Note: This carpet has now been beat in highest price paid for a piece and square foot as of April 15, 2010 by lot 100 in Christies sale 7845 in London.
October 7, 2009: A 400 year old hand knotted Safavid silk rug from isfahan Persia sold at Sotheby's London, shattering the highest price per square foot paid for an oriental rug. The Rug sold for for 2,729,250 GBP including buyer Premium: $4,335,415.63 USD. Just ~ $100,000 short of the most expensive rug.*
The doris duke rug sold last year for a record $4,450,500 - at a cost of $105,113 per square foot (measuring 5'7" x 7'7")
This Safavid Silk rug below sold this Oct 2009 for $4,335,415.63 - for a record investment of $226,853.11 per square foot (measuring 3'7" x 5'4")
See Sotheby's Lot Report below or Sothebys.com
See more Record sales of Oriental Rugs
Rug Rag Notes (pre-hammer):
This is going to be a rug to watch. Provenance, rarity, completeness, and desirable size are all going to push this carpet far beyond the estimate.
Lot 276 Description
A SAFAVID SILK, WOOL AND METAL-THREAD PRAYER RUG, ISPHAHAN, CENTRAL PERSIA
approximately 163 by 110cm., 5ft. 4in. by 3ft. 7in.
late 16th or early 17th century
All information below as seen on Sotheby's Lot Report
late 16th or early 17th century
with Persian verses in nast'aliq reading:
"As long as there is trace of this earth and sky,
Let the Ottoman house be the supreme lords
On the throne of justice and good fortune
May it be perpetually joyful and successful
Let the name of Sultan Murad
Be the beautifying ornament of sermons and coinage
In Iran, as well as in Anatolia and the Arab lands
Let your might be that of a hero
May your new Spring never ripen to Autumn,
Be young as long as the World is in existence
Let the dust of your carpet, like Mirza Makhdum,
Be the most noble caller to prayer"
The poem commences in the cartouche in the bottom right hand cornerand reads anti-clockwise: the name of Sultan Murad appears in dark redbrown in the upper left hand corner cartouche
This rughas been radiocarbon dated and a copy of the report from the SwissFederal Institute of Technology, Zurich is available on request andaccompanies this lot. The calibrated C14 age of the rug given as 1450AD to 1640 AD with 95.4% probability, (i.e. the probability of an ageoutside these dates is no more than 2.3% before or after). Within theprobable age range of 1450 AD to 1640 AD, the age range with greatestprobability given is 1550 AD to 1630 AD (39.6%).
Warp: Silk, bright blue, 2(?) S-plied, medium depression
Weft: Silk, madder, 2 shoots
Knotting:Silk, asymmetric, ivory, yellow, peach, olive green, apple green,emerald green, spinach green, light blue green, indigo, midnight blue,dark walnut (partially oxidised), deep pink, crimson, deep madder,reddish brown (the words 'Sultan Mourad' only) (15)
Wool, (central cartouche in mihrab), camel coloured (natural camel wool?), Z-spun
Coloured brocading: Silk, ivory, bright blue, teal blue, rose pink, deep orange madder, light brownish madder (6)
Metalthread brocading: Silk, loosely Z-spun, wrapped silver metal thread,S-plied: yellow silk core for ground of mihrab and inscriptioncartouches; ivory silk core for small border medallions, highlights infield and decoration in palmettes
Sidecords: Partially extant, silk, crimson, one cord
Density: 8 V/9 H per cm.
Collection of Rudolf Martin (1864-1925)
thence by family descent
RudolfMartin was a renowned Anthropology professor, who taught at theUniversity of Zurich and the University of Munich, and wrote thehandbook, Lehrbuch der Anthropologie in SystematischerDarstellung, Mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der anthropologischenMethoden fur Studierende, Ärzte und Forschungsreisende, first published in 1914 and re-printed in 1928 and 1956.
The inscriptions on this rug suggest that it may have been adiplomatic gift from the Safavid Persian court to that of the OttomanTurks. Perhaps it was even given on the occasion of the Peace Treatysigned between the two empires in 1590. Were this the case, 'SultanMurad' referred to in the inscriptions would be the Ottoman SultanMurad III (r. 1574-1595) and the rug would have been sent by the courtof Shah Abbas I (r. 1587-1629.). The reference to Mirza Makhdum, wouldtherefore probably refer to Mirza Makhdum Sharifi (1544/5-1587) who wasa preacher in Qazvin. He fled to the Ottoman Empire from the hostilityof a Qizilbash faction in c.1576 and was subsequently appointed thechief qadi of Mecca.
This unusual prayer rug appears to be an addition to the corpus ofSafavid Persian niche rugs previously regarded as part of the 'Salting'or 'Topkapi' group of rugs. Named for a carpet bequeathed to theVictoria and Albert Museum by George Salting upon his death in 1909,the attribution and dating of this group of rugs fell into question inthe mid-20th century with some scholars suggesting they were copies of Safavid work manufactured in late 19thcentury Turkey. Revered by early scholars such as A. U. Pope, F.R.Martin, F. Sarre, E. Kühnel, W. von Bode and G. Migeon they wereconsidered superb examples of Safavid weaving. When these rugs appearedon the market they were purchased by renowned collectors such asCharles Yerkes, Dikran Kelekian, Albert Goupil, Stefano Bardini and E.Paravicini; with several of them now in institutions such as theMetropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Carpet Museum in Tehran, andthe Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. In 1999 Michael Franses studied anddocumented the 89 then known niche rugs of Persian design that wereconsidered part of the 'Salting' or 'Topkapi' group, see Eiland, M.L.,Jr. and Robert Pinner, eds., Oriental Carpet and Textile Studies, vol. V, part 2: The Salting Carpets,ICOC, 1999, pp. 42-67. These rugs all feature a Persian design and, asin the example here, the majority (70) includes calligraphicinscriptions, with 41 examples having metal thread brocading, ibid,p. 53. Thirty-five of these prayer rugs remain in the collection of theTopkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul, with at least 20 now in Westernmuseums and collections believed to have once also been in the Topkapicollection, ibid, p. 42. These rugs were most probably sold bythe Topkapi palace during the throws of the Russo-Turkish war of1877-78, see Mills, John, ibid, p. 10. The authors furtherpresent evidence that the 'Salting' or 'Topkapi' rugs are the productof Safavid Persia with the confirming support of C-14 dating results.Scholarship has since come around to accepting that these rugs wereproduced during the Safavid period with more recent discussions of thegroup being Jon Thompson, Milestones in the History of Carpets, Milan, 2006, pp. 220-223; "Auction Price Guide," Hali, issue 144, p. 115 and Sheila R. Canby, Shah 'Abbas; the Remaking of Iran, London, 2009, pp. 80-81.
The present rug shares it unusual asymmetric design with one ofthese rugs, that known as the "Dancing Dervishes Persian Niche Rug" nowin the Mevlana Museum, Konya, see Eiland and Pinner, op.cit.,no. 55, p. 101. Like the rug offered here, the "Dancing Dervishes rug"is believed to be woven with silk and metal threads, however, thisinformation came from F.R. Martin's The History of Oriental Carpets before 1800, Vienna,1908 and the rug was not examined by the authors in 1999. Martinascribed the Dancing Dervishes rug to Yezd, circa 1590, see Martin, ibid,fig. 147. Both of these rugs feature poetic inscriptions in theirborders, with the Dancing Dervishes rug also bearing a Ka'aba symbolwithin the arch. According to the Mevlana Museum directory of 1930,this rug "was presented to the Tomb of Mevlana by an Ottoman sultan onhis return from a journey to Iran," Eiland and Pinner, op.cit.,,p. 101. In addition to sharing an asymmetric design of very elegantswirling vines, the present and Dancing Dervishes rugs also employ anunusually shallow arch that is confined to the top quarter of thefield. Many of the Safavid niche rugs have a more prominent arch, whichoccupies almost half of the design.
Here, the metallic ground offers a superb neutral foil to thevividly colored and exquisitely drawn palmettes, vines and curlingleaves of the design. This is a characteristic of the Safavid'Polonaise' silk and metal thread rugs, although here the varied andfresh coloring is much more like that found on the silk foundation,wool pile carpets woven at Isphahan in the 16th and 17th centuries, for one example: the Rothschild/Cittone carpet, lot 221, Sotheby's New York, September 20, 2001.
The border of this rug where calligraphic cartouches encircle theentire rug is found more often in larger Safavid carpets such as thoseillustrated as plates 1156 through 1162 in A.U. Pope, A Survey of Persian Art,Oxford, 1936-9, than in the prayer rugs, with only two similarexamples, the d'Allemagne niche rug and one of the Topkapi Saray nicherugs, no. 33, see Eiland and Pinner, op.cit., nos. 76 and 77, pp. 108-109.
Safavid prayer rugs such as this rarely appear on the market, withthe most recent example being the 'Perez "Topkapi" wool and metalthread prayer rug,' sold Christie's London, 13 October 2005, lot 50subsequently published in Thompson, op.cit., pl. 22 and mostrecently included in the British Museum exhibition, "Shah 'Abbas; theRemaking of Iran," 19 February to 14 June 2009, and accompanyingcatalogue, see Sheila R. Canby, op.cit., pl. 45, pp. 80-81.
*most expensive rug by being hand knotted, and top price (not by square footage). The most expensive rug of all time is the Pearl Carpet of Baroda, which is not actually hand knotted.
image as seen on elitechoice.org
content and other information from sothebys.com