Size matters - The Bedroom

A question we are often asked is “what is the right size carpet” and even though we, at Ghorbany Carpets, are firm believers that you should buy the carpet you love, there are some general guidelines you can follow when looking for a carpet for a specific space. Today we will discuss the Bedroom

Oversized carpets: a big trend at the moment is to place an oversized carpet in the bedroom with either all the furniture on top or half the bed on top. Both of these are perfectly fine options and it creates a wonderful romantic ambience in the bedroom. The size that would generally work in this setting is a 400x300 carpet or larger.

Bedside carpets: an age old favourite is to have two bedside carpets on both sides of the bed and either a runner or larger carpet at the foot. The bedside sizes that can be used are 150x100 or 200x80 (even 200x100) runners. Sizes in front of the bed can range from 180x120, 250x150 or 300x200 if the room allows for a larger carpet. Another option is to place a runner at the foot of the bed that can range from 200x80 to 300x80 or longer depending on the look you want to create. 

Our RUGDEALER'S Top 5 carpet trends for 2019

1- Back to roots: Traditional Carpets

The #trend all over Europe, lead by the new wave of younger carpet owners, is decorating homes with traditional Persian carpets making it the latest #hip accessory and creating conversation starters at dinner parties. After 20 years of moving away from traditional carpets, it is a great pleasure to see this new wave of young adults wanting to purchase heritage pieces from the land of its origin, Iran, and this is causing a move away from copied carpets produced in China, India and Pakistan.

2- Bringing back the bang: Colourful Carpets

The focus is definitely back on Persian carpets as a focal point and not just a blending accessory as was the fashion for the past 2 decades. People are getting their boldness back and individualism is at high peak. Following fashion trends is a thing of the past and making your own unique statement is the new trend.

3- Back to basics: Tribal Carpets

Tribal carpets are making a big come back lending authenticity to native art inspired decor. The free expression as a matter of colour and design will capture the houses of many customers in love with tribal art.

4- Keeping it simple: Monochrome Carpets

For those who understand all the Persian carpet trends, but love the latest contemporary art movement, such as Scandinavian Art Deco, the Berber carpets will be the new must-have home accessory.

5- Back in time: Antique Carpets

For the more sophisticated collector of antiques, we have great news! You are on trend! Considering that antique carpets are getting rarer by day you have an excellent opportunity to add to your collection. This year with the help of social media, your chances of finding antique pieces that would rarely come to your attention, your latest acquisition is just a click away. Our RUGDEALER is a great hunter for excellent antiques that come to the market worldwide. Visit him for a cup of coffee and enter the gate of the exciting world of collecting.

Our Top 5 DO'S and DON'TS on Persian carpets

Owning a Persian carpet is a dream come true for many. Purchasing your prized Persian carpet is but the first step in a long, loving relationship that will hopefully be passed on to your descendants. Knowing how to care for it is the next important step. Ghorbany Carpets have many years’ experience in cleaning, repairing and restoring Persian carpets and here are our TOP 5 DO’s and DON’TS to ensure that your Persian carpet retains as much of its glory as possible throughout the years:

1. DON’T vacuum your Persian carpet too often – vacuum cleaners pull on the carpet and as a result often damage the fringes, sides and pile of the carpet. Even though the fringes and sides can be replaced, it is better to keep the original ones for as long as possible.

DO vacuum only once a week but rather opt for brushing your carpet.

2. DON’T place your Persian carpet in a dark and damp space (i.e. under cupboards, heavy tables and dark rooms) – that is a breeding ground for fish moths and since Persian carpets are made 100% with organic materials it gets infested quickly. Once fish moths made a nest in your carpet they damage the structure which is most times irreparable.

DO place your Persian carpet in light, well aired areas or air the carpet outside in the sun regularly (at least once a month) if the only option is to keep it in a dark space.

3. DON’T place your Persian carpet in an area where direct sunlight will shine on it for long hours daily – the sun will fade the dyes over time. Even though we can repair the faded carpet (in most instances), prevention is better than cure.

DO place your Persian carpets in light, well-aired areas or change the direction of the carpet regularly if your only option is to keep it in a sunny area.

4. DON’T wash your Persian carpet yourself – commercial soaps are very strong and take out the natural oil of the wool which makes it dry and brittle. This will cause the pile to break off and the dyes to fade over time, reducing the value of your Persian carpet.

DO wash your Persian carpet every 2 – 3 years with a reputable Persian carpet cleaner (PS. dry cleaners and commercial wall-to-wall carpet cleaners are not trained Persian carpet cleaners. Damage caused by dry cleaning or commercial washing of Persian carpets is most often irreparable).

5. DON’T store your Persian carpet without mothballs or some form of fish moth repellent! Persian carpets are made from 100% organic materials and is a feast for fish moths if stored incorrectly.

DO store your carpet rolled up or folded with mothballs or other fish moth repellent and air it in the sun at least once a month until it can be placed in its new spot.

At Ghorbany carpets we clean each carpet according to the make and age with experts from Iran overseeing this procedure for each carpet. Give us a call for your rug appointment or contact any of our 4 showrooms for advice!

Our Top 5 most legendary carpets of all time

5.  The Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed Mosque Carpet

The largest hand-woven carpet that measures 5,630 m² (60,600.81 ft²) and was manufactured by the Iran Carpet Company (Iran) comes in at No 5 on our most legendary carpet list. Using 38 tons of cotton and wool, 1,200 weavers from Iran's Khorasan Province crafted the rug over a year and a half under the design direction of Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi. The finished product, which was unveiled in 2007 in time for the opening of the mosque that year, incorporates 2.2 billion individual, hand-tied knots, covers 60,546 square feet, and weighs 12 tons. The carpet was created in 9 parts and assembled in the mosque. The carpet would have been around 6,000 square metres originally, but parts of it had to be taken away in order to fit it onto the floor in the mosque.

4. The most expensive carpet ever sold

The most expensive rug ever sold is the Sotheby’s ’17th Century Antique Persian Carpet’ which sold for $33 Million and makes No 4 on our list of the most legendary carpets. Shattering all records and becoming the most expensive rug ever sold, the auction at Sotheby’s New York baffled everyone and gives credibility to Persian carpets as an investment. This amazing piece of art is probably from the ancient city of Kerman and was a “Sickle leaf, vine scroll” carpet that belonged to the Clark collection. Its intricate design consisted of beautiful vines, gorgeous flowers, and sickle shaped leaves. Only 6 feet x 8 feet in size, it has a beautiful deep red color that still looks magnificent after all these centuries. The previous record for the most expensive rug sold was held by a leaf patterned rug in bright blue colors from the seventeenth century Iran which was sold at Christie’s in 2010 for $9.6 million, which was more than double the previous record of $4.3 million.

3. The purple carpets of King Cyrus

According to the records by the ancient Greek historian, Aristobulus: "In the chamber (of King Cyrus’ tomb) lay a golden sarcophagus, in which Cyrus' body had been buried; a couch stood by its side with feet of wrought gold; a Babylonian tapestry served as a cover and purple rugs as a carpet. There was placed on it a sleeved mantle and other garments of Babylonian workmanship. Median trousers and robes dyed blue lay there: some dark, some of other varying shades, with necklaces, scimitars, and earrings of stones set in gold, and a table stood there. It was between the table and the couch that the sarcophagus containing Cyrus' body was placed. Within the enclosure and by the ascent to the tomb itself there was a small building put up for the Magians who used to guard Cyrus’ tomb.” The purple rugs in King Cyrus’ tomb makes our No 3 on the list of the most legendary carpets because purple is rarely used in the making of Persian carpets since it is a hard colour to get and was most certainly obtained from sea molluscs in the time of King Cyrus. Judging from all the other treasures in his tomb we are certain that these purple rugs were magnificently woven, fit for a king.

2. The Baharestan carpet of the Sasanian Royal Court

The Baharestan Carpet was a large, late Sasanian royal carpet, now lost, but known from historical accounts. It most likely covered the floor of the great audience hall of Taq Kasra, an iwan in the Sasanian capital of Ctesiphon. The carpet was 27m long and 27m wide. Woven of silk, gold, silver, and rare stones, the carpet depicted a splendid garden akin to paradise, and for this reason makes No 2 on our list of the most legendary carpets of all time. When Ctesiphon was captured by the Arab Conquerors in 637 the carpet was seized and sent to the Rashidun caliph Umar, who was in Medina. There the carpet was cut into small fragments and divided among the Arabs. One of the Arabs who received a piece of the carpet was Ali who, although he did not receive the best piece, managed to sell it for 20,000 dirhams.

1. The Pazaryck carpet

The Pazyryk carpet tops our list of the most legendary carpets because it is the oldest surviving carpet in the world. Dating around 5th c. BC it is testament that this beautiful art has existed for millenia. The Pazyryk rug was found in 1949 in the grave of a Scythian nobleman in the Pazyryk Valley of the Altai Mountains in Siberia. The rug had been frozen in the ice and was very well preserved. The rug has a ribbon pattern in the middle, and a border which has deer, and warriors riding on horses. This carpet has 3600 symmetrical double knots per cm² (232 per inch²)..
#ghorbanycarpets #persiancarpets #carpets #rugs #ruglove #ruglife #rugdealer #rugaddiction #legendaryrugs #persianrugs #pazyryk #tombofkingcyrus #baharestancarpet #sickleleafcarpet #sheikhzayedmosquecarpet #iran #carpetweavers #legends #ancienthistory #persia

A day in the life of a carpet dealer in the bazaars of Iran

To be a carpet dealer usually requires lots of patience because it takes a long time to make Persian carpets, to get into the rug world, display it in the showroom and sell it to a customer. In Iran we always say “to be a proper rug dealer you need 3 virtues: the lifespan of Noah, the patience of Job and the wealth of Korah (the cousin of Moses)”. Actually a typical day of a carpet dealer in the bazaars of Iran is quite a busy one. Without mentioning each person’s lifestyle and their involvement with their family and kids and friends, this was a typical day in the life of a carpet dealer in the bazaar of Iran few decades ago:

Carpet dealers believe that the “early bird catches the best worms” so they are known to wake up earlier than most people. If he has not too much to do on a particular day he would wake up around 4am and travel to the countryside to different towns and villages to visit the other bazaars around to look for carpets that they received recently. This takes a few hours of his day. If the carpet dealer has some business to attend to in the bazaar, the first course of action for the day is to visit the carpet cleaning factories that are generally located outside the city, to oversee the carpets they are cleaning for him to discuss the cleaning processes and give some advice. These are usually the carpet dealers that export carpets.

By 9am he goes to his shop in the bazaar to follow up on his orders and transactions and catch up on some other admin work to be done. This is his time to deal with customers (mostly tourists), redecorate his shop and visiting or being visited by other carpet dealers in the bazaar. One of the biggest assets for carpet dealers are the middle men dealers that use motorbikes to go to the houses that wants to sell their old carpets to bring it to the carpet dealers in the bazaar. These middle men receive some commission for their efforts, which in big volumes cover their living costs.

The other thing that is custom in Iran is that some buyers from overseas prefer to deal with one carpet dealer only that they built a relationship with and that carpet dealer may not always have the carpets they want, so he needs to act on behalf of the bazaar and take the customer to different carpet dealers and introduce and negotiate on behalf of the customer. He then will take all the chosen carpets to his shop and warehouse as a collecting point, to finish the transaction and export the carpets with all its documents and wash and repair the carpets (if necessary). The overseas customer does not need to deal with 20 people but only with one carpet dealer who he pays and who will then pay each carpet dealer involved their agreed fee. Lots of times the cleaning factories have some repairmen that do general repairs like fringes and sides for the carpets but there are many professional repairmen residing in the bazaar for more complicated repairs and the carpet dealer needs to supervise and negotiate with these repairmen while he is in the bazaar for that day.

It is tradition to support the restaurants and kitchen houses in bazaar for lunch especially if you have some visitors from oversees or other friends or other carpet dealers from other cities. Some of these restaurants are over 100 years old and it is very difficult not to be tempted by the smell of their food. The tunnel ways of the bazaar is a perfect transportation for the smells. Sometimes in the afternoon after the normal routine of each dealer in their shops the afternoon is dedicated to some discussions with other carpet dealers in the bazaar especially if there is a special carpet that came to one of them and the owner is not sure about its origin or the value thereof. It is custom that carpet dealers will make deals with carpets between themselves if their morning didn’t bring a lot of business because they believe that carpets must be moved, even if it is between themselves.

Usually by 2 or 3 o’clock the bazaar closes for the day and the carpet dealer goes home to spend time with his family. After a little afternoon siesta the carpet dealer goes to his carpet shop that he has in other parts of Tehran, usually the north. These shops are for local customers. Iranian people always support carpet dealers in central or north of Tehran for their own consumption. The shop is usually open until 10pm at night. Tehran is a busy city with around 20 million people so all shops stay open till very late. Our very own Rugdealer had a shop in the north of Tehran which he closed 11pm at night.

This is a normal day of a carpet dealer in Iran but there are many more things a carpet dealer should look after, such as visiting the custom duties offices to release his goods or managing the shipment, visiting carpet exhibitions and having a stand to manage in the more modern set up, or his local and overseas trips to find carpets and customers.

The making of a Persian carpet

Persian carpets have been among the world’s most desired luxury items for centuries. It has adorned palaces, mansions, business, houses and even small apartments. It inspired painters and artisans alike. Its appeal is its beauty, its design and its longevity. All these elements make it a very valuable asset to have. What is maybe less known is that it is also a 100% organic, handmade product. The processes involved in the making of a Persian carpet is many and varied and it starts with rearing a herd of sheep.

Persian carpets are predominantly made from sheep wool, cotton and some with silk. The start of a Persian carpet is getting the raw material that will be used in making the carpet. In city weaving centers the wool merchants have many different types of wool available, whereas tribal weavers (especially nomadic ones) still need to sheer the sheep and then comb, wash and spin the wool into usable threads. The same goes for the silk and cotton that is used in carpets.

In rural weaving areas the wool is dyed with dyes made from plants and insects, hence the term vegetable dyes. The wool threads are placed in a pot with boiling water and dye and boiled until the desired colour is obtained, after which it is hung up to dry. In the city weaving centers experienced dyers dye wool in advance in all different colours and shades ready for the weavers to purchase.

In rural areas a loom has to be built first (unless the carpet is woven loom-less and horizontally) with cotton warps. Nomadic weavers especially do not have the capacity to travel with looms so they opt to make one as needed. In city weaving centers looms for different size carpets are more permanent structures and only the cotton warps need replacing after each carpet is woven.

The designs used in tribal carpets come from the weaver’s memory as taught by his/her parents and grandparents. It is mostly items from everyday life and protective symbols. In city weaving centers carpet designers create designs that are then used by weavers. These designs are called the carpet map and is drawn onto a paper with blocks, each representing 1 knot in the carpet. This allows the weaver to know the colour of each knot. Carpet maps can also be woven miniature examples or a quarter part of the bigger carpet that will be replicated to form a complete carpet.

In rural areas the weaver is left to his own devices to work out the colour of each knot based on the design in his memory whereas city weavers have a “map reader” that reads each knot’s colour per row as the weaver weaves. In previous decades the map reader was a person and this was developed into an art form because map readers would change their “map reading” into a song to ensure that the weavers stay alert and entertained. Nowadays electronic map readers are used more widely instructing the weaver on the colour of each knot.

Knowing which cotton, silk or wool to use, knowing which colour dye would produce which colour result over time, knowing how to make a knot, knowing how loose or tight to weave each knot, knowing how to listen to the map reader, knowing how to weave a design, knowing how to start and finish a carpet…all these skills and more are present in each weaver. Most of them learned by observing their parents and grandparents. It takes years to become a master weaver who can produce a fine silk carpet or a fine wool carpet. Most weavers weave non-stop for 6 hours a day. The perseverance it takes to weave a carpet day after day for months and sometime years is probably their most extraordinary skill. Some carpets are so large that it requires many weavers to weave it at the same time to finish it sooner, so not only do they need to know all the skills but they also have to learn to weave in unison making each knot as similar as they possibly can.

After the carpet is finished it is cut off the loom and in cities a trimming machine is used to shave the pile so that it is even and level. In tribal weaving a scissor is used to achieve this.

After the carpet is trimmed is given to carpet cleaners to wash and dry to ensure that the colour and dye is set. In tribal weaving the weaver will perform this him-/herself.

All carpets woven in Iran is gathered in various carpet markets in all major cities. From here carpet dealers will come to select pieces that they want to sell locally or internationally.

The carpet dealers now have the task to sell each of the woven pieces to interested customers, telling them the process of weaving or stories about the weaver or tribe that wove it and any other interesting fact that relates to the piece. It is the carpet dealer who ultimately must determine the price of each carpet and this is no task to take lightly, for with each carpet he must consider the fineness, quality of wool, intricacy or rarity in design, the colouring, the size, the weaver or tribe who wove it. All this information must be considered because each person involved in the process of making this carpet makes a living from it, each of them an experienced artisan in his own right, and it is the carpet dealer who must ensure that their efforts get rewarded.

Next time you admire your Persian carpet please remember everyone who was involved in bringing that magnificent piece of floor art to you

The Chancay Burial Dolls

The Chancay were a pre-Columbian archeological civilization which developed between the valleys of Fortaleza, Pativilca, Supe, Huaura, Chancay, Chillón, Rimac and Lurin, on the central coast of Peru from about CE 1000 to 1470. Not much is known about the Chancay civilization, which developed in the later part of the Inca Empire. This culture emerged after the fall of the Wari civilization. Parts of the southern Chancay area were conquered by the Chimú in the early fifteenth century and in about 1450 A.D. the Incas were occupying both areas.It is believed that the Chancay had a centralized political structure, forming a small regional state.Thus the Chancay culture declined in the fifteenth century to make way for the territorial expansion of the Inca Empire.

Occupying the central coast coastal region of Peru, the Chancay were centered mostly in the Chancay and Chillón valleys, although they also occupied other areas such as the Rimac and Lurin valley areas.The center of the Chancay culture was located 80 kilometers north of Lima. It is a desert region but has fertile valleys bathed by rivers and is rich in resources that allowed for, among other things, extensive agricultural development.

The Chancay developed intense trade relations with other regions, allowing them to interract with other cultures and settlements in a wide area. The most well-known Chancay artefacts are the textiles which ranged from embroidered pieces, different types of fabrics decorated with paint. A variety of techniques, colours and themes were used in the making of textiles.They used an array of colours including yellows, browns, scarlet, white, blues and greens.

In type of fabric used include llama wool, cotton, chiffon and feathers.Their technique involved were decorated open weave, brocade, embroidery, and painting.Brushes were used to paint anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, geometric and other creative designs directly on the canvases. The Chancay are known for the quality of their painted tapestries. The typically geometric designs also included drawings of plants, animals such as fish, cats, birds, monkeys and dogs (most notably the hairless Peruvian dog)as well as human figures.Birds and deities wearing crescent-like headdresses were one of the more common decorative features.

They produced a variety of goods such as clothing, bags, and funeral masks. The burial ‘dolls’ of the Chancay culture are made of woven fabric, and are normally stuffed with reed or fiber. Some ‘dolls’, such as that of a llama which was displayed in the National Gallery of Australia, have been found to be stuffed with tiny round grains instead. The ‘dolls’ are dressed in gendered garments woven to size, and would usually have tapestry-woven faces with dramatic facial features. Some of these ‘dolls’ have been found to be holding an item in their hands – a ball of cotton, a piece of yarn, or even a musical instrument.

These ‘dolls’ are believed to represent human beings, rather than supernatural beings (such as gods or spirits) based on the details of their costume. These details also serve to show the gender of the ‘dolls’. For example, female ‘dolls’ have netted head cloths, whilst male ones have slings. Additionally, the gender of these ‘dolls’ can be distinguished based on the patterns on their faces. Females are said to have “several variations of diagonal stepped patterns”, whilst their male counter-parts are reported to have a more standardized “pattern of three triangular sections”.

An Uncertain Purpose
The function of the Chancay burial ‘dolls’ is unknown, and much speculation has been made regarding this subject. The fact that these ‘dolls’ have been found in graves adds another layer of complexity to this question...

Sand carpets & paintings: A History

In 2008 Iranian artists created the largest Sand Carpet in the world. As impressive as it is, it is not a new phenomena. Countries celebrating Corpus Christ annually are used to seeing elaborate sawdust, flower or sand carpets created with utmost precision and optimal creativity, the most notable and celebrated being those made in La Oratava.

Sand carpets, however, originate far earlier than their Corpus Christi cousins and the colours and symbol meanings go far deeper than just mere decoration. From the earliest times of mankind's existence we used art to represent and beautify our environment, take cave paintings for instance. As mankind settled into communities art became more elaborate and decorative but symbolism always played the most important part in our arts and crafts. Our ancestors had a firm belief that each symbol held specific powers and when these symbols were embellished or painted or tattooed, it would pass these special powers onto the wearer. Symbols of protection were commonly used in clothing and home decor and special protection and healing ceremonies were held by using these symbols, often in sand paintings or textiles wrapped around the person. Thus the first carpets were not of wool but of sand, the body of our earth (and dust we are and to dust we shall return), and their purpose was for healing, protecting and blessing those that walked onto it. This has not changed because each symbol on a Persian carpet still carries with it these wishes for healing protection and blessings albeit in a far more commercial setting.

Our ancestors understood that every element of earth has certain powers that can assist mankind in various ways. Indigenous Australian art has a history which covers more than 30,000 years, and a wide range of native traditions and styles. These have been studied in recent decades and their complexity has gained increased international recognition. Aboriginal Art covers a wide variety of media, including sand painting, Art is one of the key rituals of Aboriginal culture. It was and still is, used to mark territory, record history, and tell stories about "The Dreaming".

In the sand painting of southwestern Native Americans (the most famous of which are the Navajo (known as the Diné)), the Medicine Man (or Hatałii) paints loosely upon the ground of a hogan, where the ceremony takes place, or on a buckskin or cloth tarpaulin, by letting the coloured sands flow through his fingers with control and skill. There are 600 to 1,000 different traditional designs for sand paintings known to the Navajo. They do not view the paintings as static objects, but as spiritual, living beings to be treated with great respect. More than 30 different sand paintings may be associated with one ceremony.

Tibetan Buddhist sand paintings usually composed mandalas. In Tibetan, it is called dul-tson-kyil-khor (mandala of coloured powders). The sand is carefully placed on a large, flat table. The construction process takes several days, and the mandala is destroyed shortly after its completion. This is done as a teaching tool and metaphor for the "impermanence" (Pali: anicca) of all contingent and compounded phenomena (Sanskrit: Pratītya-samutpāda).

From the 15th century in Japan, Buddhist artists in the times of the shōguns practised the craft of bonseki by sprinkling dry coloured sand and pebbles onto the surface of plain black lacquered trays. They used bird feathers as brushes to form the sandy surface into seascapes and landscapes. These tray pictures were used in religious ceremonies. Japanese esoteric Buddhism was transmitted from East Central Asia after the 8th century, and thus these Japanese Buddhist sand paintings may share earlier historical roots with the more intricate brightly coloured Buddhist sand mandalas created by Tibetan Buddhist monks.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the royal courts of Europe employed "table deckers", who decorated the side tables at royal banquets having adapted the craft of 'bonseki' from the Japanese. The table deckers sprinkled coloured sands, marble dust, sugars, etc. upon the surface of plain white tablecloths to create unfixed pictures of fruit, flowers, birds and rustic scenery. In between each design spaces were left for fruit bowls and sweetmeat dishes so that the diners could refresh themselves in between the main courses of the feast. These ornate pictures were discarded along with the debris of the feast.

Sand painting as a craft was inspired by King George III, who was a skilled watchmaker and craftsman in his own right, and took an interest in the skills demonstrated by royal functionaries, known as Table Deckers, who decorated the white table-cloths at royal banquets with ornate center-pieces decorated by using unfixed coloured sands and sugars as 'paint', and a bird's feather as a 'brush' a craft introduced by a European traveller who had observed the craftsmen at work in Japan. It was while watching the table deckers at work the King suggested that if the sand pictures being temporarily laid out upon the surface of the tablecloths could be fixed permanently in place rather than being discarded with the remains of the feast, this would save much time and energy employing a multitude of skilled embroiderers toiling over such skilled work. So on one occasion the King bellowed to the craftsmen, "Why don't you fix it!" This set a number of craftsmen including Haas, Schweikhardt and Benjamin Zobel, all of German origin, to, independently of each other, successfully develop suitable methods to achieve this goal, and these pictures were commissioned by the royal worthies of the day and became highly prized by the aristocracy.

In the province of Drenthe in the Netherlands in the late 19th, early 20th centuries it was custom to use a stiff broom to sweep patterns in white sand to form simple decorations on the tiled floors of the houses, mostly for special occasions or celebrations. The next day it was swept up. This custom was also practiced in Northern Belgium by the Dutch speaking communities while in Hekelgem, 1973 was the centenary year of the craft of "Old Zandtapijt". The hotels and cafes would employ artisans to strew ornate sand pictures in unfixed coloured sands on the tiled floors of their premises to encourage passing tourists to halt and enjoy local hospitality on their way towards Brussels. 

Tips from the Rugdealer: How to become a Persian carpet collector

Part 1: Lots of people grow up with Persian carpets in the homes of their parents and grandparents and subconsciously feel that a "house becomes a home with Persian carpets". They are naturally drawn to this art and more than likely to buy Persian carpets for their own homes. In South Africa many people end up buying Persian carpets because of marketing strategies of carpet dealers and current decorating trends. Unlike many European countries there isn't a museum in South Africa showcasing historic Persian carpets that can influence the taste and level of understanding and education of the public regarding Persian carpets.

To raise the level from owning a Persian carpet as a floor cover and enhancement of the interior of the house, to the level of collecting Persian carpets as a hobby and clever investment strategy, is a developing concept in of South Africa. In the USA and Europe collecting carpets has moved away from the traditional stigma that only the very wealthy collect Persian carpets, to the level that the top collectors are people who have passion for and knowledge of this ancient art. From architects, psychologists, lawyers and engineers to primary school teachers are among the top collectors of antique Persian carpets today. Collecting Persian carpets successfully, more than money and knowledge and passion, requires a lifestyle that, according to the RUGDEALER, can easily be achieved with high rewards in the current South African environment.

One of the surreal concepts of Earth and the human conscious is the concept of time. Many people have created incredible wealth from buying and using other people’s time. An antique Persian carpet is the captured “millions of moments” of a weaver connected to his culture, geography, history, time and space of a hundred or few hundred years ago. By collecting Persian carpets you are in actual fact collecting moments woven in time that can never be repeated and the first step of collecting Persian carpets is to fully understand this concept. By investing in that antique carpet a part of you as a human being on Earth becomes activated through that carpet and all the moments captured into it and that is hard to achieve through anything else. In this context collecting Persian carpets helps the collector to find himself in space and time and this result is priceless.

From written text to woven art

Our RUGDEALER recently discovered an ancient book (probably around 1,000 AD) about the study of astrology in Persia.

So beautifully was it illustrated that our RUGDEALER decided to recreate a page from this book. This is the result! A unique one of kind carpet bringing to life ancient text. 

The snake as symbol

Long before our fear of snakes came into being they were revered and regarded as creators and protectors of Mother Earth and humanity. The number of snake deities in ancient civilizations is vast and the artefacts representing them innumerable. All this points to our close relationship with the snake, serpent and dragon which were generally regarded as the same. They were benevolent before they became malevolent mostly with the help of Abrahamic religions.

In Eastern practices it is believed that all human beings have a “Serpent power” called our Kundalini and it represents our life force. The Kundalini is thought to be an energy released within an individual using specific meditation techniques. It is represented symbolically as a serpent coiled at the base of the spine. In many cultures around the world it is believed that disease in humans are caused by the absence of this energy in our bodies and in Iran a sick person is called “bimar” translating to “the snake is gone”. According to Carl Jung "... the concept of Kundalini has for us only one use, that is, to describe our own experiences with the unconscious ..."Jung used the Kundalini system symbolically as a means of understanding the dynamic movement between conscious and unconscious processes. Jung claimed that the symbolism of Kundalini yoga suggested that the bizarre symptomatology that patients at times presented, actually resulted from the awakening of the Kundalini. Recently, there has been a growing interest within the medical community to study the physiological effects of meditation, and some of these studies have applied the discipline of Kundalini yoga to their clinical settings.

Another word for this life force is Azoth. As the Universal Life Force, the Azoth is believed to be not only the animating energy (spiritus animatus) of the body but is also the inspiration and enthusiasm that moves the mind. In the cosmos and within each of us, the Azoth is believed to be the mysterious evolutionary force responsible for the relentless drive towards physical and spiritual perfection. Thus, the concept of the Azoth is analogous to the light of nature or mind of G-d. The symbol used for Azoth is the Caduceus. Some accounts suggest that the oldest known imagery of the caduceus have their roots in a Mesopotamian origin with the Sumerian god Ningishzida whose symbol, a staff with two snakes intertwined around it, dates back to 4000 B.C. to 3000 B.C. In later Antiquity, the caduceus provided the basis for the astrological symbol representing the planet Mercury. Thus, through its use in astrology, alchemy, and astronomy it has come to denote the planet and elemental metal of the same name. It is said the wand would wake the sleeping and send the awake to sleep. If applied to the dying, their death was gentle; if applied to the dead, they returned to life. By extension of its association with Mercury and Hermes, the caduceus is also a recognized symbol of commerce and negotiation, two realms in which balanced exchange and reciprocity are recognized as ideals. This association is ancient, and consistent from the Classical period to modern times.

The ouroboros (snake biting its own tail) is another powerful and ancient symbol of the natural flow of life on Earth, birth and death.

In Greek mythology, the Rod of Asclepius is a serpent-entwined rod wielded by the Greek god Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicine. The symbol has continued to be used in modern times, where it is associated with medicine and health care. The Bowl of Hygieia is one of the symbols of pharmacy. Hygieia was the Greek goddess of hygiene, and the daughter of Asclepius. Asclepius' symbol is his rod, with a snake twined around it; correspondingly, Hygieia's symbol is a cup or chalice with a snake twined around its stem and poised above it.

In the biblical Book of Numbers the Nehushtan (or Nohestan) was a bronze serpent on a pole which G-d told Moses to erect to protect the Israelites who saw it, from dying from the bites of the "fiery serpents" which God had sent to punish them for speaking against G-d and Moses.. Many bible students have made the connection between the Rod of Asclepius and the Nehustan, where the stick and serpent were put together in the biblical incident of mass healing. Ancient Mesopotamians and Semites believed that snakes were immortal because they could infinitely shed their skin and appear forever youthful, appearing in a fresh guise every time. Before the arrival of the Israelites, snake cults were well established in Canaan in the Bronze Age, for archaeologists have uncovered serpent cult objects in Bronze Age strata at several pre-Israelite cities in Canaan.

The Sumerians worshipped the g-d of healing but they also have a very interesting Creation story that goes like this:

The Annunaki was highly evolved beings (reptilian in appearance) who escaped to planet Earth after war broke out in their place of origin, the Pleiades constellation. They landed on a mountain (thought to be in Turkey) and desired to seed a colony on Earth. To succeed in this quest they needed some labourers/slaves who were easily controlled and would provide all labour as needed. On Earth at the time, there were no such beings available and they set out to create their own. They also created a place of closure to keep wild animals out and the colony safe and called it “Garden of Eden”. It is only later that we connected the word “paradise” to the Garden of Eden implying a kind of Utopia, but the actual meaning of “paradise” is “garden”. The word derives from the Persian word “paradis” which meant a large forest-like enclosure that was built to house wild animals, by the Ahcaemenid and Parthian Dynasties for the enjoyment of the kings.. The two leaders of the Annunaki colony were Enlil and Enki, both highly advanced scientists who could create and clone modern humans. Enlil (called “Satan” in Sumerian language that translates to “the supreme leader” in English) was in favour of keeping these new humans as slaves and treated them no better than animals. In fact the name “Adam” (Adama in Sumerian) translates to “animal” in English. Enki (called “the serpent” in Sumerian language that translates to “the administrator” in English) was in favour of creating conscious humans that could live independently of their creators. Since the women were the gatherers of food for the human colony and also the source of human reproduction, Enki approached them in secret to transfer the knowledge of consciousness to. It is eerily similar to the serpent approaching Eve in the Garden of Eden and convincing her to eat the “fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil”. Instead of a fruit, in the Sumerian texts Enki showed the women how to craft tools from the trees that would make their lives as labourers easier, but could also help them in self-defence. The humans soon after ascended the mountain to where their controllers lived to fight for their freedom with tools forged from the trees, but the weaponry and advanced skills of the Annunaki led to near annihilation of the humans and they were kicked out the garden forever, completely cut off from their creators. In later translations of this text to Akkadian and other Semitic languages the story was adapted to become the Semitic creation story as we know today.

The ancient Chinese self-identified as "the descendants of the dragon" because the Chinese dragon is an imagined reptile that represents evolution from the ancestors and qi energy. The presence of dragons within Chinese culture dates back several thousands of years with the discovery of a dragon statue dating back to the fifth millennium BC from the Yangshao culture in Henan in 1987, and jade badges of rank in coiled form have been excavated from the Hongshan culture circa 4700-2900 BC.] Some of the earliest Dragon artifacts are the pig dragon carvings from the Hongshan culture. The coiled dragon or snake form played an important role in early Chinese culture. The character for "dragon" in the earliest Chinese writing has a similar coiled form, as do later jade dragon amulets from the Shang period.

In Iran there is the following legend about the queen of snakes, Shahmaran: Thousands of years ago, there were wise snakes living in the underground. Their names in Iranian are maran and they are extraordinarily intelligent and caring. They live in peace. The queen of the marans is called Shahmaran. She is all-knowing, beautiful, and leads with grace. According to legend, a young wood-seller named Cemshab is the first human to see the marans. As the story goes, he is exploring a cave full of honey with friends; but they abandon him in order to take more honey. Alone, Cemshab sees an unusually light-filled hole in the back of the cave. He pulls away the rocks and finds deep within the cave is a magnificent garden. He crawl in, and is surrounded with light, flowers, and snakes. One of the snakes is coloured milky-white, Shahmaran, she is the most beautiful. He gains her trust, staying to live for many years in the underground garden. Shahmaran tells Cemshab that he was able to find her, and only him alone because of his pure heart and his Ajna (third eye), which allows him to see past the physical world and into the other worldly realm. One day after many years, he decides he would like to see his family again. So Shahmaran helps him leave, provided that he promises not to tell anyone about the maran cave. He keeps his word for many, many years.

But one day The Sultan of the land got very sick. The Vizier (the high official of the land) says that only cure is eating meat of Shahmaran, to acquire her youth and wisdom. Word gets out that Cemshab knows where to find her. He resists, but is forced to show them the way, under the threat that his loved ones will be killed if he refuses. Betrayed, the wise Shahmaran says to Cemshab: "make me boil in an earthenware dish. Let the sultan eat my meat and make The Vizier drink my boiled water." When that happens, the Vizier dies, the Sultan keeps living.and Cemshab becomes Vizier.

The centuries old Persian poem 'Mar Nameh' (book of snakes) describes in verse a method of augury; what seeing a snake on every one of the 30 days of a month will mean and what omen it will portend, indicating the importance snakes played in Persian life. And as can be expected snake symbols are widely included in Persian carpet designs. The symbol often looks like an “S”. We found a very interesting article on snake symbolism that would make great further reading: 


Ghalamkar - the Persian cloth

The latest addition to the Ghorbany Carpets antique collection is this sofreh ghalamkar (tablecloth) from the Safavid Dynasty circa mid-18th century. The name is derived from two Persian words: Ghalam (stylus/pen) kari (craftsmanship). The history of Ghalamkar fabrics date back to the Sassanid period, the fourth Iranian dynasty and the second Persian Empire (224 - 651 CE).

The fabrics were all hand painted with brush and pen. They reached their height of popularity specially during the Safavid dynasty.( Esfahan was the capital of the kingdom at the time) To meet the high demand, the Ghalamkar artists began using wooden frames and stamps that were mostly made from old peach trees. This technique drastically expedited the printing process and enabled the artists to create homogeneous patterns. ‏In the past, Ghalamkar fabrics have served multiple purposes.The Safavid Kings, nobles, and the upper class, wore Ghalamkar silk and cotton clothes ornamented with gold and silver. The fabrics were also used to decorate the interior, frequently utilized as curtains, bedspreads, and wall coverings

‏The exalted art of Ghalamkari is a symbol of longevity, love, and resilience of an ancient tradition that through many peaks and troughs, has been passed to us generation after generation, and heart to heart but It seems that after the pinnacle of popularity, this tradition has entered a stagnant stage and if not for the artists, the legacy may not have survived.

Extract: Farana

The Harpies

They are said to have been feathered, with cocks' heads, wings, and human arms, with great claws; breasts, bellies, and female parts human.....

The harpies seem originally to have been wind spirits (personifications of the destructive nature of wind). Their name means "snatchers" or "swift robbers"and they steal food from their victims while they are eating and carry evildoers (especially those who have killed their family) to the Erinyes.

When a person suddenly disappeared from the earth, it was said that he had been carried off by the harpies.Thus, they carried off the daughters of king Pandareus and gave them as servants to the Erinyes.In this form they were agents of punishment who abducted people and tortured them on their way to Tartarus. They were vicious, cruel and violent..... They are named Aello ("storm swift") and Ocypete ("the swift wing"),and Virgil added Celaeno ("the dark") as a third.Homer knew of a harpy named Podarge ("fleet-foot").Aello, is sometimes also spelled Aellopus or Nicothoe; Ocypete, sometimes also spelled Ocythoe or Ocypode....

As with many other mythical creatures they were often depicted and immortalized in art as can be seen from the pictures below.

Our Rugdealer got published!

Congratulations to our RUGDEALER whose article on the search for the identity of “the man on the carpet” got published and translated to German in the Carpet Collector magazine in Germany. We are proud of you!

The Article:

While browsing through the catalogue of the Major Spring Auction of Rippon Boswell & Co., scheduled for 2 June 2018, I came across a Kurdish Persian carpet from Bijar in Lot 54, dimensions 76 x 85, circa 1900 with an estimated selling price of 750 EURO. This carpet instantly grabbed my attention, not because it has the Herati design on a sky blue background typical of Bijar, but because it showcases a man with unusual clothing (considering traditional Iranian attire at the time) and his shirt looks like the modern-day rainbow flag.  He is holding a sword in his left hand but his right hand is shown in a very gentle pose with his fingers crossed. I found this quite contradictory since he is donning a horned cap typical of a warrior and he has a most glorious moustache that reminded me of legendary singer, Freddie Mercury, who is from Persian descent (so by the way). The other contradiction that I noticed was the warrior had a very flat, feminine-looking groin. I wondered who in Persia in the 1900’s would possibly be dressed this way wearing a cape, a necklace and something that looks like modern-day stockings…

To solve this mystery I decided to post this controversial piece on my Facebook page to enlist the help of my learned friends (who also have wonderful senses of humours), these were few of the guesses:

Ugljesa Stanimirovic: “Some stoned raver”

Mark Kambourian: “Fabio?”

Salih Kocak: “Rostam e zal” (a legendary warrior of ancient Persia)

Ben Banayan: “Astrix!”

Farzin Mollaian: “A french warrior” (he also posted a similar rug that he has had in his collection for the past 20 years)

After all the giggles I remembered that I have seen a similar carpet in a book called “Iranian Carpets: Art, craft and History” by E. Gans-Ruedin on page 440. There is a carpet from Kerman dated 1896 in the collection of The Carpet Museum of Iran, Tehran, dimension 195 x 131 cm with an inscription in French: “Guerrier Franc” translating to Frankish warrior. Behind the warrior on this rug lies a dead soldier. The cartouche gives the following indications: Prince Abdul Hossein commander-in-chief (Farman farma), chief warrior (Salar lashghar) date 13/13 (1896). I published this new clue to Facebook and my friend, Fawzan Shaltout, mentioned that it could by “Don Giovanni”. Other guesses were “Alexander the Great” and “Robin Hood”. I was very happy to settle for “Don Juan” because to my surprise there was a Persian character called Uruch Beg later known by his baptized name of “Don Juan” (1560 – 1604) in Spain. He was also known as Faisal Nazary, a native Iranian from the Bayat Qizilbash clan. He later moved westward, settled in Spain and converted to Roman Catholicism. Whilst in Spain he wrote an account of Iran, his involvement there with Shah Abbas first, and his journey to Spain in the Persian Embassy sent to Europe later. He was killed in 1604 during a street fight in Spain. All these clues made me believe that we are talking about none other than our Persian Don Juan.

Mystery solved, sipping my morning coffee, I received a late comment from my friend, Maher Jawat saying he doesn’t think that this is the Persian Don Juan. What?! After all that work it could be someone else?! He mentioned that in his mind this Bijar was copied off of a Kerman carpet (similar to the one I found in the book), which was woven at the time that Mr Farman Farma ordered many carpets to be woven off French lithographs. Prince Abdul Hossein (Farman Farma) 1857 -1939, was one of the most prominent Qajar princes and one of the most influential politicians of his time, in Persia. He was born in Tehran to Prince Nosrat Dowleh Firouz and was the 16th grandson of the Qajar crown prince Abbas Mirza. He was the commander in chief of the army in Azerbaijan in 1890 and the governor of Tehran in 1896 as well as Kerman and Kurdistan. His last title was prime minister of Persia in 1915. Maher also published a picture from Encyclopedia Britannica that eerily resembled the man on the carpet. Shocked by this discovery, I was back to the drawing board. Who was this mystery French warrior on the Bijar?

I decided to research who the Frankish warriors were and I came across Clovis I. He was the first king of the Franks to unite all the Frankish tribes under one ruler and lived from 466 to 511. He is considered to be the founder of the Merovingian dynasty that ruled the Frankish kingdom for two centuries. Finding drawings of Clovis’ likeness convinced me that this is the man on the carpet. In French drawings however he is depicted as a very manly warrior, no gentle hand gestures, crossed fingers or flat groin...I can only conclude that the centuries of British and French conflicts and chilly relations resulted in each portraying the other as less masculine than the other. But at last the mystery is solved! Vive le Corvis!

The Catalyst

We all know about him, we love his words and ideas, he is the bestselling poet in America and possibly many other countries, and Hollywood is even contemplating making a movie about his life. We know him as a mystic, an enlightened person, a teacher and the creator of the swirling dervish….I am of course talking about Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī or just Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet whose writings have been widely translated into many different languages. His influence transcends national borders and ethnic divisions: Iranians, Tajiks, Turks, Greeks, Pashtuns, other Central Asian Muslims, and the Muslims of South Asia have greatly appreciated his spiritual legacy for the past seven centuries. We all know his words and teachings, but what do we know of him? How did Rumi become this “master” of enlightenment? It all started with a catalyst called Shams Tabrizi and their story goes like this…

Rumi was born in Balkh during the time of the Persianate Seljuk Sultanate of Rum in 1207. His father was Bahā ud-Dīn Walad, a theologian, jurist and a mystic from Balkh, who was also known by the followers of Rumi as Sultan al-Ulama or "Sultan of the Scholars". The profession of the family for several generations was that of Islamic preachers of the liberal Hanafi rite, and this family tradition was continued by Rumi. When the Mongol Invasion started Walad, his entire family and followers started migrating westward and finally settled in Konya, Anatolia, on the invitation of the ruler. During this journey Rumi married Gowhar Khatun in Karaman with whom he had two sons. After her death he remarried and had another son and a daughter. Rumi was trained in Shariah and the Tariqa and after his father’s death, he inherited his father’s position as head of the madrassa (aged 25). Rumi’s public life started and he became an Islamic Jurist and gave sermons in the mosques of Konya. He was the most important member in the society and part of the elite group of aristocrats, highly respected and acclaimed. But this was all to change...

Shams Tabrizi was a powerful mystic known by many not just for his teachings, but also for his wild ways. By all accounts he was rude, obnoxious, and crude. He was a wanderer nicknamed "the Bird" (because he never stayed long anywhere, to great relief of everyone) and many thought him to be utterly mad. During the travels of Rumi and his family, Shams noticed him in one town and thought him to be a great candidate to teach and train as mystic, but Rumi was only 21 at the time and too young according to Shams, so he decided to give up the idea. Many years later Shams was still searching for a student to teach, but because of his reputation people avoided him, until "a voice" came to him one day and told him that "The one you seek is Jalal ud-Din of Konya". Shams remembered the promising candidate he met once and decided to go to Konya to find him.

On a day in 1244 Shams (clothed in black from head to toe), arrived in the famous inn of Sugar Merchants of Konya. He introduced himself as a travelling merchant looking for “something which he could only find in Konya”. Soon he found the promising candidate, Rumi (now in his late 30's), reading next to a large stack of books, approached him and asked, "What are you doing?" Rumi (thinking that Shams was a homeless, nosy and uneducated wanderer) scoffingly replied, " This is knowledge that cannot be understood by the unlearned”. On hearing this, Shams threw the stack of books into a nearby pool of water. Rumi hastily rescued the books and to his surprise they were all dry. Rumi then asked Shams, "What is this?" To which Shams replied, "Mowlana, this is knowledge that cannot be understood by the learned”. And with that Rumi was hooked and this meeting pretty much sealed the fate of Shams. From that moment on the two were inseparable, master and student, best friends, close companions, soul mates, seekers of enlightenment.

Rumi was an aristocrat and member of high society. Shams was a wanderer and wild man. Their relationship was not accepted by society and was hugely frowned upon. After moving into Rumi’s house Shams received various death threats and decided to leave shortly after. Rumi fell into a deep depression after losing his friend, and everyone in his family and the society were worried about him and his health. At this time Rumi was more famous and important than the emir, so the town and his family decided to bring Shams back. Someone spotted him in Damascus and once they told Rumi of this, he immediately sent a caravan laden with gifts for his master as well as his oldest son, to beg Shams to return.

Return Shams did. This time Rumi got clever. He arranged for a marriage between his only daughter, Kimia, and Shams to legalize their relationship and to create endless opportunity for them to spend as much time together as they wished. It was an outrage then and it would have been an outrage now, for his daughter was 12 (which was not an unusual age to be married back in the 13th century) but Shams was far older, just over 60, and not a refined aristocrat. Soon his family and the entire town regretted their participation in the return of Shams, this only escalated when Kirmia died a few months after her wedding. There is no historic records to show how she died, but there is enough records to show that everyone pointed fingers at Shams. The family of Rumi and the entire town were blaming him for her untimely death and they decided to get rid of him, once and for all. One night when Shams and Rumi were having their usual private sessions, there was a knock on the door. Shams went to open it and disappeared without a trace.

Rumi again fell into a deep depression, thinking that his mentor and friend, again left without saying goodbye. He offered rewards for finding Shams, he sent search parties everywhere, but Shams was never to be seen again. The official story is that Shams ran away to Khoy where he died shortly after. His tomb is still there and has been nominated as a World Cultural Heritage Center by UNESCO.

The “other” story is that Rumi’s youngest son, of his first marriage, was very close to his half-sister Kimia, and when she died he arranged for the honour-killing of Shams. Not only for causing the death of his sister, but also for bringing disrepute to his father’s image and legacy. The whole town was in on the conspiracy and Shams’ body was never found. No one ever revealed the truth to Rumi.

Whatever the truth, Rumi never recovered from the loss of his close companion, master, friend and soulmate. After waiting 40 days for the return of Shams or any news of him, Rumi put on a black cloak that he wore for the rest of his life and he completely gave up all his positions held in society. Like so many artists before and after Rumi the sheer excruciating, soul destroying agony of losing such an important person became the catalyst of transforming Rumi into the poet he became. Out of the depths of his despair and utter heartbreak, poured nearly 70,000 verses of poetry collected in two epic books, the Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi and Masnavi.

In honour of Rumi, The Mewlewī Sufi order was founded in 1273 by his followers after his death. In 1284 Rumi's younger and only surviving son, Sultan Walad, was installed as grand master of the order. The leadership of the order has been kept within Rumi's family in Konya uninterruptedly since then.

Seven hundred years of Oriental carpets by Kurt Erdmann, 1970

Our Rugdealer recently added the Seven hundred years of Oriental carpets written by Kurt Erdmann in 1970, to the Ghorbany Carpets LIbrary. This book is of significant importance for anyone interested in the history of Oriental carpets. The writer, Kurt Erdmann is also an important figure in the Oriental carpet world and has spent his entire academic life in identifying and classifying them.

Born in Hamburg, Mr Erdmann studied German Literature but soon developed a deeper interest in European art history. In 1927 he was invited by Friedrich Sarre to join the work on his publication, together with Hermann Trenkwald, about ancient oriental carpets. Erdmann's scientific interest remained with oriental rugs throughout his entire career.

He was the first to describe the "four social layers" of carpet production (nomadic, village, town and court manufacture). He recognized the traditions of village and nomad carpet designs as a distinct artistic tradition on its own, and described the process of stylization by which, over time, elaborate manufactory designs and patterns were integrated into the village and nomadic weaving traditions. Until Erdmann published his studies, art historians influenced by the nineteenth century "Vienna School" around Alois Riegl used to understand the process of pattern migration from court and town to village and nomad as a degeneration. Consequently, art historians focused more on the elaborate manufactory rug designs, which they saw as the most authentic. Erdmann was among the first to draw attention to the village, tribal, and nomadic rugs as a distinct and genuine form of artistic expression.

Erdmann also established the structural analysis as a means to determine the historical framework of rug weaving traditions within the Islamic world. While oriental rugs and Sasanian art were his two main fields of interest, Erdmann also worked on a variety of other subjects, including Achaemenid art, and Turkish roadside inn architecture.

He was a professor at the universities of Berlin, Hamburg, Bonn, Cairo, and Istanbul (1951-1957) and as Head of the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin, a department of the State Museums of Berlin, today the Pergamon Museum from 1958 until 1964/ He was also a member of the German Archaeological Institute.

Excerpts: widipedia

Jaipur Safavid Garden Carpet

THE CARPET COLLECTION of Albert Hall Jaipur Museum includes this 'Persian Garden Carpet' (pictured here is the first photo of the entire carpet assembled by our RUGDEALER, Shervin Ghorbany), and it is the best and earliest of all such Persian Garden Carpets existing in the world. It was purchased in the time of Mirza Raja Jai Singh I in 1632 A.D. The theme is 'Char- Bagh' / four gardens, showing a tank at the center with animals catching fish from all sides and garden plots in five colours. It's place of origin is believed to be Karman (?) in Persia, a great carpet making center in the early part of the 17th century.

The carpet depicts a formal Persian garden, divided by streams into four main garden sections. These are further subdivided into two or more sections with smaller garden plots. There is a pavilion that has a blue dome and richly decorated interior with a throne, from which the Emperor could enjoy a view of the splendid garden. The garden and orchards within are supplied with water from the central tank, with two big ponds on either side of it by the main channel. The channel motif appears to have been inspired by the system introduced by Shah Abbas the Great (1526-1628) in and around his capital. It was known as the 'Isfahan Channel System'.

The central tank as picturised, shows fish, duck, turtles and some fabulous Chinese animals. Ferocious beasts appear to break the serenity and peace of the garden when a stag-kylon is cought in the jaw of a lion-kylon. Other ferocious animals include a Chinese monster and a fabulous dragon devouring a fish. As every animal is preying upon another the fish too turn aggressive biting stags and birds. Avenues and orchards of flowering and fruit laden trees adorn the channels and plots, full of birds on the ground, in the air and in nests. 

While the ground colour of the avenues and much of the carpet is red, the groups of square garden plots around the central tank are in five colours. The group of four garden plots at the top and bottom are in four colours. The chequework of varied coloured plots is a unique feature of the carpet and contribute to its incomparable magnificence. The warps are of cotton knotted fourfold, while the weft threads are brown wool and silk knotted twofold. The carpet is 28'4”x12'4” in size. Text is cited from the museum site itself.

The Sangesari Tribe of Iran

In the Semnan province of Iran there is a town called Mehdi Shahr, previously called Sangesar, that is the main centre of the Sangesari tribes. Usually from September to March they settle in this centre before travelling their normal routes during the other part of the year. They are the most important tribe of the Alborz Mountain area and have the longest nomadic path duration of all nomadic tribes of the Iranian plateau, that stretches up to 1,500 km in length. Bernard Hockard, head Iranoligist in Europe, believes that the Sangesari tribe’s nomadic route is the longest in the world. He also commented that their Summer camps are the most elegant that he has ever encountered.

Majority of their traveling occurs during Spring and Summer and their tents are made specifically to withstand the hot sun. These tents are black because they are made from goat hair and surprisingly it is called “goot/ goat” in Farsi. One of the most amazing facts about these tents is their correspondence to ancient Iranian architecture. Inside the tents there is a dedicated space for family (andarooni), guests (birooni) and also the kitchen. These spaces are separated by woven walls that is unique to the Sangesari tribe.

The women’s clothing is also very special. It is one of the main duties of women to make clothes from wool and silk for domestic use. Variety of these clothes and fabric, compared to other nomadic tribes, are by far more elaborate. Some of these fabrics and their uses are as follows:

- ‘sargira’: this is usually very fine woolen fabrics used by women to completely cover themselves, similar to the modern day chador.
- ‘kajin shevi’: this is the finest silk fabric made by the women to wear as a shirt.
- ‘ferakh serval’: these are multi layered skirts usually decorated with a large floral design.
- ‘makene ‘: this is a needle point fabric unique to the Sangesari women to cover their hair.

Other woven products of the Sangesari tribes are changum (woven earrings for ladies) and also pallas (heavy duty, colourful floor coverings). Apart from all their unique fabrics, the Sangesari tribal members are also master weavers of carpets and kilims, that shows a possible heritage from the Tati tribe of Iran.

In my opinion these peoples are the oldest surviving Persian-speaking nomadic people of Iran with roots in the Parni/Aparni tribe of pre-historical times that lived south-east of the Caspian Sea. It is also believed that their original homeland may have been Southern Russia from where they immigrated with other tribes. The Parni were one of three tribes of the Dahae/Dahan confederation. The other two tribes were the Xanthii and Pissuri.

Majority of the Tati woven products were mistakenly categorized as Kurdish, Shahsavan or even Baluchi, depending on which of these tribes were in their vicinity at a particular time. My biggest hope is that we can one day clearly distinguish the Tati weaving from the other tribes, especially considering that the Tati’s are spread out from east-Caucuses to Khorasan and are therefore also influenced by tribes in each area.

An interesting fact is that one of the sheep breeds in Iran is called Sangesari. The ratio of meat compared to the entire weight of the sheep is the highest in the entire world, making up 60% of the animal. This lamb meat is regarded as the most delicious and tender in Iran. The Sangesari tribe use the milk of sheep and goats to produce 32 different dairy products. Some of them, like ‘varhun’ (a dense buttery fat) and ‘arisheh’ (a thick fried cheese similar to haloumi cheese) is unique to this tribe. They also make a local kind of chocolate called ‘chico’ that makes wonderful gifts for guests visiting them. Dr Farhadi from Iran believes that the dairy production of this tribe is so well developed that many modern dairy factories cannot compete and could learn from the Sangesari.

One of the oldest celebrations of the Sangesari, showing their pure Persian origin, is ‘Aniran/Neroon’ which means ‘Everlasting light’. It happens in the middle of September and lasts for nearly one week. One of the traditions in this celebration is hanging pomegranates (anar) onto the horns of sheep and then encouraging the sheep to run around in the fields so that they can break open the pomegranates, which translates to a sign of fertility and prosperity for the next year. On the last night each family do a stock take of the animals they own and record the number.

The Sangesari tribe has their own calendar that is very similar to the calendar that was used in Ancient Iran during the Sassanid era. This calendar and the terminology used in it is also very similar to old Khorasan and Khwarezm languages that is indicative of the possible common ancestry of the Sangesari and Sogdian tribes. 
- Translated and edited by Shervin Ghorbany 

Meeting the king

For centuries the only contact Iranians had with the west happened through merchants, predominantly rug dealers, who travelled from east to west and on return to the east told stories of the west to friends and family. The difference in culture between the two sides and the observations made, often made for comical tales. One such tale is that of the first visit of an ambassador of Iran to Britain.

Mr Mirzah Abul Hasan Khan Shirazi was the ambassador of the Qajar Dynasty of Iran and the first to visit Britain. His uncle, Ibrahim Shirazi, was the main character who helped the Qajar Dynasty to take over power from the Zand Dynasty and was the Prime Minister for the first two Qajar kings. Historically they were landlords and a wealthy family of Shiraz. This helped Mr Shirazi to be chosen as the ambassador of Persia.

The Persian delegation to Britain was tiny, only eight members made the trip: Mr Shirazi as ambassador, a chef - since the Persians were very concerned about the quality of the food they might have to eat in Britain, two servants, a secretary and three heavily armed guards - since the Persians were worried about their safety when travelling in an unknown country. Mr Shirazi kept account of all events as was required by the king of Iran, in his journal. The trip lasted from 1807 to 1816. Persians always chose an auspicious day as the day of departure for such a long journey and for Mr Shirazi’s convoy it took a good 20 days before such a day arrived (with the king’s permission of course), where all celestial signs confirmed that the journey would be favourable if they left on the particular day.

When they reached British soil they slept in the best hotel of Plymouth. The foreign affairs ministry of Britain made sure that the management of the hotel understood that the ambassador of Iran is a very important man and that he should be treated like a king. The poor manager assumed that because the visitors came from the Middle East they would be very cold in Britain, so he put multiple blankets and heaters in the rooms to emulate the scorching Middle Eastern heat. Mr Shirazi mentions in his journals that it was so hot in the hotel that he couldn’t sleep and instead walked around his room and the hotel with a whole host of hotel staff following him around (in case he needed anything).

The following day the Persian party of eight travelled to London by coach  The Persian guards were heavily armed since they didn't know what dangers might befall them in this unknown land. What they were blissfully unaware of was the frightening spectacle they were to onlookers who observed the foreigners travelling through their country with such weaponry. Mr Shirazi wrote how impressed he was with the speed of the British coaches but his amazement soon turned to dismay when on their arrival in London there were no Londoners lining the streets to greet them. This was one of the elaborate customs in Iran, the entire population of the capital would come out to meet any foreign king or dignitaries on their arrival. Mr Shirazi interpreted the lack of such a spectacle as a "cold welcoming" by Britain of Iran and as much as the British reps tried to explain that it is not British custom and thus the lack of Londoners welcoming the ambassador is not a sign of disrespect, the ambassador was convinced that this is indicative of Britain giving Iran the cold shoulder. He repeatedly told the British rep that he himself is not upset by the cold welcoming of the Londoners, but he would not know how to explain this to the Persian king without causing trouble in the relations of the two countries.The British Foreign Affairs provided the best hotel to the Persian delegation and even though they received the best service, the ambassador never stopped complaining about the cold welcoming in Britain that he received. After two days of arrival, Mr Shirazi became anxious to take the letter of the Persian king to the king of Britain, since any delay would show even more disrespect and he may be beheaded for this on his return to Iran if he records this in his journals. As luck would have it, the king of Britain was ill at the exact time of the visit and that is what caused the delay in meeting the Persian delegation. After a few more days, the ill king of Britain made an effort to meet with the Persians.

Mr Shirazi thought that the British king George III would be exactly like the kings of Persia with the same customs, for example the king of Persia is not easy to meet in his palace. When a person is lucky enough to get the opportunity to meet the king, he should walk very cautiously towards the king and constantly bow to the king, at a certain point he needs to remove his shoes and await permission to approach the king whilst the king is sitting on his throne. If he is lucky enough to be granted this permission by the king only then would he be allowed to move closer. If any foreign ambassador visits Iran, they would never be granted permission to give their king’s letters directly to the king as they would deal with the prime minister instead.

So when the ambassador of Iran entered the room in the palace that he was shown to, he assumed that the old man waiting in the middle of the room was the butler to the king, who would tell him when to remove his shoes and direct him to the king’s throne room where he would await permission to approach the king to hand him the letter of the king of Iran. Imagine his shock when the British rep told him that the “old butler” is in fact the king of Britain. How amazed he was to be granted such close unsupervised contact with the king so easily. After this trip, he returned to Iran and luckily did not lose his head. Instead he became the foreign minister of Iran some years later. 

Arthur Upham Pope and the Survey of Persian Art

Ghorbany Carpets recently added the “Survey of Persian Art” written by the esteemed Iranian Art connoisseur, Mr Arthur Upham Pope, to our Library collection. Anyone who loves and studies Persian carpets eventually find their way to this extraordinary person who dedicated his life to studying and documenting Persian carpets.

Arthur Upham Pope was born in Rhode Island in 1881. He graduated from Worcester Academy in 1899 and Brown University in 1904. He taught there for two years and received a master's degree in 1906. He pursued further graduate work at Cornell University and Harvard University and again taught at Brown until 1911, when he was hired by the philosophy department at the University of California, Berkeley. He soon gave up teaching philosophy and pursued his passion for Persian art, which had begun with an early interest in Oriental rugs. He had organized his first museum exhibition of Middle Eastern carpets while still an undergraduate at Brown. Following a divorce from his first wife (who later became the author Bertha Damon), in 1920 Pope married his former student Phyllis Ackerman (1893-1977), who had completed a doctorate in philosophy at Berkeley in 1917 and shared his interest in textile arts. They had collaborated on an exhibition of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst collection in 1916 at the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, and they continued to be partners in many projects for the rest of their lives, each crediting the other with greater expertise.

By the early 1920s, Pope and Ackerman had developed a great deal of expertise as historians of Persian and related art, and they became advisors to major collectors and museums on the acquisition of Islamic art and artifacts. Pope's museum clients included the Metropolitan Art Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, and Philadelphia Museum of Art. He also advised wealthy individual collectors including Calouste Gulbenkian, William Randolph Hearst, George Hewitt Myers, and John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

In 1923, Pope was appointed director of the not-yet-opened California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Ackerman was named assistant director, and the two traveled in Europe to develop a collection for the new museum. Before long, however, their relationship with Alma Spreckels, patron of the museum, deteriorated and they resigned. Pope remained interested in museum planning, publishing an article on "Museum fatigue" in 1924 and writing and lecturing about a new museum plan for San Francisco.[4] He was a consultant to the planning process for an art museum and opera house in the Civic Center of San Francisco in the mid-1920s. In 1924 Pope and Ackerman bought the house in San Mateo, California they called "Scholars' Cottage" from its architect and first occupant, Ernest Coxhead. They sold it in 1943 and it later became a state and national historic landmark.

Pope made his first trip to Iran in the spring of 1925. He gave a speech urging Iranians to appreciate the architecture of their past and to use it as inspiration for modern buildings. Reza Shah Pahlavi, then prime minister and later Shah of Iran, heard the speech, met Pope, and began taking a personal interest in Persian architectural restoration and revival. He authorized Pope to enter key mosques to study and photograph their architecture and became a lifelong supporter of Pope's pursuits in the field.
In 1926, Pope helped design the Persian pavilion and organized an exhibition of Persian art for the Sesquicentennial Exposition in Philadelphia. That year he also organized the first international congress on Persian art; he would lead four more of these congresses over the next 40 years. By 1927, he and Phyllis returned to San Francisco and pursued additional design projects, including an ornate Persian-palace-style interior for the penthouse of the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco and the interior of the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, where they made extensive use of Middle Eastern kilims as well as Native American artifacts.

In 1928, Pope founded the American Institute for Persian Art and Archaeology, which was incorporated in New York City in 1930 and later became the Asia Institute. He enlisted other scholars to teach and conduct research under the auspices of the institute, and he led numerous trips to Iran from 1929 to 1939 to photograph art and architecture and participate in archeological excavations. The six-volume Survey of Persian Art from Prehistoric Times to the Present was published by Oxford Press in 1938-39, and Pope and his colleagues arranged for several exhibitions of Persian art in the U.S. and Europe to coincide with the publication.

In 1964, during a state visit to Iran, Pope and Ackerman were formally invited to move the Asia Institute to Shiraz, Iran, where it would be affiliated with Pahlavi University and housed in the Narenjestan. They accepted the offer and in 1966 moved to Iran, where they would spend the rest of their lives. Their remains lie in a mausoleum on the bank of the Zayandeh River in Isfahan close to Khaju Bridge.

The Asia Institute became a part of Pahlavi University and gradually declined, especially after the Islamic revolution in 1979. Eventually, the Bulletin of the Asia Institute was revived in Michigan in 1987. In 2010 the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the museums Pope advised, presented an exhibition, "Arthur Pope and a New Survey of Persian Art", curated by Yuka Kadoi. In conjunction with the exhibition the museum held a symposium in which international scholars of Persian art discussed the life, achievements and influence of Arthur Upham Pope.

Although Arthur Pope was a controversial figure in those days, his contribution to the cataloguing and determining of origins of Oriental rugs have greatly assisted current day Persian carpet enthusiasts to further their own studies in this art and to add pieces of great value to their collections.

Excerpt: Wikipedia

The last of the Qajars

Iran has had its fair share of regime changes and challenges of territory and throne often resulting in short lived dynasties, but every now again a new Persian dynasty would form that would stand the test of time and withstand threatening forces and assassination attempts. The first such empire of course is the Achaemenid Dynasty formed by Cyrus the Great in 500BC, Next we have the Parthian Dynasty who took Persia back from the Greeks in 247BC. Following them were the Sassanid Dynasty that ruled from 224AD until the Arab Invasion in 651AD. The next great Persian Empire started with the Safavid Dynasty that ruled Persia from 1501AD until 1736AD. After the decline of the Sassanids the Afsharid and Zand Dynasties each had a short lived rule over vast territories of Iran, but it would be the Qajars that would again form a long lasting dynasty in Persia in 1789AD. They would also be the last to do so.


The Qajars ceased the throne of Persia in 1785 and the first decades of their rule was bloody and brutal. After the dynasty crushed any resistance and regained control of all areas of Persia as it was at the time of the Safavids (and more), their rule became more settled and peaceful. There are a lot of art legacies from the Qajar times, from portraits to architecture that is exquisite and awe inspiring, yet the economy of Iran started to decline in the late 19th century and the people became restless. They pushed for reforms and wider freedoms across all classes but the shah of the time, Mohammad Ali Shah, would not agree. After he was successfully exiled to Russia his 11 year old son, Ahmad Shah, was placed on the throne.

Due to his young age his uncle acted as his guardian and adviser during his rule as king. Unfortunately for the young king, the world was in turmoil and with a threatening Russian force invading Persia and lack of cohesive decision making, the power of the Qajar kingdom diminished over time. Persia started losing ground and this gave rise to military intervention from the Persian Army to regain the strength of the country. In 1923 Ahmad Shah Qajar traveled to Europe on an "extended holiday" and was successfully overthrown in a bloodless coup by Colonel Reza Khan, later known as Reza Shah Pahlavi, whose line would be the last line of kings of Persia before the revolution in 1979. This marked the end of the last longlasting Persian Dynasty, Qajar, in 1925 after ruling Persia for 136 years.

The boy king died in exile in France in 1930 due to ill health. His wish was always to return to Persia and continue his reign until his last day, but he never recovered from the sadness of being exiled from his beloved Iran. This carpet of his image was woven in Kashan over 100 years ago at the time of the reign of Ahmad Shah Qajar - Ghorbany Carpets Private Collection.

The Safavid garments

The clothing worn by all the great empires of the East was always elaborate and highly fashionable, long before the Europeans caught up with them. The woven textiles of Persia generally followed designs of Persian carpets and vice versa and to own one of the jackets, vests and copes made by the masterful hands of weavers was certainly high on the list of the powerful, not only to showcase their elite status but also to pay homage to the excellent makers of it. Most of the surviving examples were woven during the Safavid Dynasty of Iran who were tremendous patrons of the arts. Many incredible pieces were woven under their rule. In this article we have a look at four distinct garments that were woven during this artistic era.

In the V&A Museum is this most interesting cope woven in the 17th century in Isfahan, Iran. This is a spectacular example of the art made for a Christian community living under Muslim rule in the Middle East. Known as a shurjar, it may have been made for an Armenian church in Isfahan, which had a large Armenian population.

Armenian priests wore this vestment to celebrate Mass. Its semi-circular form is similar to the western cope. The Crucifixion would have been at the priest’s back, and the figures of Mary and the Archangel Gabriel formed an Annunciation scene on his chest.

This shurjar was woven as a carpet with a very fine silk pile. It is now fragmentary as a previous owner began to cut it up, probably to provide carpet samples. It is made from knotted silk with floral and figurative designs executed in ochre, pink, green, deep blue, pale blue, and white, on a rich red ground. The entire surface is covered with Iranian scrollwork motifs, of blooming flowers and leaves. Within this pattern are figurative scenes of the Crucifixion and the Annunciation to Mary. The cope bears two Annunciation scenes, one at either side of the opening at the front of the cope. On the back, and, at the centre, the cope bears a depiction of the Crucifixion.

This jinbaori vest was made to wear over armor. It was reportedly owned by Regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi and has been preserved through time by Kodai-ji Temple, established in memory of Hideyoshi by his widow, Kita-no-Mandokoro.

This vest was woven of silk using tapestry techniques. The textile may originally have been a carpet made in Kashan in Persia. The design of a lion attacking his prey is a traditional motif in Persian carpets. Such carpets were imported into Japan by Portuguese ships in the Momoyama Period. Placing textiles on the floor, however, was incongruous with the Japanese life style, so the Japanese rarely used them as carpets.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the high-spirited Momoyama-Period military ruler, tried to maintain an atmosphere of luxury even within his military camps by turning exotic textiles such as Persian carpets into jinbaori vests.

This garment may have been included in the rich gifts sent by Shah Ṣafī to the Russian court in the 1630s. It is a short, fitted coat (nīm-tana) fastened at the side and ornamented with human designs in velvet on a ground of gilded silver brocade; it was presented by Tsar Michael I to Queen Christina of Sweden in 1644 and is now in the Royal Armory in Stockholm, Sweden.

What is interesting is that this was a jacket worn by males, so why would the tsar give this to the Swedish queen? Queen Christina became ruler of Sweden after the death of her father, king Gustav II Adolph. Christina is remembered as one of the most educated women of the 17th century. She was fond of books, manuscripts, paintings, and sculptures. With her interest in religion, philosophy, mathematics and alchemy, she attracted many scientists to Stockholm, wanting the city to become the "Athens of the North”. She caused a scandal when she decided not to marry and in 1654 when she abdicated her throne and converted to Roman Catholicism. She changed her name from Kristina Augusta Wasa, adopting the name Christina Alexandra.

Before Gustav Adolf left for Germany to defend Protestantism in the Thirty Years' War, he secured his daughter's right to inherit the throne, in case he never returned, and gave orders to Axel Gustafsson Banér, his marshal, that Christina should receive an education of the type normally only afforded to boys.

Already at the age of nine Christina was impressed by the Catholic religion and the merits of celibacy. She read a biography on the virgin queen Elizabeth I of England with interest. Christina understood that it was expected of her to provide an heir to the Swedish throne (her first cousin Charles was infatuated with her, and they became secretly engaged before he left in 1642 to serve in the Swedish army in Germany for three years). Christina revealed in her autobiography that she felt "an insurmountable distaste for marriage" and "for all the things that females talked about and did." As she was chiefly occupied with her studies, she slept three to four hours a night, forgot to comb her hair, donned her clothes in a hurry and wore men's shoes for the sake of convenience. Her unruly hair became her trademark.

Relations between Russia were very tense for many decades but there were no wars or hostilities during the time of Christina’s reign. It makes perfect sense, therefore, that Tsar Michael would gift this precious jacket to Queen Christina, first as diplomatic offering and secondly as a nod to Christina’s preference for masculine clothing.


In the MAK Museum in Vienna is this exquisite ceremonial jacket dating from the Safavid Era in Iran is another great example of the extraordinary workmanship employed at the time to produce textiles that became the desire of the entire world. Not much else is known about this garment apart from the approximate era, size and materials used.

Object name: Embroidered ceremonial Safavid jacket
Title: Persischer Leibrock
Execution: anonymous, Iran (Persia), about 1600
Material: cotton <textile> (Grund), silk (Stickerei), linen (Futter)
Technique: embroidered (ganzflächig), tabby (plain weave) (Grundgewebe), printed textile material (Futter)
height: 117 cm
width: 207 cm

The Persian Carpet - A. Cecil Edwards

Mr Edwards were born in Constantinople in 1881 into a family who owned a carpet manufacturing business in Turkey. The company bought and produced Persian carpets for export to the United Kingdom.

 As an OCM employee, Edwards moved to Hamadan, north-western, in 1911, where he built and managed his own carpet production for the company. He and his wife were fascinated by Persian culture. In 1923, they left Iran, traveled to Pakistan for a few months, and finally went to London. There Edwards took over the management of the OCM and expanded its business activities in the United States. He also oversaw the outsourcing of carpet production to India in order to reduce production costs. During the Second World War the family moved to Oxford and then returned to London.

His masterwork was The Persian Carpet (1953), published posthumously and repeatedly reissued. The monograph is still one of the standard works on the Persian carpet. It describes in detail the production, colors, patterns and the stylistic development of the Persian knotted carpet in the different provinces of Iran, as well as the history of the regions, their carpet production, number of looms and production figures since the end of the 19th to the middle of the 20th century, and gives an outlook on the future of the carpet industry under the influence of the European market. It was positively reviewed in The Burlington Magazine who praised it for its up to date and detailed treatment of the weavers then working in Persia.

In August 2017 the book was still described in The Times as "an invaluable aid to carpet dealers".

Antoine Sevruguin

Antoine Sevruguin was a Persian photographer during the late 19th century into the early 20th century, when the Qajar Dynasty was ruling Iran, who took portrait and landscape photographs all over Iran. His work contributes as greatly to the historical documentation of Iran and its people today, as it did during his lifetime.

His portraits were of typical ethnic groups and their occupation, in Iran. They informed the European viewer, unfamiliar with Persian culture, about the looks of regional dress, handcraft, religion and professions. Photographing regional costumes was an accepted method of ethnological research in the nineteenth century. Many European ethnological museums bought Sevruguin's portraiture to complement their scientific collection. Museums collected pictures of merchants in the bazaar, members of a zurkhana (a wrestling school), dervishes, gatherings of crowds to see the taziyeh theatre, people engaged in shiite rituals and more. Sevruguin was a photographer who had no boundaries in portraying people of all sorts of social classes and ethnic backgrounds. He portrayed members of the Persian royal family as well as beggars, fellow countrymen of Iran or Westerners, farmers working fields, women weavers at work, army officers, religious officials, Zoroastrians, Armenians, Lurs, Georgians, Kurds, Shasavan, Assyrians, and Gilak.

In 1908 the world was denied the rich collection of Sevruguin’s images when Cossacks of Muhammad bombed his store in suppression of Zahiru’d-Dawla, the constitutionalist Governor of Rasht. His house, along with the whole street was burned. Up to that point Antoin had seven thousand plus photographs. Only two thousand were salvaged.

Later, In an attempt to modernize Persia, Reza Shah Pahlavi (reigned from 1925–1941) confiscated his remaining traditional images. After his death from a kidney infection Sevruguin’s images resurfaced. His daughter, Mary, reclaimed a portion of the photos, 696 of his negatives survive today.

Due to the attempted modernization of Iran and its people some of the traditional and cultural customs and clothing were lost, but thanks to Sevruguin's photos we can remember what life was like during the Qajar Dynasty.

The Good Doctor

Abu Ali Sina (known in the West as Avicenna) placed his hand on the patient’s pulse, and mentioned the names of the different districts and continued until he reached the name of a quarter at the mention of which, as he uttered it, the patient’s pulse gave a strange flutter. Then Abu Ali repeated the names of different streets of that district and different houses till he reached the name of a house at the mention of which the patient’s pulse gave the same flutter. Finally, he uttered the name of different households of that house until he reached a name at the mention of which that strange flutter resumed. Thereupon he said: This man is in love with such-and-such a girl, in such-and-such a house, in such-and-such a street, in such-and-such a quarter: the girl’s face is the patient’s cure” ....This is how the Iranians used the pulse rate in ancient times long before western knowledge....It might surprise you that till 400 years ago the only texts in western medical universities were of Abu Ali ibn Sina ....

A page from an art collector's book: Charles Tyson Yerkes

In our article about the Baghdad carpet we mentioned that it was sold to Mr Charles Tyson Yerkes (June 25, 1837 – December 29, 1905), who was an American financier. The lives of collectors like Mr Yerkes are often filled with adventure, misadventure and interesting facts that we, these days, seldom encounter and that make the art, such as the Baghdad carpet, that they collect even more interesting. Mr Yerkes is a very interesting character. He played a major part in developing mass-transit systems in Chicago and London. When Charles Tyson Yerkes decided to leave Chicago for New York City in 1895 he had everything he wanted—a staggering fortune and successful career as a financier and street railroad titan. Three years earlier he had donated nearly $300,000 to the University of Chicago to build the Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin which included the world’s largest telescope. The only thing he could not achieve was acceptance into high society.

Yerkes had started out in the brokerage business in Philadelphia, where he also began developing traction and street railways. As his fortune increased, the married Yerkes noticed the 16-year old Mary Adelaide Moore. Mary, called Mollie by her friends, was one of nine children of a chemist and before long was Yerkes’ mistress. Charles Yerkes was more ambitious than scrupulous and in 1871 was sent to prison for embezzling $400,000 in city money. His teen-aged mistress faithfully visited him there, earning her the nickname “prison angel” by the prison officials. Yerkes discovered upon his release that both his and Mary’s reputations among society were irreparably ruined—he was seen as a scoundrel, she as a home wrecker. He divorced his wife and in 1880 took Mary to Chicago where they married. Mary failed utterly as a hostess, partly because of Yerkes’ merciless business tactics. By 1896 when the Yerkes New York mansion was nearing completion at No. 864 Fifth Avenue the robber baron had taken a new teenaged sweetheart. Emilie Grigsby was exactly the age that Mary had been when he met her—just sixteen. When Yerkes and his wife moved to New York, Emilie would not be far behind.

The mansion on Fifth Avenue was called by a Chicago newspaper “a palace.” Designed by R. H. Robertson, the brownstone pile rose five stories and stretched 100 feet along Fifth Avenue—four times the width of an average rowhouse—and 153 feet along 68th Street. The Yerkes mansion announced that he and Mary had arrived. The house was called “not only one of the handsomest in New York, but it is one of the most extensive.” The house next door and the lot behind the mansion would become art galleries,The outer entrance doors were framed in bronze and the inner doors were platinum-plated bronze. Upon entering the vestibule, the visitor was surrounded in marble of various shades and colors. The walls were clad in polished red marble. Pilasters separated panels of different colored marble, the floor was inlaid black and sienna marble and even the ceiling was marble in “a richly coffered design.”
The two-story entrance hall, like the vestibule, was completely constructed of marble. “Just beyond the door are two columns with pilasters of rich purple marble, with Ionic capitals of white marble and bases of Istrian marble,” as described by Barr Ferre later. Yerkes apparently felt that marble was reflective of success and taste and even the Drawing Room was clad in the stone. “The walls, from floor to ceiling, are wholly encased in Cipollino marble,” said Ferre.

The grand marble staircase rose to the second floor loggia and “serves as a monumental approach to the Italian Palm Garden,” wrote Ferre. “It is a spacious and delightful place, having the true character of an indoor, or winter garden…All of this interior is of white marble, save the cornice, which is copper.” As with most lavish homes of the 1890s the Yerkes mansion had period rooms. The Music Room was Louis XV in style with frescos by Will H. Low. The Dining Room was Elizabethan with highly-carved quartered oak walls and a vaulted ceiling. There was an East Indian Room, an Empire Room, and a Japanese Room—a near requirement of the time. The Library was finished with antique 16th century panelling.

The main bedrooms, dressing rooms and bathrooms on the second floor were sumptuous. The fireplace of the Charles’ bedroom was black onyx and the “adjoining Dressing-Room is trimmed with rosewood and has a gold-leaf frieze and ceiling. His bed had once belonged to King Ludwig of Bavaria and sat upon a dais with two steps covered in green velvet. The Bathroom has a polished marble floor and wainscot, above which is a gold frieze and ceiling with a silver cornice. The bathtub and basin are of marble and a shower is enclosed within a marble screen.” Mary’s oval boudoir was pronounced “one of the most charming [rooms] in the Mansion.” Her bed had belonged to King Leopold of Belgium. Below ground were the billiard room, a bathroom for guests, and the wine cellar. The walls of the billiard room were covered in leather with patterns formed by brass-headed nails.

Although he had failed in Philadelphia and Chicago, Yerkes attempted to push his way into New York society. He dressed Mary in the most expensive fashions and jewels. But again she fell short. Wealthy New Yorkers already knew of their reputations and Mary’s heavy drinking and clumsy manners added to the problem. She made public scenes, once interrupting a play by loudly announcing that the “Lady Teazle” on stage was incorrect—the actress was wearing pink whereas a portrait in her husband’s collection proved that Lady Teazle wore yellow. 
Mary’s fury over her husband’s flagrant affair with Emilie Grigsby intensified when he built her a magnificent Park Avenue mansion not far away. The younger woman was banned from the Fifth Avenue house where Mary more-and-more lived in isolation. According to The Evening World, “Mrs. Yerkes barred her doors to Miss Grigsby the moment she discovered the truth, and the estrangement of husband and wife dated from that moment, although to the outer world they continued to appear as before.” While Mary drank and sulked, her husband collected. The house filled with irreplaceable artwork and statuary as he spent freely at the auction houses of Europe. The valuable items in the mansion were tempting targets for accomplished sneak thieves. One of them was the cultured and educated Elijah C. Harvey. The New York Times described Harvey on May 12, 1899 as “a mulatto, thirty years old, who is a graduate of an educational institute at Andover, Mass., and who afterward studied for the ministry.” As spring weather that year induced housekeepers to open mansion windows, Harvey took advantage of the opportunity. He would brazenly climb the brownstone stoops and enter the homes through the windows. On the morning of May 3 it was the Yerkes parlor he entered.

For months the East 67th Street Police Station had been receiving complaints from residents of “a burglar who was making extensive depredations,” said The Times. Just two days before the Yerkes break-in, the night watchman at the George Crocker mansion at 64th Street and 5th Avenue had nearly captured the crook. Now this morning housekeeper Mrs. Margaret Fitzpatrick walked into the Yerkes parlor just in time to see Harvey slipping out the window with a silver basket valued at $1,000. The openwork basket was easily identifiable; on one side was Mary’s monogram and on the bottom her full name: Mary Adelaide Yerkes. Two days later when Harvey was detained by Policeman Cornelius Glynn, the burglar put on his best cultured act. “Is it not possible for you to be mistaken in your identification? I never committed a felonious act in my life,” he said. “I protest against this outrage. You must have something more than mere surmise on which to take me into custody.” When that tactic did not seem to be working, Harvey pulled a razor and lunged at the officer. He was arrested and among the pawn tickets in his pockets was one for the silver basket which he pawned for $30. “Nearly all the articles were pawned in the name of Yerkes,” reported The Times.

Even though Charles and Mary were essentially estranged—he spent most of his time in hotels—he kept her in high style. When Emily Grigsby acquired a new Columbia Hanson automobile in 1903, Mary got a custom vehicle. “One of the handsomest of the electrics ever built is the special Victoria, owned by Mrs. Charles T. Yerkes, of No. 864 Fifth Avenue,” said Automobile Topics. By 1904 Yerkes’ art collection had become so great that it required a separate building. The millionaire purchased the mansion next door at No. 860 Fifth Avenue and filed plans to convert it to a gallery. On April 21 The New York Times reported that “The house will be converted into a one-story building, 40 feet front, 100 feet deep, and 41-1/2 feet high, with a façade of carved brownstone and brick. The interior is to be finished in carved marble, decorated with ornamental columns to harmonize with the Winter garden which it will adjoin. It is to have ornamental doorway opening into the present picture gallery.” Two art gallery annexes, one to the rear on 68th Street, and one replacing the mansion next door at No. 860 held Yerkes' massive collection -- photo Library of Congress Architect Henry Ives Cobb designed the annex which cost $20,000—or about $425,000. Shortly thereafter a second gallery was added to the rear of the mansion on 68th Street, also designed by Cobb.

The gallery was a virtual museum Yerkes would not enjoy his new art galleries for long. Before the 68-year old traveled to London in 1905 with Emilie Grigsby he discovered that Mary had found a paramour—a 29-year old fortune hunter named Wilson Mizner. Prior to his voyage, Yerkes pressured Mary for a divorce and tried to get her to leave the mansion, threatening to leave her out of his will. She refused but was left seriously concerned about her security.
While in London Yerkes became seriously ill. Emilie nursed him for five weeks until he was well enough to sail home. In the meantime, Mary did some snooping. Later, in 1909, “The Federal Reporter” would say “In October, 1905, when Mr. Yerkes was in London, Mrs. Yerkes had his safe in 864 Fifth avenue, the combination of which was known only to Mr. Yerkes…drilled open, and she found in it, among other things…a bill of sale dated Mary 24, 1896, assigning to her ‘her executors, administrators and assigns, all and singular the furniture and household goods together with each and every painting and picture now contained in the house, No. 864 Fifth avenue.” As long as Charles Yerkes died before he had a chance to change the will, Mary was in good shape. Yerkes arrived in New York in November and went directly from the steamer to the Waldorf-Astoria. Had he gone home, he would have found that Wilson Mizner was living in his mansion. Instead, doctors and nurses crowded into his suite in the hotel and tried to save him. Rather than asking to see Mary, he repeatedly called for Emilie. The beautiful young mistress stayed by his side, in obvious despair, while doctors advised “against the visit of Mrs. Yerkes,” according to newspapers. He died on December 29, 1905 with Mary and her sister in an adjoining room. Mary briefly considered going into the room to reconcile; then told her sister “It is too late now,” and after his death commented “I think I did right. He treated me shamefully.”

Charles T. Yerkes’ body was removed from the Waldorf-Astoria in a wicker basket and taken to the mansion on Fifth Avenue where it was transferred into a rich wooden casket. Mary had the house protected by a team of detectives to keep unwanted interlopers—presumably including Emilie Grigsby—away from the funeral. Roundsman Sheehan told reporters “We have orders to shoot any one who tries to go up those steps. And we’ll carry out orders.” Yerkes coffin, draped in black velvet and dripping with purple orchids, was carried down the brownstone steps to the hearse by six detectives. The Evening World reported “Only six carriages followed the hearse, and neither Miss Emilie Grigsby nor any member of her family was in the cortege.”

New York society waited to hear if Emilie would be beneficiary to any of Yerkes’ millions. But Yerkes had died before he had time to change his will and on January 3, 1906 the terms were publicized. The will, according to The Ottawa Free Trader on January 5, “leaves practically all the vast estate, estimated at $15,000,000, to Mrs. Yerkes and the two children for their life use…After the death of Mrs. Yerkes the family home and its magnificent art collection, supported by an endowment of $750,000, becomes a public gallery.” The newspaper added “Whatever provision was made for Miss Grigsby…if any, evidently was made by gift before the magnate’s death. It is reported that Mr. Yerkes, only a few days before his death, gave Miss Grigsby a check for something like $250,000, which was dated ahead, and therefore is worthless, as the magnate died before the date of the check.” Emilie Grigsby, however, had nothing to worry about financially. Charles T. Yerkes had left her quite well taken care of.

If Mary Yerkes still had any aspirations of social climbing, they were dashed when the newspapers reported of her marriage to Wilson Mizner less than a month after her husband’s death. On February 1, 1906 The New York Times said “Mrs. Mary Adelaide Yerkes, the widow of Charles T. Yerkes, and Wilson Mizner were married at the home of Mrs. Yerkes at 864 Fifth Avenue, at 8:30 o’clock on Tuesday evening.” The newspaper added “Mrs. Mizner is 45 years old. Mr. Mizner is not yet 30.” The Times shocked proper readers by saying “Wilson Mizner has been in town for several weeks. He has been stopping at the Hotel Astor, and has received many telephone messages from Mrs. Yerkes. Immediately after the receipt of every message Mr. Mizner went in a cab to the Yerkes residence.”

Before long Mary realized that Mizner was only after her millions and shortly after the wedding she told a reporter “Just another idol shattered. That’s what all this money has done for me. Robbed me of all my real friends, made me doubt them all, suspect and fear them.” She divorced Wilson Mizner in May 1907 and arranged to take back the name Yerkes. Even with Wilson Mizner out of the house, Mary’s life did not get easier. Days after the divorce, Joseph D. Redding appeared. Redding was the lawyer Mary had hired in 1904 when her financial security seemed tenuous. The lawyer was retained to “obtain for her a share of the property of Yerkes including a share of his bonds, stocks, and all securities.” He claimed she agreed to give him twenty percent of whatever she received. Then, the day following Charles Yerkes’ death, he received a letter from Mary dismissing him. Redding now brought suit against her for his twenty per-cent commission.

Her troubles continued. Within a month she was riding down Jerome Avenue in her automobile with two other women “when the party ran foul of Policeman Silverbaur,” reported The Sun on June 10. Mary’s chauffeur, Edward Roshing, was arrested for speeding despite her protesting that they were indeed not going fast. In order to get home Mary gave her house as security so her chauffeur could be released. On June 25, 1908 Mary was once again riding in her car chauffeured by Roshing. Also in the automobile were Catherine Manack and Mary A. Fitzpatrick and Mary’s footman. As the car entered Washington Square Park from West 4th Street, 11-year old Dominick Pasquale ran in front of it. Little Dominick was struck and the footman, Edward Hurley, grabbed the boy in his arms. “Mrs. Yerkes threw open the door of the tonneau, and, reaching her arms out to the lad, said to the foorman: ‘Give him to me and then drive to St. Vincent’s Hospital,’” reported The Times. On the way to the hospital Mary comforted the boy “with promises of baseballs and bats and all sorts of other things if he would only be brave and try not to cry.” At the hospital it was determined that the boy had severe internal injuries. Mary asked the physician to “do everything in his power for the boy.”

Once again Edward Roshing found himself under arrest and, once again, Mary Yerkes was without a ride home. She asked Lt. Noble to send a policeman with her chauffeur so he might drive her home before being arrested. Despite her pleas, she was compelled to send to a nearby garage to hire a driver to take her home in her car. Mary’s greatest problems were to come. The will was contested. Later The New York Times explained “When a division of the estate was attempted, the widow maintained that the Fifth Avenue house and the art collection was her property under deeds of assignment made by her husband. This was not upheld by the probate courts of Cook County, Illinois, where Yerkes had his residence.” Mary was forced to give up the Fifth Avenue mansion and the art collection, all of which was sold at auction.

An advertisement in the New-York Tribune on February 20, 1910 listed part of the “very important collection of exceedingly valuable ancient and modern paintings.” Included were works of art by Rodin, Houdon, Falconet, Boucher and Van Loo. Antiques included Renaissance and Flemish tapestries, Persian rugs of the 15th and 16th centuries and paintings of the great masters. There were four Rembrandts, four works by Franz Hals, and paintings by Boucher, Breughel, Holbein, Raphael, Rubens Watteau and many others. The auction lasted for days and newspapers reported the staggering amounts paid for rare items. A sword owned by Oliver Cromwell and dated 1650 sold for $1,500. A life-sized bronze sculpture of Diana by Houdon brought $51,000; two Carrara marble sculptures by Rodin were purchased by an anonymous donor as gifts to the Metropolitan Museum of Art including this Baghdad carpet. If Manhattan’s elite never passed through the Yerkes doorways for social functions, they did for the sale. Among the buyers were Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Mrs. Cooper Hewitt, Seth Milliken, Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney, Mrs. Herman Oelrichs, and Mrs. Samuel Untermyer.

Charles T. Yerkes fabulous mansion became home to Louis Terah Haggin. Haggin had started out life as a lawyer; but with the death of his father in 1914 he took over the presidency of the Cerro de Pasco Copper Corporation. Of his father’s $20 million estate, Haggin had inherited nearly $4 million, which was quickly increased with the directorships in other companies he took over from his father. The widowed executive lived alone in the massive mansion with his staff of servants. His daughter, Eila, who was married to Robert Tittle McKee, lived nearby at No. 136 East 79th Street. A tireless worker, he was still going routinely to his office in 1929 at the age of 81. In the middle of March that year, however, Haggin contracted pneumonia. He was confined to his bed in the mansion for ten days until he died there on March 26.

Prior to July 1937 the Yerkes mansion and galleries had become a garden to Thomas Fortune Ryan's home.On December 13, 1925 The New York Times reported that neighbor Thomas Fortune Ryan had purchased the house and galleries for $1.1 million. The buildings, it reported, were "to be torn down to enlarge the flower garden of Thomas Fortune Ryan...which will probably be the most valuable garden site in the world." In July 1937 a modern apartment building was erected on the site

The Schwarzenberg Carpet

There is a magnificent Safavid 16th century carpet Size 517x217 in THE MIA Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar of which the origin is not clear. What is known is that this magnificent piece belonged to the Schwarzenberg family for centuries and was housed in their residence in Palais Schwarzenberg, Vienna, so to gather more information on the carpet it is always good to start with its’ provenance.

The Schwarzenberg family’s history starts with the Lords of Seinsheim, who had established themselves in Franconia during the Middle Ages. A branch of the Seinsheim family (the non-Schwarzenberg portion died out in 1958) was created when Erkinger of Seinsheim acquired the Franconian territory of Schwarzenberg and the castle of Schwarzenberg in Scheinfeld during the early part of the 15th century. He was then granted the title of Freiherr (Baron) of Schwarzenberg in 1429. At that time, the family also possessed some fiefdoms in Bohemia.

In 1599, the Schwarzenbergs were elevated to Imperial Counts, and the family was later raised to princely status in 1670. In 1623 came the Styrian Dominion of Murau into the Schwarzenberg family due to the marriage of Count Georg Ludwig of Schwarzenberg (1586 - 1646) with Anna Neumann von Wasserleonburg (1535 - 1623). Furthermore, the House of Schwarzenberg acquired extensive land holdings in Bohemia in 1661 through a marriage alliance with the House of Eggenberg. In the 1670s, the Schwarzenbergs established their primary seat in Bohemia and, until 1918, their main residence was in Český Krumlov, Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic).

At the beginning of the 19th century, the House of Schwarzenberg was divided into two princely-titled lines. This division was already foreseen in the will of Prince Ferdinand (*1652 - †1703). However, the absence of two male heirs until Joseph II. and Karl I. Philipp inhibited the execution. The senior branch,which held not only the Palais Schwarzenberg in Vienna, but also the Dominions of Scheinfeld, Krumlov, Frauenberg and Murau, died out in the male line in 1979 upon the death of Joseph III of Schwarzenberg, who was the 11th Prince of Schwarzenberg. The cadet branch, which was established by Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg at Orlík Castle, continues to the present day. The two branches have now been re-united under the current head of the family, Karl VII of Schwarzenberg, who is the 12th Prince of Schwarzenberg. He is a Czech politician and served as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.

Karl Philipp Fürst zu Schwarzenberg (or Charles Philip, Prince of Schwarzenber, 1771 – 1820, creator of the cadent branch) was an Austrian field marshal and the son of Johann Nepomuk Anton of Schwarzenberg and Marie Eleonore Countess of Öttingen-Wallerstein, He entered the imperial cavalry in 1788, fought in 1789 under Lacy and Loudon against the Turks, distinguished himself by his bravery and became a major in 1792. In the French campaign of 1793 he served in the advanced guard of the army commanded by Prince Josias of Coburg and at Le Cateau-Cambrésis in 1794 his impetuous charge at the head of his regiment, vigorously supported by twelve British squadrons, broke a whole corps of the French, killed and wounded 3,000 men, and captured 32 of the enemy's guns. He was immediately decorated with the Knight's Cross of the Military Order of Maria Theresa.

The Baghdad Carpet

The carpet pictured here is a Safavid era carpet currently in the MET Museum where its place of origin is reflected as Iran. Object Name: Carpet Date: first half 16th century...1530 ? Geography: Iran...(who in MET changed the Baghdad to Iran ?) Medium: Silk (warp and weft), wool (pile); asymmetrically knotted pile Dimensions: Rug: H. 196 in. (497.8 cm) W. 134 in. (340.4 cm) Tube: H. 146 in. (370.8 cm) Weight: 79 lbs. (198 lbs. rolled on tube. tube is 119 lbs. empty) Diam. 20 in. (50.8 cm) Classification: Textiles-Rugs Credit Line: Frederick C. Hewitt Fund, 1910 (the fund that used to buy it from Yerkes estate) Accession Number: 10.61.3


This carpet was first showcased in one of the most important exhibitions of Art history in Paris 1878 where it was called a “Baghdad” carpet and bought by Vincent Robinson of London who sold it to Baron Adolph Thiem of Berlin who in turn sold it to Charles Tyson Yerkes in 1896. In 1910, 5 years after his death , it was bought by the MET still called a “Baghdad” carpet, but later renamed to a carpet from Iran, for unknown reasons.

Another interesting fact about this particular carpet is that it was cut into two halves at some point for unknown reasons, and later a weaver rewove the missing halves onto each carpet, creating two carpets from the one. The one “rewoven” carpet is this one and the other “rewoven” carpet is in a museum in Lyon, France.

As if the above renaming and reweaving is not enough, I was hugely excited to find this carpet and its original attribution to Baghdad, because it always puzzled me why no Baghdad carpets are in museums around the world. Since the time that the Persian king, Cyrus of the Achaemenid Empire, conquered Mesopotamia all of current day Iraq formed part of Persian territories and the capital of the Sassanid Dynasty 500 years later was Ctesiphon, located in current day Iraq, a mere 35 kilometers southeast of Baghdad and considering the massive contribution the Sassanid Empire made to Persian art, it is a given that carpets were woven in the territories of the “old” Mesopotamia. King Cyrus had a tapestry woven in Mesopotamia hanging on one wall of his tomb and it is quite possible that the infamous Sassanid Baharestan carpet,taken as spoils by the Arab invaders in the 7th century AD, was also woven here. The “Iraq” territories remained part of Persia (throughout all invasions) until it was finely taken by the Ottomans. How is it possible that after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the emergence of all the carpets from the Topkapi Palace and elsewhere, that nearly none were attributed to Baghdad or surrounds? 

The lost Hatvany Safavid era carpet fragment

The carpets woven during the Safavid Dynasty of Iran are exquisite museum pieces that reminds us just how incredible this art form was when patronized by royalty. Although there are quite a few surviving pieces in the museums around the world, there are many others that did not survive through the eras due to many wars, fires and destructions. One of these pieces that I recently discovered is a fragment bought by Baron Hatvany for fifty thousand gold francs from a Polish family in Paris.

Baron Ferenc Hatvany (BUDAPEST, 1881 - 1958, LAUSANE), was the son of Baron Sándor Hatvany-Deutsch (1852 – 1913), a leading Hungarian Jewish industrialist, business magnate, philanthropist, investor and art patron. Ferenc was himself a painter and art collector, pupil of Adolf Fényes and Sándor Bihari, he worked in Nagybánya as well and finished his studies at the Academy Julian in Pars. His excellent taste is revealed not only by his paintings, but also by his noted art collection including contemporary great masters of French art: Cézanne, Renoir and Manet,

He later sold the fragment to Edmund de Unger in 1944: described as a mid- 16th century Safavid fragment size:1.94x1.49 that was thankfully photographed by Arthur Upham Pope in his Survey of Persian Art, before being lost or destroyed in WW2. From the photograph is appears that the carpet was likely made from a miniature of the Shah Tahmasp court illustrating him entertaining a guest in the garden pavilion.

For me this fragment is the ultimate showcase of the Safavid court carpets, like the Sanguszko carpet that we wrote about before, that was taken as war booty by Prince Sanguszko from the Ottoman Emperor after the Battle of Khotin and remained in the possession of the Sanguszko family. It was first exhibited in 1904 at St. Petersburg. It was rediscovered by Arthur Upham Pope and shown again in 1931 in London, at the International Exhibition (Congress) of Persian Art, where it caused a great sensation. For the next twenty-three years, Pope had it on loan exhibition" and it became known as the Sanguszko carpet due to its provenance. The carpet was displayed in 1949 for the visit of the Shah of Iran to Pope's Asia Institute in New York. I dare say that the Hatvany carpet was a much finer piece than the Sanguszko.

Saffron - the Gold of Spice

If you know Iranian food you will know that saffron plays a massive role in the overall cuisine from sweet to savoury dishes. Saffron is the most expensive “spice” in the world, it is worth its weight in gold (starting from $811 per kg), and yet in Iran there are many dishes that require this ingredient. It is not necessarily cheaper in Iran than anywhere else, but since 85% of the world’s saffron is grown there Iranians have various different grades of saffron to choose from and through time they learnt how to use saffron sufficiently but sparingly in their cuisine.

Through millennia saffron was not only prized as an ingredient for delicious food, but it was also highly prized as a dye stuff and medicine. The oldest known example of the use of saffron (as a paint) is in a 50,000 year old cave art illustrating beasts, in modern day Iraq. In ancient Persia, saffron (Crocus sativus 'Hausknechtii') was cultivated at Derbena and Isfahan in the 10th century BC. It was used as a brilliant yellow dye in royal Persian carpets as well as funeral shrouds and also as perfume, medicine and ritual offerings to deities by ancient Persian worshippers. Saffron threads were even scattered across beds and mixed into hot teas as a cure for melancholy. Foreign travellers to Persia, however, were widely suspicious of it as they believed it to be a drugging agent and an aphrodisiac, so much so that travellers were fore-warned not to eat the saffron-laced Persian cuisine. In addition, Persian saffron was dissolved in water with sandalwood to use as a body wash after heavy work and perspiration under the hot Persian sun. Its medicinal qualities were so revered that even Alexander the Great used saffron sprinkled in his warm bath water believing, like Cyrus the Great before him, that it would heal his many wounds and his faith in saffron grew with each treatment. He even recommended saffron baths for the ordinary men under him. The Greek soldiers, taken with saffron's perceived curative properties, continued the practice after they returned to Macedonia. From Persia it spread to many different regions where each starting growing its own variant, but Iranian saffron is still regarded as the best in quality today.

So what about saffron makes it so expensive? Firstly, the spice comes from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the "saffron crocus" and is a triploid. It can’t grow in the wild or reproduce without human intervention. Secondly, the gorgeous purple flower is painstakingly propagated and the threads harvested by hand only on the morning it blooms. The more careful the cultivation, the higher the price. The threads are then collected and dried to be used mainly as a seasoning and colouring agent in food. Thus to grow and cultivate this plant is a long and arduous process that require many man hours to succeed.

Gonabad is the main saffron growing region in Iran and it is a dry region with almost no rainfall. To solve the problem of providing water for the saffron crocus, the ancient Persians thought of an ingenius idea to ensure sufficient water supply to this very popular and exclusive spice and other agrecultiral endeavours, they built qanats (a gently sloping underground channel that transports water from an aquifer or water well to surface for irrigation and drinking.

Qanats still create a reliable supply of water for human settlements and irrigation in hot, arid, and semi-arid climates today). The Qanats of Gonabad is ofcourse one of the oldest and largest qanats in the world built between 700 BC to 500 BC, and is still in use today. This site was officially added to the UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 2016 with several other qanats under the World Heritage Site name of "The Persian Qanet”.

In the time of the Achaemenid Dynasty there was a ruling that someone who succeeded in constructing a qanat and bringing groundwater to the surface in order to cultivate land, or in renovating an abandoned qanat, would not need to pay the government any taxes for up to 5 generations after him. Thanks to this engineering feat the cultivation of Persian saffron succeeded and grew through the ages to such an extent that Iran is now the largest producer of saffron in the world, together with pistachio, berberis (zereshk), caviar, stone fruit and berries.