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Carpet $33.7 Million Price Tag at Sotheby's Is 3 Times Over Record

By Alexandra Ward   |   Thursday, 06 Jun 2013 10:14 AM

An antique Persian carpet sold for $33.7 million at a Sotheby's auction in New York City Wednesday, eclipsing the previous auction record for a carpet by more than three times.

The carpet was part of a 25-piece collection that belonged to William A. Clark, an industrialist and U.S. senator from Montana, who left it to Corcoran Gallery of Arts in Washington, D.C., in 1926. The Sickle-Leaf Carpet, "remarkably crafted, miraculously preserved, and awe-inspiringly beautiful," reportedly sold to an anonymous telephone bidder.

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"I expected that the piece would draw strong bidding, but this price, which is more than three and one-half times higher than the highest previously paid for a rug, is truly phenomenal," Jan David Winitz, internationally recognized Oriental rug expert and founder of Claremont Rug Company, said in a statement. "The Safavid 'Sickle Leaf' Persian rug from the collection of William Andrews Clark is well-documented in the Oriental rug literature. The auction comes at a time when art collectors are increasingly interested in the best-of-the-best historical Oriental rugs, which are almost entirely in museum collections and rarely come to market."

The rug, which is said to have been woven in the Iranian city of Kirman sometime in the 17th century, measures 8 feet 9 inches by 6 feet 5 inches.

The previous record price for a carpet was $9.6 million for a Persian carpet sold by Christie's in London in April 2010.

"As I commented three years ago when Christie’s sold a 17th century Kirman at auction for the previous record price of $9.6 million, there is a thirst for the great art created in the Near East," Winitz said. "Collectors recognize two periods, the First (ca. 1500 to ca. 1700) and Second (ca. 1800 to ca. 1910) Golden Ages of Persian Weaving, as the eras when the artistic skills and cultural traditions existed to produce art at its most profound level. I have no doubt that this sale is a precursor of a movement to come: the recognition that the best Oriental rugs woven in the 16th through 19th centuries stand on par with the highest valued art works of other mediums."

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