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Ardabil Rug
Ardabil Rug
Ardabil Rug
Ardabil Rug
Ardabil Rug

The Ardabil Carpet: A Sixteenth–Century Masterpiece Conserved
January 22–May 11, 2004
LOS ANGELES—Centuries of transatlantic journeys, illustrious owners, and
international intrigue are woven into the history of one of LACMA’s most important
works of art. The Ardabil Carpet: A Sixteenth Century Masterpiece Conserved is the
first time the huge, twenty-three-by-thirteen-foot carpet is displayed since its recent
return from the Royal Palace Textile Conservation Studios at Hampton Court
Palace, London for cleaning and repair. The exhibition is presented in the Atrium of
LACMA’s Ahmanson Building from January 22 through May 11, 2004.

LACMA’s Ardabil Carpet and its identical mate at the Victoria & Albert Museum in
London are among Iran’s most brilliant expressions of aesthetic and technical
achievement. These carpets were created in a period of cultural, political, and
religious flowering during the Safavid Dynasty (1501-1732), under whose rule
carpet weaving evolved from a rural craft into a national industry and internationally
acclaimed art form.

The renowned silk and wool masterpiece is so finely worked that it has
approximately 350 knots per square inch, 15.5 million knots in total, and probably
required six weavers working side by side at least four years to complete. The
Ardabil Carpets are predominantly deep blue, vibrant red, and soft yellow. Their
overall composition is based on a central medallion with radiating pendants and
quarter medallions repeated in the corners. The design is derived from bookbinding
and manuscript illumination, as is typical of many medallion carpets. The carpets,
however, include a unique design element: lamps are depicted projecting from the
top and bottom of the central medallion. Medallions and lamps are set against a
dense field of flowers growing from scrolling leafy vines.

The carpets were created in northwestern Iran, possibly Tabriz, and their name is
derived from the belief that the carpets were originally housed at the large shrine
complex honoring a Safavid Sheikh in the city of Ardabil. “That two identical Persian
court carpets have survived makes these carpets extraordinary, but rarer still is the
fact that they are signed and dated,” says LACMA Costume and Textiles Curator
Dale Carolyn Gluckman. At one end is an inscription: a couplet from a Persian
ghazal, or ode, by fourteenth century lyrical poet Hafiz, just above a signature and
date. The following is woven into the carpet’s wool pile:

Other than thy threshold I have not refuge in this world.
My head has no resting place other than this doorway.
Work of a servant of the court, Maqsud of Kashan, [in] the year 946 [1539–40]

The carpets sustained damage while still in Iran. Following their sale to an English
carpet broker at the end of the nineteenth century, the lower field and wide outer
border of one was removed to restore the other. The now smaller carpet was
repaired and given a new outer border. The restored carpet was sold to the Victoria
& Albert Museum, while the other was kept undisclosed in fear that its identical
existence might diminish the value of the V&A masterpiece. The “hidden” carpet was
eventually sold to an American businessman on the condition of secrecy. The secret
Ardabil Carpet traveled back and forth between continents and wealthy owners
before being lent and made public at a major exhibition of Persian art in London,
where it dazzled J. Paul Getty in 1931. Getty purchased it eight years later. He
donated it to the Museum of Science, History, and Art in Exposition Park, and it
became part of LACMA’s permanent collection in 1965.

Repairs and the addition of the replacement border caused strain on weaker
sections of the original carpet creating small tears each time the LACMA Ardabil
Carpet was unrolled; High acidity from an early washing meant that the carpet could
not be displayed safely. In 1999, LACMA and Hampton Court conservators joined
forces to develop a cleaning protocol to rinse out accumulated soil and soluble
acids from the carpet. The cleaning was done on a wash table, measuring twenty by
thirty feet. Tears were repaired and support fabrics were then stitched to the back of
the carpet to facilitate safe handling. The entire process took nine months to
complete. Beginning January 22, the Ardabil Carpet will be on display in its current
resting-place: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Source: Los Angeles County
Museum of Art.
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