For centuries the rich beauty of Persian rugs has been desired by collectors, decorators and individuals. The deep colors, natural fibers, ornate and intricate designs and famous loop weave all make the Persian rug that rare collectible: an item that’s at once usable and a piece of art.
Although other countries such as India, Nepal and Turkey, have recently stepped in to fill the gap — some even able to match the Persian beauty — none seem to provide that something which is magical and mysterious in the works from old Persia.
In 2010, Christie’s sold the Comtesse De Behague Kirma Vase Carpet from Southeast Persia, circa mid-17th century, for £6.2 million (approximately $8.8 million). Although there have been many Christie’s sales since, no Persian rug sale has matched that price, even a recent one of an almost identical rug. And as dealers and auction houses know, the market is fickle, narrow and cyclical.
“Lifting the embargo is something we anticipated for a long time,” says Oscar Tatosian, owner of Oscar Isberian Rugs, a store started in 1920 in Evanston, Illinois, by his grandfather (today they also have stores in Chicago and Highland Park, Ill.).
“It’s exciting because it offers a range of both antique and newly woven, highest quality Iranian carpets. “ It’s also a relief for Tatosian who says he was “teased” when attending auctions in Europe in the last several years “because we could look at the Persian carpets and admire them, but we couldn’t bring them into the U.S.”
So has that pent-up demand for Persian rugs led to a flooded market?
Not really, at least not yet. Elisabeth Parker, Christie’s International Head of Rugs and Carpets, says it’s still a bit early to know the impact of the end of the embargo. Christie’s did have an auction of Persian rugs in April 2016 which did better than previous sales, but that may have been because it included three Persian carpets with a Rothschild provenance.
“It’s a great story,” she says. “Three 17th century or earlier Persian carpets, virtually unknown, had been in the attic in one of the Rothschild’s homes. They didn’t know what they had. It was a perfect storm of great condition and beautiful pieces.”
One rug was complete and sold for $1.368 million, another one was a fragment, cut down from its original size and sold for £794,500 (approximately $1.128 million) while the final was a fragment, and sold for £542,500 (approximately $773,350). Some people just collect fragments.