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