The really fine Senneh rugs derive from the localised era of knotting excellence that took place in Kurdestan in the 2nd and 3rd quarters of
the nineteenth century. Of the three main Kurdish types - Gerus, Bijar and Senneh - the Sennehs were the most finely knotted, and were alone in
being single-wefted. The very finest examples were knotted on silk warps, usually (perhaps always?) dyed in a variety of shades to give
their fringes a polychrome/rainbow-like appearance. Such items are among the most finely knotted and most elevated of all Persian rugs outside
those of the Court production, and are rivalled only by a few Feraghan/Feraghan Sarouk rugs from Arak of the same period (where *is*
Joe Burke, does anyone know?) and the very finest Kirman-Raver items such as those in pictorial 'mythological' designs with Greek deities,
which may possibly be a little later. Of them all, I would say the Sennehs possess the most enduring and timeless aesthetic/decorative
style, a fact undoubtedly recognised by a few of the most knowledgeable of Persian merchants and rug connoisseurs, in whose private collections
the best Sennehs will generally be found.
Not surprisingly, Sennehs in
this class are always highly valued and even more highly priced, if you
should ever be lucky enough to find them. They are among the 'thinnest'
of all Persian rugs, and many will be in medallion or allover designs
patterned with small-scale herati repeats, also similar to Feraghan
Sarouks of comparable calibre. They have a very granular texture and
handle, and the typical 'salt-and-pepper' speckled backs you find in
most finely-knotted single-wefted Persian rugs, only more so. Being
single-wefted, they tend to wear less well than their more robust
relations from Bijar and Gerus, although - having always enjoyed the
highest esteem within Iran - examples in excellent condition have been
carefully preserved as repositories of wealth, and these naturally enjoy
the greatest value.
As with other types of sophisticated Qajar Persian rugs, the literature
on them is thinner even than their pile construction. There is of course
A. Cecil Edwards who deals with Sennehs with an appropriate degree of
respect in 'The Persian Carpet'. Also, if you can read German, Mohammad
Pakzad covers them from a knowledgeable perspective in his 'Persische
Knupfkunst' (published in Hanover). If I remember rightly, Pakzad
illustrates one of the rare all-silk Sennehs from the late nineteenth
century, which are curiously aggressive in colour, compared to the
sombre and mellow shades of the wool-piled pieces. Murray Eiland father
and son also cover Sennehs usefully in their recent Guide to Oriental
Carpets, and I think Dr Jon Thompson has good words for them in his
'Carpet Magic' and its various later manifestations.
Since the Qajar heyday of Kurdish production, Sennehs have declined
rapidly in quality, and nothing much of interest was made after 1900.
Modern Sennehs are reasonably attractive, but far from fine in
construction, and of no collectable interest.
The understated, small scale designs and closely harmonised colours of
the old super-fine Senneh rugs may not hold the same appeal for
contemporary decorative taste as the more epic character of their great
Bijar and Gerus relations of similar age, but they will always be
admired by aficionados of Persian knotting, and bargain opportunities
for their acquisition are most unlikely. From their notable scarcity in
recent years, they would appear to have been made in fewer numbers than
Bijars, and this, if nothing else, will ensure a continuing level of
demand among those who can afford them.
By: Iain Stewart
Handmade Oriental Carpets