Sheykh Safi carpet is the second most famous carpet in the world. We are here to tell you more about this carpet. Art and artistry are planted in every man’s essence. They only need to find it within themselves and endeavor to nurture it. Carpet weaving has always been a part of Iranian art and is considered one the most original crafts of the ancient Persia. Several Iranian carpets reside in different great museums of the world that attract many tourists. Still Europe’s heart beats for Iranian art as many Persian crafts taken from carpets to old earthenware dishes reside in Europe. IranTrawell attempts to introduce you one these valuable artifacts, Sheykh Safi shrine carpet.
The Savavid dynasty reign can be recalled as the golden time of carpet weaving. During the Safavid dynasty, Tabriz was one of the greatest centers of carpet and has left us a great heritage.
As we told Sheykh Safi carpet is the second most famous carpet in the world, the first being the Pazyryz carpet which is another exquisite Iranian artifact. Sheikh Safi’s carpet is now kept at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London at the Jamil gallery. This carpet, which is also known as the Ardabil Carpet, was weaved in the sixteenth century during the Safavid Shah Tahmasp reign.
The carpet is so elegant and exquisite that has been copied and remodeled by many, and you might find a copy version of it in many Iranian houses. The British newspaper, Sunday Times, chose a list of the world’s best works of art and the Sheykh Safi carpet was on the top 50.
This masterpiece is also the largest carpet of the East and is preserved in the best conditions that no harm comes to it.
History of Sheykh Safi ‘din Carpet
Maqsud Kashani, an outstanding figure in carpet weaving, spent sixteen years to weave two identical carpets. He put all his effort and creativity to create this wonderful piece of art.
The reason the process of weaving these carpets took so long was that Kashani didn’t let anyone to interfere with the process of weaving and did all the work by himself, because uneven knots in a carpet lower its value. The carpet was ordered by Shah Tahmasb as a gift to his ancestors in Ardabil. It was kept for many years in the Sheykh Safi Shrine until it found its way to England in 1893 and is now preserved in there.
Why is it in England?
On 1843, two British tourists visited the Sheykh Safi shrine and described the elegance of these carpets in their memoirs. 3 decades later, an earthquake damaged the building and the carpet. The mosque trustees, in order to rebuild the ceiling of the shrine, asked the British company, Ziegler & Co. for help, who were famous for their carpet business. They bought the carpet for a low price of 80 Tomans, and sent it to England. The trustees spent the money on a building that was known for its carpet. They restored the carpet, though they couldn’t make the carpets identical again and used another carpet to restore it.
The design of the central medallion resembles that of the interior side of the dome of the mosque, and when one enters the mosque, gets reminded of that era’s mystics when seeing the unity of the dome and the ground. This is because the mystics used to believe that the top and down are the same and are as important as each other.
In 1984, a carpet expert claimed that the carpet was ordered for Imam Reza’s shrine, because the Sheykh Safi shrine didn’t have enough space for these carpets. Daniel Walker, a Safavid researcher, says: “this pair of carpet was long supposed to be made for the Safavid dynasty ancestors; but the recent researches clearly imply that the carpets were actually made for Imam Reza’s shrine in Mashhad.”
The mentioned carpet was made of silk weft and weaved with asymmetric Farsi knots. This asymmetry opened windows for imagination. The size of this carpet is 10.52m * 5.34m.
The carpet is decorated with Shah Abasi plants. The design of this carpet, especially the dark blue color of it, gave the viewers a feeling of holiness in the Tomb of Sheykh Safi ‘din. The two petals imply its holiness and value and the bergamot was a symbol of sunlight.
There’s an inscription on the carpets as well, a couplet by Hafiz that represents the greatness of Iranian art and culture:
I have no refuge in the world other than thy threshold.
There is no protection for my head other than this door.
The border is created from cartouches filled with decorations and calligraphy, adding even more details to the already accomplished style.
Carpet-weaving is one the original and ancient arts of us Iranians that is still alive today, but the Safavyd era was the golden time for it. The Safavyd kings attempted to improve this art as much as they could and left us a great heritage.
An outstanding piece of this heritage that makes everyone amazed, is the Sheykh Safi shrine carpet that is a part of the collection of the Victoria and Albert museum in England. The trustees of the mosque sold the carpet to rebuild the building. Unfortunely foreigners have put more effort in preserving the carpets and keep it as a treasure of mankind’s art and culture.
IranTrawell, while trying to honor this valuable art, wishes for the carpets to be returned to the place they were created at.