Before we dive into the discussion about which carpets are the most expensive, let’s go through the history of carpets so that we can learn about their origin and their value as well. But let me tell you, the history of the carpets won’t end here and is in fact far from over.
History of Carpets
Since the earliest of times, human species have tried to separate their feet from the cold floor. In the early days people have used animal fur to cover the floor of our homes.
With the training of animals, the need and the possibility for a more sophisticated covering arose. With the cutting of their furs woven coverings could be made. And thus, carpets were born.
What is Weaving?
Before going on about the history, some basic things about what weaving is. To make a carpet you need a warp thread (which is a vertically stretched thread) and a fill thread which is horizontally intertwined with the vertical ones. The warp and the fill thread make up the foundation of the carpet, the pile is extra threads that give the carpet its design. A loom is also needed; its basic function is to stretch the warp threads for easier weaving. Depending on how you loop the fill threads with the warp threads you have different methods of weaving, which are a story of their own altogether that deserve their own videos for me to do them justice.
History of Carpets:
Before actual evidence of carpets, it is thought that our distant ancestors probably used mats of knit stalks and vines. While evidence that sheep and goats were being sheared for their hair and wool which was then spun and woven into primitive carpets has been discovered as far back as 6000 B.C. Further evidence discovered in 1953 in an Egyptian mural, which are quickly becoming a staple of this channel, shows a handloom for weaving dated around 1480 B.C. The origination and the spread of carpets is a bit of a mystery however.
The Earliest Surviving Carpet:
Soviet anthropologist Sergei Rudenko while excavating in Scythian ice-filled tombs in Siberia, Russia found what the earliest surviving carpet is now, called the “Pazyryk Carpet”. This amazingly detailed carpet was in almost perfect condition due to it being frozen when found. This carpet value factors measures 183 by 200 cm’s and has a knot density of approximately 36 knots per square centimeter for a total of 1.250.000 knots in the whole carpet. It is fascinatingly fine and it has higher knot density than most modern carpets. The carpet is framed by a border of what appear to be griffins, followed by another one of 24 fallow deer and the widest border contains 28 figures of men on horseback and dismounted as well. Dated somewhere around 5th to 4th century BC its exact origins are unknown however. Currently the Pazyryk carpet is exhibited in the Hermitage museum in Russia.
With the coming of Islam in the 7th century, rugs were used to pray on and are still used today. These praying rugs are called “Sajjada” in Arabic or “Namazlik” in Persian. Its purpose is primarily to cover the ground or floor while praying. These rugs have an arch-shaped design called in Islam a “Mihrab” which during praying it must point towards Mecca.
In the early fourteenth century, the famous Italian explorer and merchant Marco Polo wrote in the account of his travels: “…and here they make the most beautiful silks and carpets in the world, and with the most beautiful colors”. This region is thought to have produced carpets before the Seljuq conquest.
The Earliest Surviving Woven Rugs:
The earliest surviving woven rugs were found in Konya, Beyşehir in Turkey and Fostat in Egypt, and these carpets were dated to the 13th century. These carpets made during the time of the Anatolian Seljuq Period (1243–1302) are considered the earliest type of rugs from Anatolia. The design of these Seljuq rugs is similar to the patterns used in decorating mosques built around the same time in places like Divriği, Sivas, and Erzurum. This might also have some connections to the art from the Byzantine Empire.
Onwards to a more familiar type of carpets, called the Persian carpet. There is evidence from 400 BC that Persian carpets were produced and were a sort of a luxury item back then. The ancient Greek author Xenophon in his book Anabasis speaks of a certain “Timasion the Dardanian who is known to have some Persian drinking cups and carpets” Xenophon goes further to say that “Timasion also drank his health and presented him with a silver bowl and a carpet worth ten mines” which gives credence to the theory that even back then Persian carpets were luxurious items possibly due to their fine making. Some consider the Pazyryk carpet to be of Persian Empire, but the uncontested carpet of Persian origins that survive today are the so-called Ardabil carpets that date around the year 1540 AD. These pair of famous carpets are exhibited currently in London and in Los Angeles. Called Ardabil after the ancient city located in the Ardabil region in present day Iran, which was famous for carpet weaving. The size of the carpet is 10.5m by 5.3m while it took 26 million knots to make, making it a pretty fine rug.
Up until the 18th century carpets used to be weaved by hand. An English inventor and clergyman called Edmund Cartwright in the year 1784 invented the first power loom in the world. Over the years however his ideas were modified and polished into more reliable automatic looms. With the coming of the Industrial Revolution and the invention of the department store in the middle of the 19th century, which began to shape the purchasing desires of the people of the middle class started to grow, the carpet industry began to change and progress rapidly.
With innovation following innovation, most notably the Gripper Axminster loom that increased the speed of production hugely, which inevitably reduced prices and increased volume sales that were already being connected to a housing boom, which means a sudden increase in the construction of houses, in the 1880s, the rate of growth was doubling every year.
In the 1930s, as a result of the demand for more bedspreads, the first mechanized tufting machine, attributed to Glen Looper Foundry of Dalton, was developed that would speed up the process even further. In the 50’s wall-to-wall carpeting, which was once a luxury, finally became affordable. Nylon yarns were used tufted into woven grid backings. These carpets were then installed by stretching the tufted backing onto wood strips adjacent to walls, held firmly in place with tacks.
In today’s market, over 90 percent of the products are tufted, less than 2 percent are woven, and about 6.7 percent are created using other methods, like knitting, braided, hooked, or needle punched. Some famous modern centers of modern carpet are Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, and Tibet. The global carpets and rug market is expected to grow in the coming years even further, by the end of this year (2023) this industry will be worth 107.9 billion dollars.
WHICH CARPETS ARE THE MOST EXPENSIVE
Following are some of the most expensive carpet auction records:
Sickle Leaf Vine Scroll and Palm Advance Carpet:
the most expensive carpet ever sold that the action is this sickle leaf vine scroll and palm advance carpet circa 1600 to 1650 after being displayed as an example of outstanding Persian carpet weaving in museums and galleries including the Corcoran Gallery of Art textile museum the Asia house gallery and Fogg art museum the carpet was estimated at 5 million dollars to 7 million dollars because the sickle-leaf design is the rarest of vase technique carpet patterns and this is the only known example featuring a red background Sotheby’s New York was able to sell the lot for thirty 3.7 million dollars on June 5th 2013.
Kerman Vase Carpet:
On April 15, 2010, Christie’s London sold A Kerman vase carpet estimated at three hundred and seven to four hundred and sixty-one thousand dollars were an astonishing nine point six million dollars in the mid-17th century piece is the earliest known example of the popular Persian carpet design called the Herati pattern.
Mughal Millefleurs “Star Lattice” Carpet:
This carpet from Mughal Empire of northern India estimated at 2.4 million to 3.2 million dollars was sold by Christie’s London for 7.7 million dollars on October 8 2013.
On April 28 2000 Christie’s Monaco held a sale of items from the collection of Karl Lagerfeld, including this Louie carpet which is one of three design by Pierre-Josse Perrot apparel the circle 1750 carpet estimated at 5 to 8 million dollars sold for 5.7 million dollars.
The Pail Carpet of Baroda:
It is a masterwork of silk estimated at 5 million dollars it’s sold for 5.5 million dollars at Sotheby’s Doha on March 19, 2009 the carpet is set with approximately two thousand and five hundred table cuts in occasional Rose cut diamonds set in silver as well as foil backed Rubby emerald and sapphire here all set in gold.
Central Persian Isfahan Carpet:
This central Persian Isfahan carpet was estimated at 800,000 to 1.2 million dollars for Sotheby’s New York important carpets from the William a Clark collection Corcoran Gallery of Art sale on June 5th, 2013 the Lot which had been on display in the Corcoran Gallery of Art sold for 4.65 million dollars.
The silk Isfahan Rock:
According to the historian that Christie’s the silk Isfahan Rock is an exceptional example of Safavid are during the reign of Shah Abbas the Great between 1587 to 1629 the lot garnered 4.45 million at Christie’s New York’s June 3rd, 2008 oriental rugs and carpets sale after been estimated at 1 million to 1.5 million dollars.
Louis XV Savonnerie Carpet:
Three carpets of this exact design by Pierre-Josse Perrot was made for the crown furniture repository in France the administration responsible for furniture and art inside the royal residences This “Louis XV Savonnerie carpet” was woven sometime between 1740 and 1750 was the last one produced the carpet surpassed an estimate of 2 million to 4 million-selling for 4.4 million as part of the Christian New York’s November 2nd, 2000 sales magnificent French furniture.
Sotheby’s London’s Art of Islamic World Auction:
On October 7th, 2009 the Safavid silk wool and metal thread prayer rug was estimated at one hundred and twenty seven to one hundred and ninety one thousand dollars. The circa 1575 to 1625 carpet inscribed with Persian verses in Nastaliq earn a whopping 4.3 million making it the ninth most expensive carpet ever sold at auction. The inscription suggests that it may have been a diplomatic gift from the Safavid Persian court to the Ottoman Turks.
Hand-Made Carpets vs. Machine-Made Carpets
|Aspect||Hand-Made Carpets||Machine-Made Carpets|
|Production Method||Made by hand with natural fibers||Made by machine with synthetic fibers|
|Appearance||Each one is unique, might have some differences||Look the same and very consistent|
|Fringe||Fringe is usually added later||Fringe is stitched on by machine|
|Reverse Side||The back often looks like a solid color||The edges are stitched, not woven in|
|Materials||Natural materials like wool or cotton||Often use synthetic materials|
- Why Persian carpets are considered the origin of carpet weaving?
Persian carpets are one of the first rugs ever created. There is evidence from 400 BC that Persian carpets were produced and were a sort of a luxury item back then.
- How did the tradition of carpet weaving spread worldwide?
In the 1930s, the demand for carpet weaving spread, the first mechanized tufting machine, attributed to Glen Looper Foundry of Dalton, was developed that would speed up the process even further.
- What factors contribute to the high value of certain carpets?
Factors that contribute to the high value of certain carpets are measures, knot density per square centimeter, and the frame. Colors, pattern, and texture also come into play.
- How do modern carpets differ from their historical counterparts?
Patterns and colors of carpets make them differ from their historical counterparts.
- Why some carpets are considered invaluable pieces of art?
Carpets that are made of low quality materials and not created with greater skills are considered invaluable pieces of art.