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Metropolitan's new exhibition of Islamic art will have "major impact" on antique carpet market
The Emperor's Carpet (detail), second half of 16th century, Iran. Silk (warp and weft), wool (pile); asymmetrically knotted pile, 24 ft. 11 in. x 11 ft. 1 ½ in. (759.5 x339 cm).The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1943 (43.121.1) Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

OAKLAND, CA.- The new exhibition of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will have a major impact on the appreciation and valuation of antique Oriental rugs and carpets Jan David Winitz, president/founder of Claremont Rug Company, today predicted.

Winitz visited the Islamic Art exhibition prior to its recent opening and marveled at the majesty of the rugs on display. He said, “It easily contains the most important display of historical Oriental rugs on U.S. soil.

“I believe that the exhibition at the New York Met will be an enormous influence on the interest in and on the value of highly-collectible rugs from the ‘Second Golden Age of Persian Weaving,’” he said, pointing out that the period is generally identified as the 19th to the turn of the 20th century, when vegetal dyes were still employed exclusively and the traditional carpet weaving techniques were central to the culture.

“Before the Met exhibition, the unfathomable level of craftsmanship and artistry of the best of antique Persian carpets had been overlooked primarily from lack of exposure, with very few museum shows or widely-circulated publications addressing them,” Winitz said. “The popularity of our brochures, which we have produced seasonally for nearly 30 years, is a proof point. There is even a secondary market among collectors for the older editions, which indicates that enthusiasts are thirsting for information and examples of the profound artistic level that certain antique Oriental rugs have reached.”

Winitz also said that major publications, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, have written detailed feature articles about the new Islamic Galleries “and I have spoken with several art publications about it.” The attention drawn to the aesthetic tradition of this region “will certainly reinforce our long-held contention that the traditions of Middle Eastern Art have been major influences on Western Art, starting as early as the 15th century.

Winitz, author of The Guide to Purchasing an Oriental Rug, described his tour of the exhibition as a deeply moving experience. “Frankly, it was an honor to stand before the great Persian carpets of the Savafid period and experience the world they depict where all life swirls in a never-ending dance around a motionless center,” he said. “Along with a duo of architectural installations, the carpet presentation is the most immediately captivating in this extremely admirable exhibition.

“The thrilling colors and staggering fineness of detail in the carpets from the Savafid dynasty are unforgettable and centrally important because they represent the technical height of Persian Court weaving. Those workshops had the ultimate venture capital funding, the Safavid Court.”

Historians and connoisseurs have long agreed that until commercialism irrevocably compromised the weaving art in the second quarter of the 20th century, rug-making was an unbroken 4,000-year tradition, alive at every level of Near Eastern society from royal workshops to tribal encampments. By tradition, in each venue, the most inspired weavers ignited the imaginations of the next generation of rug artists.

Winitz said, “I was awe-struck by the Khorossan compartment fragment with its architectural strength and sensuous color. The Portuguese carpet (17th century) clearly provided inspiration for carpets from Persian Azerbaijan, such as Serapis, two centuries later. Carpets, such as the Kurdish Garden Carpet (18th century) or the 14th century Turkish Animal Carpet created images in my mind of great 19th century carpets that have passed through my gallery.”

Winitz found the Seley Carpet to be particularly awe-inspiring. “Of all the remarkable things about this carpet, the range of green dyes is unparalleled. The interplay of this green spectrum with the golds and reds reflects the Persians’ profound command of color theory.”

Referring to the Emperor’s Carpet, Winitz commented, “Viewing the technical achievement of this masterwork, which is of central importance to the long and diverse history of textiles, is extremely moving. The unique hand-knotted construction of Near Eastern carpets, coupled with their ability to yield an astonishing spectrum of colors using natural dyes, allows for the unparalleled ability of the finest early examples to render definition and nuance. I feel that the New York Times deeming them ‘portable monuments‘ to be a very apt appraisal.

“It is only natural that the grandeur of the exhibition rugs at the New York Metropolitan will spur art collectors to seek out the diminishing supply of the finest 19th century Oriental carpets that are still available for purchase,” he said. “I firmly believe that we are the last generation that will have access to antique rugs of this magnitude and which are already moving from the ‘public’ market to museum collections.”

Claremont Rug Company, which he founded in 1980, has an inventory of 4000 antique Oriental rugs and carpets, primarily from the 19th century and considered highly-collectible/investment level.

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