Persian Rugs - Design & Patterns

how to read a persian rugUnveiling the Mystery of Persian carpet Design - While the unique artistry of each Persian rug is a feast for the eyes, each rug design is also full of meaning. Imprinted on each woven work of art are the different cultures and traditions held by Persian artisans from distinct cities and different tribes throughout history. Understanding the intricately interwoven story of each symbol on just a single Oriental rug will enhance your enjoyment of these excellent works of art.

These four design elements in Persian rugs are rife with meaning, and add a new dimension to your understanding of the rug you most appreciate:

• Symbols from Nature
• Color
• Geometric design
• Motif or Theme

Symbols from Nature

In Persian culture, nature was full of symbolism and mystery. Many of these natural elements are found in Persian carpets from antiquity through modernity. To truly read the story the artisan is telling, one must understand what each symbol woven into a rug means. The following are some of the most commonly observed symbols from life or nature, and what they express in Persian tradition:

• A Lotus is a symbol of rebirth and immortality
• A Camel indicates some form of wealth or prosperity
• A Parrot symbolizes escaping or protection from danger
• A Chicken or Rooster is a symbol of protection from the evil eye
• A Bird suggests an abundance of faith or fertility
• A Duck or Swan symbolized marital fecundity or another form of enchantment
• A Snake is a symbol of wisdom and acts as a guardian
• A Man woven into the rug is the weaver depicting himself in his work
• A Dragon indicates great power

That is a small sampling of the wealth of meaning behind each natural symbol woven into the tapestry of each Persian rug. Study yours and listen as its story unfolds.

Colors Enrich the Story

Persian artisans carefully selected the colors incorporated into each rug. The meaning behind the hues woven into each rug enrich the symbolism and enhance each work of art’s story. Colors commonly used in Persian rug making and their meanings include:

• Red for Beauty, Wealth, Courage, Luck, Joy and Faith
• Orange for Humility and Piety
• Yellow for the Sun and Joy of Life
• Green for Hope, Renewal, Life, and Spring; this color is considered Holy and is used quite sparingly
• Blue for Power through Force or Solitude; Blue is commonly used as an Allusion to the After Life
• Brown for Fertility
• Black for Mourning or Destruction; Black is most usually used as an outline
• White for Cleanliness or Purity
• Gold for extreme Wealth and Power

The full spectrum of color used in weaving Persian rugs adds to the richness of meaning and unparalleled beauty in each one.

Geometric Design

Rug artisans made abundant use of geometric design to add symmetry and organization to the storytelling in their artwork. Geometric designs are linear by nature, comprised of horizontal, vertical and oblique lines; as such this type of design is ideal for retelling a story at the loom, and adding yet another element of visual pleasure to each work of art.

You will most commonly see the symmetry and pattern of geometric design covering the field of the rug, which includes the background and border. Be sure to observe any noticeable break from symmetry or pattern in the geometric design of a rug; this commonly indicates a symbol nearby that the artist who created the rug wished to have extra importance.

Motifs: Lessons in History and Geography

The collection of symbols, colors, and geometric pattern used in each Oriental rug are called the rug’s motif. They are an incredible tapestry created to tell the story of the time in which the rug was woven, and they also indicate the origination point of each work of art. Even so, the intermingling of tradition and culture through trade is often evident, as it is not uncommon to find more than one motif in a single rug. While there have been a prolific number of motifs throughout the history of Persian rug artistry, describe below are those most commonly recognized.


In the Farsi tongue, Boteh is the word for a flower or palm leaf not fully grown. This motif was used in patterns, all over the rug, but occasionally a rug can be found where the Boteh is used in isolation with beautiful, intricate results.


Rugs originating from Turman, Gorgan, and Khal Mohammadi traditions commonly contain this motif. Gul means flower, but unlike Boteh, the Gul is fully matured. Octagonal in design, this motif is used all over its rug in repeated patterns.


The Herati motif appears as a flower centered inside a diamond around with curved leaves are woven parallel to each side. It is commonly used in various forms in geometric or curvilinear design and is used as a repeated field pattern.


The Mina-Khani motif repeats daisies interlocked by diamonds or circular lines and is used predominantly in an all-over pattern. This pattern is found on Persian rugs originating from many and varied areas across the Orient and is an excellent example of the of influence rug trade in spreading tradition and culture to many different places.


Often found in rugs of Nain origin; the Rosette motif names the naturalistic or geometric design pattern which includes a collection of designs which radiate from the center medallion on an Oriental rug, giving the allover appearance of petals on a rose. It is sometimes used in the borders of a rug but is primarily a field based motif.

Shah Abbasi

If the field and borders of a Persian rug contain a repeated pattern of palmettes, the rug motif is Shah Abbasi. Rugs of Kashan, Isfahan, Mashad and Nain origin frequently contain this motif, but it is rugs of Tabriz origin where we see Shah Abbasi appear most often.

We hope you will continue your journey of discovery in the incredible world of Persian rugs, and we are happy to help as best we can with any questions you have along the way.

Share this
Older Post Newer Post