Treasures: Rug from Iran Needs In-Person Inspection

This carpet is certainly romantic, but what is its actual age?

Dear Helaine and Joe:

My husband bought this rug commemorating Omar Khayyam approximately 45 years ago in Iran. As you can see from the photo showing the back, it is very finely woven. Could you tell us its worth?



Dear L.D.:

In a postscript, some important information was added. Namely that the carpet is 28 by 38 inches, and that it supposedly has 1,000 knots per inch. It was also added that the piece is silk and cotton, made in Nain, and allegedly 200 years old at the time it was purchased.

Many people have heard of the “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam,” but fewer know that a “rubaiyat” is a four-line piece of poetry called a quatrain. Omar Khayyam was born Ghiyath ad-Din Abu’l-Fath ‘Umar ibn Ibrahim al-Khayyam Nishapuri in 1048 and died in December 1131.

Then, his birthplace was in Persia; now it is in Iran. Khayyam was a man of many talents — he was a mathematician, astronomer and a poet. We will not go into his achievements in mathematics because they are rather complicated and arcane, but it should be mentioned that he was involved in calendar reform, and he may have been one of the first to believe in the sun-centered universe.

Khayyam was a very influential poet. As a case in point, how many of us know the lines, “The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on…” The rest of the quatrain is “… nor all they pity nor Wit, Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

In the Broadway musical “The Sound of Music,” the mayor’s wife refers to the “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” as “dirty poetry,” and while this is true for some, others view Khayyam’s as being almost a rock star of romantic poetry. In this carpet, we see a couple in a garden of flowering trees walking by a pond with ducks and what appears to be swans.

The carpet is unquestionably beautiful, but we have seen them referred to as “Tabriz,” which refers to the capital city of the Iranian province of East Azerbaijan. We believe this would be called a “subject” or “pictorial” carpet and the design may reflect Omar Khayyam and his sweetheart. Often these have poetic verses woven in, but this one does not that we can see.

If this is a carpet from Nain (also spelled “Naein” and “Naeen”), which is located in central Iran, it could not be 200 years old because it is reported that carpet-making did not begin there until the 1920s or ’30s. To be sure, carpets made in Nain are generally cotton and silk, but this carpet appears more likely to be wool and silk. We suspect this is a fairly modern rug, the bright colors suggest modern dyes and it was probably made closer to Tabriz.

Unfortunately, the age, quality and value of this rug cannot be ascertained without an in-person inspection by a specialist. Our opinion based on the photographs is that this small rug should be valued in the $1,200 to $1,500 range.

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