You don’t need an expert to tell you that when it comes to rugs Persian means quality. It is a notion almost ingrained within us. We instinctively know that when a Persian rug is mentioned it is going to be a rug of craftmanship, of comfort, of quality.
Persian rugs, or Iranian carpets, have been around for over a thousand years. And whilst they were more practical in the beginning it wasn’t long before they became works of art and synonymous with quality.
Persian Rug History
There are records for woven rugs dating to as far back as the Persian Sassanid Dynasty (224-641 C.E.). Rugs were popular with the migrating people of the land who needed them for tent flooring. As these people became settlers they would be recognised for a specific rug pattern or design. Similar to the Tartan fabric style of the Scottish.
Historians believe that the rug making tradition became a major art form during the Safavid Dynasty from 1499-1722 C.E when the Persian Empire was at its height. At that time ‘some of the finest carpets were woven in royal workshops that employed talented designers, craftspeople and weavers’. The most lavish of rugs were often made with silk or wool and at times even had gold or silver threads woven within.
Such is the magnificence of a quality piece of Persian rug craftmanship that they have remained popular to this day and no doubt will continue to do so for thousands of years to come.
Famous Persian Rugs
The most expensive rug in Persian history (so far) is the Clark Sickle Leaf rug which sold for almost $34m at auction in Sotheby’s, New York.
This 17th century antique Persian carpet is believed to be from the ancient city of Kerman and belonged to the Clark collection. Its sale price, millions above the next most expensive rug, certainly reflects its quality and importance as the rug is only 6ft by 8ft in size.
For comparison, a supposed 17th century Dons Duke Silk Isfahan carpet sold at auction for $4.45m.
According to Wikipedia the most famous Persian carpet is the Ardabil carpet which is housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. This carpet ‘is now a combination of two original carpets’ with the other piece coming from a carpet in Los Angles. Such is its popularity that it ‘has been the subject of endless copies ranging in size from small to full scale.’. The Wiki adds that Ardabil’s have resided in both Hitler’s office in Berlin and the Prime Minister’s office in the UK.
An honourable mention must go to the so-called ‘Carpet of Wonder’ found in the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat. This huge carpet covers almost a 47,000 square foot and took a labour force of 600 people a staggering 4 years to complete.
Know Your Persian Rugs
Like the aforementioned Tartan, and any originally tribal design, there are going to be regional variances. You will find differences in style, design, craftmanship. Because of this Persian rugs are usually classified by the ‘social context’ of their weavers.
But let’s face it. You or I may not be able to tell one rug from another, one style from the next. Rug connoisseur and expert Nicolas Larsen, who has over 30 years in the field of antique, wholesale and retail rugs, maintains that: “It takes time to develop the knowledge and fine observation skills required to tell the quality of one rug over another”. With so many to choose from, and from such an illustrious history, you would have to agree with Mr Larsen when he states: “Being able to select the right rug is an art unto itself”.