BY MICHAEL ROBERTS
It all started with a trekking expedition to the Himalayas when I was seventeen. During the summer, just after exams, I joined a school party heading to Northern Pakistan to spend a month trekking, with Rawalpindi as our starting point. It was an amazing trip, with stunning scenery, delightful people and unforgettable memories. We ended the trek in Gilgit, a small town, before heading back west by vehicle to Islamabad. From here, we moved to Peshawar and treated ourselves to some luxury by staying in a good quality hotel. This was where the addiction started.
I vIsited a carpet factory and showroom. The colours, smells and buzz of industry completely overwhelmed me and I (or at least my hapless parents) ended up purchasing a large carpet, as well as a couple of rugs.
The addiction has continued back in the UK and, as an auctioneer and valuer, one of my specialist areas of expertise is rugs and carpets.
Why, you might ask? What is the attraction?
To me it is the complete artistry that goes into making a handwoven rug or carpet. A well-executed handwoven carpet is a complete artist project – visually and sensually – from the aesthetic look of the piece to the feel of it, too.
From the initial hand drawn design, a wagireh or miniature sample is made, which acts as a template for the weavers, often women or children, to complete the project.
THE HISTORY OF THE RUG
Handwoven carpets are made all over the world but, traditionally, Persia (modern Iran) has been the home of the finest examples. In the Tudor period, Eastern carpets were often referred to as ‘Turk’y’ carpets, purely due to the fact that it was via Turkey that they ended up in Europe. Hans Holbein’s The Ambassadors (in the National Gallery, London) depicts just such a carpet.
Traditionally, rugs and carpets are split into the rough categories of ‘Classical’ or ‘Tribal’. Isfahan and Kashan in Iran/Persia are regarded as the traditional centres of excellence for Classical carpets whilst the Caucasian regions such as Kazak and Shirvan are often thought of as the home of the very best Tribal pieces, with their bold designs and primary colours.
Of course, other global areas of manufacture are worth mentioning, such as Chinese carpets which can be excellent, as are some of the European carpets such as Donegal or William Morris. Indeed, good examples of either can fetch considerable sums at auction.
I am always looking to value and sell good examples of antique and modern handwoven carpets and would be pleased to advise regarding value and saleability either in our saleroom or in the comfort of your own home.
PFK include rugs and carpets in all of our sales, with the best examples sold in our ‘Fine & Rare’ specialist auctions. Contact Michael Roberts for a free valuation and sale advice.