Masterpiece Persian Carpets
Plate One

Plate Three & Four

Plate Eight

Plate Ten

Plate Twelve

Plate Fourteen

Plate Sixteen & Seventeen

Plate Nineteen

Plate Twenty-One

Plate Twenty-Three

Plate Twenty-Six

Plate Twenty-Eight

Plate Thirty
Plate Two

Plate Five, Six & Seven

Plate Nine

Plate Eleven

Plate Thirteen

Plate Fifteen

Plate Eighteen

Plate Twenty

Plate Twenty-Two

Plate Twenty-Four

Plate Twenty-Seven

Plate Twenty-Nine

Plate Thirty-One & Thirty-Two

In lieu of any competition, the half blind Sultan Muhammad Shah was placed on the throne in 1578 and, sensing his chance, the Ottoman Sultan Murad III began an invasion through which the Safavids lost a large part of their territory. Petty princes fought to wrest power that was once again in the hands of the Qizilbash. A revolt broke out in Khorassan favoring the Shah's young son Abbas and only the decisive intervention by the Regent Murshid Quli Khan saved the day. He marched to Qazvin and persuaded the Qizilbash to accept Abbas as the new Shah. Sultan Muhammed was obliged to hand over the reigns to his 17 year old son, who was inaugurated as Shah Abbas I in 1588.

Thereafter, a new era began for Persia, as this soon to become great world leader seemed to combine the lionhearted courage of Ismail and the political acumen of Tahmasp. He immediately set about organizing a new Praetorian guard composed of Georgian and Circassian prisoners of war, known as the Ghulams. They were directly responsible to the Shah, converts to Islam and loyal to a man. After an assassination attempt the Qizilbash were purged and Abbas had his former patron Mushid Quli Khan murdered. In a final act of paranoia he had his father and brothers blinded in 1590

Herat was regained eight years later and in 1605 the Ottomans were defeated in a battle near Tabriz, being pushed back to the confines dictated in the 1555 peace treaty of Amasya. Persia was finally free of foreign troops.

Abbas further stabilized the country by forming a professional army which was loyal to him and financed from his own pocket. He moved large groups of tribes people around the country, effectively weakening the former power of the Qizilbash and ending the hundreds of years of racial strife -Turk contra Persian - which had been such a destabilizing factor.

This Shah worked very, very hard. On a blitz tour to Isfahan from Qazvin he decided to build a new capital, which was literally stamped out of the ground in a few years. English diplomats were so overwhelmed they declared Isfahan to be superior to London and the phrase" Isfahan nisf jehan" (Isfahan is half the world) became a proud catchword of the day.

Persia grew rich through an enormous trade in silk and a period of comparative peace. Abbas seems to have grown more paranoid towards the end of his life, blinding his two remaining sons, so that on his death in 1629 only a grandson remained as heir. This also marks the eclipse of Safavid power that had become more and more centralized at the expense of weakening the provinces. The country's defensive capabilities also declined as the ghulams were no match for the fighting spirit of the demoted Qizilbash.

Reading the accounts by foreign vistors of the day one has the feeling of a State living way over its financial circumstances and enjoying it thoroughly.

Abbas II(1642-66)was the last Safavid Shah of importance, after which the country declined rapidly. Banditry was widespread and only held in check by Georgian noblemen, who eventually held sway at the court of Shah Sultan Husayn(1694-1722). In 1709 a group of Afghans seized Kandahar and the revolt snowballed under the leadership of Mahmud Ghalzay. The Afghans eventually besieged Isfahan for six months during which time more than 50,000 inhabitants starved to death. Shah Sultan Husayn surrendered on the 12th of October,1722 to group of upstart Afghan tribesmen that had put an end to the Safavid Dynasty.

But not quite.

After having crowned himself Shah, Mahmud seems to have gone mad and ordered the execution of the remaining Safavid nobility, sparing only the ex-Shah and two princes. His cousin Ashraf usurped the throne in 1725.

Quite unexpectedly the Ottomans invaded Western Iran in 1726, ostensibly to restore the Safavid status quo. The Turkish and Afghan armies met at Hamadan but without coming to blows and in a remarkable feat of charm diplomacy Ashraf presented himself to the Ottomans as their Sunni ally in the war against the Shià heretics. Faced with mass desertions the Ottomans accepted a peace treaty in 1727 and the whole of western Persia fell into their hands. Meanwhile the son of the last Shah, Tahmasp II , aligned himself with the Qajar tribe in North-Eastern Persia and was later joined by the Afshar ruler Nadir Khan.

After a large battle north of Isfahan in 1729, the Afghans were defeated and Tahmasp II ascended the throne. Ashraf was finally expelled by Nader Shah in the same year and the Afghan adventure was over. The last Safavid pretenders melted away and, in 1736, a Turcoman tribal leader became Shah of Iran.