Chapter 92 - A history of Paisley or Boteh Jegheh Design

Boteh-Jegheh  (a.k.a Paisley), is an asymmetrical geometric floral  pattern that signifies  royal sovereignty, and nobility.  It was the focal design in the headgears of the Iranian kings since Shah Abbas the great  (1642-1666) of the Safavid Empire of Iran .    

Boteh Jegheh on the crown of Shah Abbas II of Iran  

Nader Shah Afshar ( 1688 –  1747)  one of the most powerful Iranian kings,   adorned his royal Jegheh with diamonds and emeralds after  his conquest of India. 


Boteh_Jegheh on the Crown of Nader Shah Afshar Emperor of Iran ( 1688-1747)  
Jegheh-e-Naderi in Iran's National Jewelry Museum

Fath-Ali Shah of Qajar (1797-1834) had a number of different Jeghehs  depicted in his numerous portraits.

Fath-Ali Shah of Qajar,


Boteh -Jegheh of Crown of Fath-Ali Shah  
 A Safavid period helmet. Kolah Khood
Some authors have speculated about the origin of the Paisley pattern, theorizing, without offering  any evidence, that it has  originated in ancient Babylon , possibly dating back to 1700 BC.  An alternative speculation, also without any evidence suggests that it is derived  from a Zoroastrian symbol of fire. Some have related it to  cypress tree, as a Zoroastrian symbol of eternity and life!  It is  argued that its  floral motif originates from the Sassanid dynasty (200-650 AD)- the last Persian Empire before the rise of Islam, and its peculiar shape  emanates  from the impact of the Arab invasion, which is reflected in the tree being bent, symbolising the sorrow  the nation!

However, one does not see this pattern in any of  Zoroastrian fire temples. In contrast, the pattern is clearly visible in one of the oldest  mosques called the Noh Gumbad Mosque, to the southwest of city of Balkh, in Afghanistan, built in the first half of the ninth century.


Noh Gumbad Mosque

Noh Gumbad, refers to the nine vaults or domes that covered the original structure. These domes have since fallen, and the walls and columns of the mosque are buried in a more than a meter of mud-brick fragments.

Built of mud bricks and covered with plaster, the mosque was richly decorated on the interior with deeply carved arabesques covering the capitals, imposts, spandrels and soffits of the arcades. This stucco decoration, although weather-worn, has largely remained. The surfaces of the columns feature a crisscross pattern made of headers above a base -- largely buried -- of arabesque carvings. Floral medallions  clearly depict Boteh Jegheh patterns. 


Masjid-i Noh Gunbad - Interior detail showing carved paisley motifs on capital

Masjid-i Noh Gunbad - Interior detail showing decoration on northeast face of column, capital, impost and arch soffit

The use of Boteh Jegheh pattern have continued  through time  in other mosques such as the early 19th century  mosque of Nasir-ol-Molk in Shiraz.

Mosaic  circa early 19 century, from the mosque of Nasir-ol-Molk  in Shiraz


Dome of mosque of  Nasir-ol-Molk  in Shiraz

 Traditionally,  Boteh Jegheh patterns was also used in the design of an Iranian  high-quality hand-woven  cloth called Termeh, that was  used in  the high officials and courtiers costumes called Khalaat.

Termeh is a handicraft, which is woven with silk and wool and sometimes with gold and silver. Today it is mainly used for decorative purposes in important ceremonies


Mohannad Shah Qajar, Emperor of Iran (1808-1848)

Mirza Taghi Khan Farahani,  Amirkabir   (1807 -1852)

A Qajar Nobleman

Religious and political advisers of Nasser-ed-Din shah, (1848-96)  Emperor of Iran,   ceramic featuring paisley printed robes from Isfahan, Iran

Boteh-Jegheh on the headgear of princes - 16th century Safavid miniature 


The Iranian cities of Yazd and  Kerman  have the reputation of producing high-quality termeh. Yazdi and Kermani termeh were traded along the Silk Roads.  Marco Polo,  passed through Yazd in 1272  AD and wrote:
 Yazd also is properly in Persia; it is a good and noble city, and has a great amount of trade. They weave there quantities of a certain silk tissue known as Yazdi, which merchants carry into many quarters to dispose of. 

Termeh were also  manufacturing  in Kashmir in the northern India  and in the Fergana valley (presently in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan). Yazdi silk designs do share some similarities with Fergana silks and Kermani shaals  competed with Kashmiri shawls.

A noble Qajar woman in Termeh skirt



A Persian female gymnast performing a handstand on a knife  Qajar period painting. Boteh-Jegheh design on her pantalon id noticeable.  





Boteh-Jegheh Pattern on Traditional Termeh. Termeh is a luxurious and durable cloth in which permanent natural colours are used .  Today termeh is mostly used as a collectable item.    Most of the Persian Termeh are elaborately embroidered using a technique, called “Sermeh Doozi”. This is an embroidery technique that was used in ancient Persia.
Boteh-Jegheh design on Termeh-- Yazd, Iran

A Boteh-Jegheh design on Sofreh Ghalamkar - a less expensive cotton cloth 

Another Boteh-Jegheh design on Sofreh Ghalamkar 
Sofreh Ghalamkar with Boteh-Jegheh design

 Print Stamp used for the traditional hand made  shawl craft of  Isfahan, Iran.

Very fine Senneh rug with boteh-Jegheh  design, with very lustrous wool. Sennehs of this size and age with a boteh design are relatively rare.

Persian silk rug with traditional Boteh-Jegheh design
Another Persian rug with symmetric Boteh_jegheh Design


Boteh-Jegheh design on a Persian carpet 


 In Britain Paisley is named for the shawls manufactured at the town of Paisley, Scotland. When, around the early 19th century, patterned shawls made from the soft fleece of the Kashmir goat began to be imported to Britain from India, machine-woven equivalents were made at  that town to supply the growing demand that had been created for “cashmere” shawls. Paisley shawls, in silk and cotton and later in wool, with sober colouring, were beautiful in their own right.  

Woven paisley shawls were mainly worn by men for ceremonies. These early shawls did not display the paisley shape as we know it today but a curving flower with leaves and a stem, the roots of which have striking similarities to Chinese calligraphy. The way in which symbols from different cultures appear in the development of the paisley pattern show how weavers translated artistic influences from imported ceramics, documents, fabrics into their own designs. The East India Company imported paisley shawls (adapted from the Persian word shal) from Kashmir and Persia to Europe in large quantities from around 1800. The designs were specifically tailored to cater for each regions particular tastes. In Europe the shawls were worn mainly by women not men. The designs might depict exotic scenes of people on elephants riding past palm trees. From roughly 1800 to 1850, using Jacquard looms, the women of Paisley adapted the traditional design primarily by weaving woollen shawls. Changes in fashion led to the demise of the popularity of the shawl in the late 1800s.

The decline of the paisley shawl in the early 1870s happened for a number of reasons. Fashions changed, of course, and the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871 put a stop to exports of shawls from Kashmir, and by 1870 a woven Jacquard shawl cost as much as £1, while an identical patterned cotton shawl could be bought for a few shillings. Like any other luxury good, once the shawls were inexpensive enough that every woman could afford to own at least one, no one wanted to wear them.

An English Paisley shawl Circa 19th century 

1808 Empress Joséphine by Baron Antoine-Jean Gros (Musée d'Art et d'Histoire at Palais Massena, Nice France)

 William Morris  copied the pattern for his textiles and William Holman Hunt, in his Portrait of Fanny Holman Hunt employed it .

William Holman Hunt, Portrait of Fanny Holman Hunt detail, ca. 1866-7

This intriguing  form of design has withstood the test of time and still from time to time designers in New York, Milan and Paris use it in their catwalks. 





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