Mashhad (Mashad/ Meshad or Meshed) rugs are widely recognized as one of the most classical and exquisite antique Persian carpets. Their history dates back to the 15th century, to the city of Mashhad, located in Northeastern part of Persia. The city is commonly associated with being one of the oldest and most famous centres of carpet weaving. Moreover, the highest quality wool is considered to be from Mashhad.
Carpets are produced there on a large scale and sold under the name of Meshed. One can discern them looking at their sizes that are mostly large, and the typical motifs, for instance medallions. Between the 1550 and 1556, the first Meshed rug was made, namely the Perez Topkapi prayer rug.
Some great Mashhad workshops can be distinguished with the leading one of Soltan Ibrahim Mirza, who lived in the 16th century. More recent examples are Amoghli, Khamenei, Makhmalbaf, Saber and Zarbaf. One of the most significant Persian carpet workshops of the 20th century was that of Amoghli. Soltan Ibrashim Mirza on the other hand, was the creator of the oldest Mashad rugs – prayer carpets. Today, one can see them in Mashhad’s museums. During the 19th and 20th centuries these rugs became highly popular. Not only were they exported to other countries but they were also beloved elements in the houses of local people.
The vast majority of Mashhad carpets have corner-medallion designs interspersed with flowers on them. The general characteristic can be narrowed down to some typical patterns: the medallion is usually circular with sixteen appendages, the main field is often dark-red or black-blue and the motifs are frequently taken from works of Kerman and Yazd. Nonetheless, when taking the design, weave and coloring into account, the Mashhad rugs can be effortlessly distinguished from those woven in Kerman and Yazd. Besides dark-red and blue colors, on the Mashhad carpets we can notice beiges or traditional burgundies as well as purple and khaki tones. As was mentioned before, the bulk of Meshad rugs are large (3 x 5.5 metres).
Few words about the technique will improve our image of these precious rugs. Antique Mashhad rugs are jufti-knotted – the same technique is used in making Khorassan carpets. In a nutshell, jufti knot means that the knot is placed over four, not two warp threats, and the weft – in one or more rows. As for materials, a warp is chiefly cotton, whereas a weft is cotton or wool. What makes Mashhad carpets so precious and alluring are their delicate knots. The bigger the number of knots in a carpet, the more valuable it is considered.
Since the very beginning Meshed rugs have been put on the pedestal when talking about Persian rugs. The city of Mashhad is now the core hub of Persian carpet industry. The business is flourishing due to the hard work of men and household women who weave the carpets at their homes. Meshed weavers, who were definitely artisans by vocation, used to sign their rugs, so that they are now even more valuable.