Fine Antique Rugs and The Evolution of a Collection- Part 2

Fine Antique Rugs and The Evolution of a Collection- Part 2

by Jan David Winitz, President and Founder of Claremont Rug Company

Volume 7, Issue 4

Hadji Jallili Tabriz Antique rug in a Louis XVI sitting room

London parlor with 175-year-old Persian Tabriz from renowned Hadji Jallili workshop. Collectors of court-inspired, formal Oriental carpets gravitate toward exquisite examples from the major urban centers, such as Tabriz, Kashan, and Kirman.

In part one, I discussed two fundamental considerations for budding collectors of antique Oriental rugs to take into account: which pieces to buy and how much to invest.

Now, I will address the importance of developing a strategy for assembling a collection based on your personal taste and how to choose rugs that are most apt to grow in rarity and value.

A frequent question my clients ask is “how do I develop an educated eye?” I use my “Nine-Point Methodology” to help them determine a rug’s level of artistry and craftsmanship and its condition relative to its age. It also addresses a rug’s artistic aspects, such as the uniqueness of its color palette and pattern language, and the extent to which it is singularly unique.

I help clients comprehend the distinction between the small percentage of antique rugs that are “art-level” and the bulk of pieces which, although original and beautiful, are more decorative in nature. Regardless of the region in which it was woven, and art-level piece combines a series of traits that separate it from the norm.

Palatial reception area displays rare 150-year-old Persian Laver Kirman corridor carpet with a rare Persian Dorasht Vase Rug displayed as wall art on the stair landing. Collectors particularly enjoy using foyers, entry halls, walls, and vestibules as places to exhibit a favorite piece.

Using both the “Nine-Point Methodology” and my Oriental Rug Pyramid™ as resources provides a pragmatic approach to assessing a carpet’s merits. The six-level Pyramid groups rugs into categories that begins with historical Museum-Quality rugs, which are usually held in private museums, at the apex. Rugs in Levels 2 (High Collectible) and 3 (Connoisseur Level) of the Pyramid are art-level rugs of the magnitude appropriate for collecting and investment, as well as exquisite for home display. Levels 4 through 6 are ideal for furnishing a home with beautiful, non-collectible rugs.

Persian Mohtasham Kashan antique rug in waterfront Miami Florida condo with asian inspired decor

High-Collectible room size Persian Mohtasham Kashan graces the seating area of this seaside home. Asian art collectors find in top-tier Persian floral carpets the level of refinement that underscores the serene ambiance they prefer.

For a rug to be art-level, it must possess a breathtaking depth of beauty. A profound balance and harmony between a rug’s colors and designs, qualities central to Eastern artistic philosophy are essential. The finest of these rugs reflect both the tremendous diversity and underlying unity of the natural and cosmic worlds.

From Left: Extremely difficult to find, 19th century Tehrans are cherished by collectors of formal rugs for their lush, highly detailed botanical patterns. Close inspection of this one-in-the-world piece reveals a great variety of lifelike animal and bird forms.
Caucasian Karagashli Shirvan rug (circa 1850)/ Among the most oft-collected rig styles are examples of the 85 subgroups of the tribal rugs from the Caucasus Mountains. These widely sought-after rugs offer a virtually endless array of enigmatic patterns.

Less than two decades ago, historical Oriental carpets were still what the Wall Street Journal (June 19, 2010) described as a “little-noticed niche.” However, today they are “commanding sums more often reserved for masterpiece paintings than floor coverings.”

As Museum-Quality rugs are achieving record-breaking pieces, private connoisseurs are recognizing that the best 19th century rugs are the next segment of this market to be discovered. The finest carpets from “The Second Golden Age of Persian Weaving” (circa 1800-1910) offer a comparable level of artistic maturity, along with the great attraction that their condition allows them to still be used on the floor. As a result, they are becoming increasingly scarce, with collectors and investors voraciously acquiring them and removing them from the market.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of educating one’s eye about rugs in the process of building a collection. For as one increasingly comprehends the language of color and pattern, and the underlying harmonious structure of an art-level antique rug, collecting them brings ever-greater rewards.

Read part one of this series on collecting antique rugs, click here.