberra), has also given me a translation of the text on the image of the Leyli and Majnun rug. The updated posts are here; click on post titles to see the images.

Caucasian precedent

May 10, 2005


Graham Gower has referred me to Vugar Dadashov, who is at the Sheik Safi website for Caucasian Rugs (the specific entry for this rug is here). This remarkable figurative commemorative rug from Azerbaijan shows how widespread is the rug tradition which allows for visual commentary on the experience of war.

Vugar writes “It is a very special rug, 60 years old, which was made after the Second World War, commemorating the survival and return of a family member. The date is 1945.

Royal Hero

November 12, 2004


Thanks Liz for contributing this super variation on the King Amanullah image, bought in 1997 in the UK. Readers who have a copy of Frembgen and Mohm (see bibliography) will find another version at plate 42 – in this case updated with with more explicit armaments framing the figure – and with a German-language commentary.