Perhaps one of the most notable and predominant producers of commercial grade tabriz rugs from the 3rd quarter 20th century (1950's - 1970's) were rugs made in the tabatabai (tabatabaie, tabatabaei) workshop in Tabriz, Iran. Commonly ranging in standard area rug sizes of 3' x 5' all the way to 12' x 20'+. These rugs were hand knotted almost exclusively made with wool pile and cotton foundation (a few rare exceptions of silk on silk).
Tabatabai Tabriz rugs are among the more easily identifiable oriental rugs from Tabriz in regards to design, color palette and construction.
The field and borders would often feature an ornate design proportionate to knot density, at times incorporating a hunting scene with deer and other animals. The most common field colors were ivory, orange/rust, light and dark blue. There were very few Tabatabai rugs made with any alternative field color. Accent colors throughout the weavings often included mint/pistachio green, light and dark browns, un-dyed black sheep wool, cinnibar red, peach, pink and the previously mentioned field colors.
Tabriz rug knot density most commonly is measured in raj as opposed to
kpsi or other unit of measure. The majority of commercially available
Tabatabai range in the 30 - 34 RAJ count, which roughly converts to 115
- 140 KPSI. Although the knot count was not particularly high, these
carpets were exceptionally durable and dense: Solid, heavy
construction with good quality wool. Additionally, the designs and
colors were exactly what the foreign markets desired in their carpets.
It's not uncommon to find a Tabatabai Tabriz with the Tabatabai inscription/signature. However, just because a rug has a Tabatabai inscription does not necessarily mean that it is a Tabatabai rug. Just before the American-Iranian embargo of carpet importation, India began to produce very similar carpets in both knot density and design and pile height. While the vast majority of reproductions were very easily distinguished from authentic Tabatabai rugs, there were importers in the US who were contracting rug weavers in India to produce examples which side-by-side were virtually indistinguishable to a novice's eye from a true Tabatabai Tabriz. Inevitably, indo-Tabatabai rugs with forged signatures did surface in the market, although a well seasoned expert in this can often determine true origin through other indicators as we will explore.
Above: A Tabatabai Tabriz from the late 1960's in a 4' x 6' size. Note the outter minor guard border and inner minor guard borders. These are often found in Tabatabai weavings or Tabatabai copies. Rarely are these running borders seen in rugs from other workshops.
Above (border design on the front): Here's a bit better detail
of the previously mentioned inner and outer minor guard borders. As
you can see, there are many flowers and also a deer seen running.
Although we can make out the animal to be a deer, Tabatabai rugs were
notorious for having very simplistic renditions of animals and humans
using very few colors.
Above: If original, the fringe on Tabatabai Tabriz rugs was not only long, but unusually thick as well.
Above (looking at the back of the rug): As opposed to most Indian copies, a true Tabatabai Tabriz will have between four to six warp cords tied off into a knot to become the fringe. In most Indian rugs, these would be woven into a flat kilim, then be sectioned off and tied off for fringe.
Above (looking at the back of the rug): The knot count of the average commercially available Tabatabai Tabriz would be found around 115-140 KPSI. The example above is counted using a standard US quarter, which is slightly less than 1"x1". Vertical count comes to 11, horizontal 12 making the approximate KPSI 132.
Above (looking at the back of the rug): Other than how fringe was tied off, looking carefully at the selvages was another great way to determine between an indo-Tabatabai and an authentic Tabatabai from Tabriz. On a Indian rug, cotton wefting would not be seen as part of the selvages as it is above. It may be difficult to tell, but on an authentic Tabatabai Tabriz, the selvages will have a flatter appearance, as opposed to an Indian piece which would have a very round and circular wrap.
Above: The height of a Tabatabai rug is approximately 3/8ths of an inch thick.
Above: Detail photograph of the wool in a Tabatabai rug.
Common Sizes: 3' x 5' thru 12'x20'+: 3'x5', 4'x6', 6'x9', 8'x10', 9'x12', 10'x14', 12'x15', 12'x18', 12'x20'
Approximate KPSI: Generally 115 thru 140 kpsi
Materials: Wool pile with cotton foundation.
Common Motif: Somewhat more ornate design overall curvlinear design. Commonly feature a covered field or medallion sometimes featuring an animal motif.
Distinguishing Characteristics: traditionally,
nice examples are more densly packed with thicker handle and
structure. 3/8" pile with double cord selvages, thicker 'spaghetti' fringe without a kilim.
Typical Price Points**: Average example in new condition $20 - $60 per square foot.
Signatures/dates: Somewhat common
Alternative Spellings: tabatabaie, tabatabaei, Taba Tabriz
One or more example(s) photographed above courtesy Dilmaghani & Co.
inventory of their NY Oriental Rug Warehouse
or NY showroom of Oriental