A Sarouk is a type of Persian rug originally woven in the Arak weaving district of Iran in the late 19th and early 20th century.
One of the earliest of the new breed of Arak District Persian rugs were known as Ferahans—not Ferahan Sarouks, but simply Ferahans. Ferahans seem to have been made from about 1875 until perhaps 1913. Nearly all were in Herati designs unbroken by medallions, on madder red fields. Many were prized for the color of their borders, invariably described in books as pistachio green.
Persian Ferahan Sarouk rugs: Another weave was developed in the Arak District at nearly the same time, commissioned by Tabriz merchants and woven from about 1890 to World War One. Simply called Sarouks at the time, these are the rugs that have become known as Ferahan Sarouks. In appearance, they are quite different from Ferahans. They’re finer (an average of 270 knots per square inch in a recent sampling) and heavier (they are double-weft with depressed warps) and unlike Ferahans are most often made in medallion designs on blue or ivory fields. Fairly often they were made in pictorial designs featuring trees and birds. In the first years of their manufacture, local weaving skills simply were not up to the detailed designs supplied by the Tabriz merchants. There is something charmingly clumsy about these Ferahan Sarouks. Indeed, their lack of perfection is characteristic by which they may be identified. Weavers in Kashan who were making rugs at the same time with similar designs and of similar fineness usually produced more skillfully woven rugs, though perhaps not as charming. As they have become scarce, Ferahan Sarouks have become extremely desirable and expensive.
Malayer Sarouks & Josan Sarouks
An old dirt road connects Arak and Hamadan, which lie about 125 miles apart. On this road, roughly halfway between, lie two villages, Malayer and Josan, whose rugs are often mistaken for Ferahan Sarouks. Rugs from both villages share many characteristics with Ferahan Sarouks: a fine weave and designs featuring medallions, for instance. They are symmetrically knotted and usually not quite as nice as old Ferahan Sarouks
The American Sarouk is one of the more popular designs of the 20th century. The American Sarouk was a genre of a rug woven in Sarouk, Persia. The demand, importation, and production of such carpets were very high from the 1920s through the 1950s. Though the American Sarouk varied greatly in thickness, some of the more identifiable qualities are color and pattern. American Sarouks tend to feature a red background with a blue border or blue background with a red border. While the color of red varied greatly from a dusty rose to a deep wine red, the use of these reds was almost guaranteed to come with a deep blue. American Sarouks were most often produced with an allover “floral spray” pattern. While some American Sarouks did feature medallions, they are found in far less frequency. American Sarouks almost never had spandrels in the corners of the field, and most common sizes were 9×12. It is not unusual to find unique and oversize American Sarouk pieces too.
How do you identify an American Sarouk?
They are woven with an asymmetrical knot, usually about 120 of them per square inch. They are double weft and have a fairly stiff handle. At least 95% are in rose fields; a few are blue. They have designs of scattered floral sprays. If, in addition to these features, you find that the field-color of a carpet is light rose on the back and dark rose- or even burgundy- on the top, it’s an American Sarouk.
Every rug dealer knows exactly what a Mohajaran Sarouk is. The trouble is that they don’t agree. Some believe Mohajarans began to be woven around 1900 while others think they were not produced until about 1920. Some say there was a village named Mohajaran near Arak and that Mohajarans were made there. Others believe that Mohajaran is nothing but the name of a grade of Sarouk. Most believe that Mohajarans are finer than American painted Sarouks. Unfortunately, no one has written authoritatively about Mohajaran Sarouks. A. Cecil Edwards, who was in the rug business from about 1900 to 1947 and who for many years was stationed in Persia, says not a word about them though he writes at length about other kinds of Sarouks. It seems likely that, whatever Mohajaran Sarouks are, they were not thought of as separate from other American Sarouks until after Edward’s time. What most dealers do seem to agree on. Mohajarans were contemporaries of the American painted Sarouk, made from about 1924 or earlier until the late 1930s. Though their designs of scattered floral sprays are essentially the same as those in American Sarouks, they are sparer and less highly ornamented than American Sarouks. Mohajarans are more likely to have blue fields and rose fields probably constitute the majority. Small Mohajarans are rare; most are room-sized.
Indo-Sarouks are Indian copies of Sarouks. For decades Indian rug makers tried to capture the look of old Sarouks without succeeding. Just lately, though, we have begun to see impressively attractive and well-made Indo-Sarouks. (I have counted 169 knots per inch in a Mohajaran look-alike and nearly 300 knots in a Ferahan knock-off.) As with many other new rugs in the market now, rug-designers have gone back to the best old pieces for their models. When rug-makers reproduce American Sarouks, for instance, they often copy exceptional old Mohajaran-types with spare designs. The best producers have captured the exquisite rose-color of old Sarouks. A few manufacturers have undertaken to reproduce old Ferahan Sarouks and one or two have succeeded admirably. Most, though, are still short of the mark when it comes to capturing the beauty of an old Ferahan Sarouk.