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The Ardabil Carpet – the most prestigious of all oriental rugs in London

The oriental carpets and bespoke rugs that Sharafi & Co offers for the delectation of admirers of such works of art in London may be – if we dare say so – exquisite in their own right, but they are also part of one of the world’s noblest carpet-making traditions. For an even deeper sense of that tradition, one may wish to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum to witness, at close quarters, no less than the finest of all oriental rugs in London.

The item of which we speak is, of course, the Ardabil Carpet, which is the world’s oldest dated carpet, made in 1539 to 1540. Such an exact date can be determined thanks to an inscription on one edge, reading: “The work of the slave of the portal, Maqsud Kashani”, along with the date, 946 in the Muslim calendar. It should be noted that Maqsud was probably the court official given responsibility for the carpet’s production, rather than a slave in the literal sense. The proper sense of the word is servant.

Few Persian carpets have such an incredible story to tell

The Ardabil Carpet was purchased by the Museum in March 1893 from a carpet firm in Manchester, England, which had acquired it from the shrine of Shaykh Safi al-Din Ardabili, a Sufi leader who was an ancestor of the founder of the Safavid dynasty (1501-1722), Shah Ismail. The Shaykh died in 1334, and while the exact origins of the carpet are unknown, it is thought that the court commissioned it for the Shaykh’s shrine, which by the 16th century, had become a place of pilgrimage.

The carpet remained in the shrine in the town of Ardabil in north-west Iran until the late 19th century, when an earthquake led to its sale. Designer William Morris inspected it for the V&A, describing it as of “singular perfection … logically and consistently beautiful”. With its single integrated design incorporating rich colours and a border consisting of four parallel bands, surrounding a huge rectangular field with a large yellow medallion in the centre, there is no question that it remains an extremely enchanting carpet.

These qualities are even more apparent when the carpet is viewed in its current home, the vast display case that the Museum created for it in 2006. The case can be found in the centre of the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art, and is lit for 10 minutes on the hour and half-hour to preserve the carpet’s colours.

Why not invest in your own oriental treasure?

While – alas – the Ardabil Carpet is certainly not for sale, so many other beautiful oriental rugs in London are, such as those we are delighted to offer here at Sharafi & Co.

Purchase your own beautiful Persian rug from us, via our online store, and you too, can soon own an oriental rug that perfectly matches your individual taste.

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