Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ardabil carpets: A Brief Historical Review

Ardabil Carpets: An Interesting Journey Around the World

In addition to their beauty, incomparable qualities and dynamic place in history, Ardabil carpets have also been put in the hands of many people throughout their long existence. For more than 300 years, the carpets were located in a shrine in the city of Ardabil in northwest Iran. However, an earthquake in the late 19th century damaged the shrine and the carpets. This resulted in a chain reaction of events that would change the history of the Ardabil carpets forever.

Beginning of the journey

It is said that about 30 years before the earthquake, English visitors caught their initial glimpse of the carpets. Speculation says this may be the reason why the English were the first to purchase the carpets. Furthermore, it has been reported that possible reasons for selling the carpets to the English were to help cover the costs of repairs.

Nevertheless, the English carpet trading company, Ziegler & Co. bought the damaged carpets. Even though both needed repair, the only logical thing to do at the time was to take various pieces of one and use them to help restore the other. This resulted in one large carpet (in Victoria & Albert Museum in London) and another smaller, borderless carpet kept in Los Angeles Museum of Art.

Large Ardabil carpet gains notoriety

Approximately, in 1891, Vincent Robinson & Co. of London received the carpet from Ziegler & Co., and then Vincent Robinson & Co. put the carpet on public exhibition. The fact that the Ardabil carpet was hundreds of years old, contained an authentic inscription and had a one-of-a-kind existence, it gained much praise from popular newspapers and prominent community figures.

Even the famed artist, designer and painter, William Morris was in awe. He was so impressed with the carpet that he aggressively worked to obtain the carpet for the Victoria & Albert Museum in London – where it currently resides today.

Smaller, secret carpet revealed and sold

A few years later, it was rumored that there was another Ardabil carpet in existence. So in order to help sustain the value of the larger carpet, Vincent Robinson & Co. secretly sold the smaller carpet to Charles Tyson Yerkes, a wealthy American collector whose reputation was a bit questionable. Regardless, the goal was to keep the existence of a second carpet concealed, which meant Yerkes had to make sure the carpet never made its way back to England.

However, by 1910, Yerkes' entire collection of carpets, including the smaller Ardabil, was auctioned off. As a result, Dutch immigrant Joseph R. De Lamar bought the "secret" Ardabil carpet. Eight years later, well-known London art dealer, Sir Joseph Duveen, purchased the Ardabil after De Lamar's estate was sold. About 20 years later, J. Paul Getty bought the carpet from Duveen, and later gave it to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where it has remained for past several decades.

Khosrow Sobhe
Certified Rug Specialist (CRS)

No comments:

Post a Comment