The Most Expensive Rug of All Time – a 17th Century Persian Rug Sold for $33 Million @ Sotheby’s

By Iman Sadri

February 28, 2021

The Most Expensive Rug ever Sold was a 17th century antique Persian Rug that went for $33 Million at Sotheby’s in 2013. The buyer remained anonymous and the rug was originally expected to sell for $10 Million. The sale shattered the previous highest sale ever at $9.6 Million, also of an antique Persian Rug from the 17th Century. Its rare sickle-design and harmonious detail set it apart.

Persian Rug History

The 1600’s were Iran’s Golden Age of rug making. Safavid commissioned from the Safavid Dynasty where Shah Abbas I commissioned the fine-hand woven rugs of silk and wool to be on display and exported to Europe and overseas. Fine details and rich colors, such as burgundy, wine red and deep ivory blue make up the tapestry of the Persian rug.

Walk into any Persian house and you are surely to find a Persian rug or two or half dozen. All hand woven with intricate detail from different parts of Iran. These hand-crafted gems are works of art in each sew. Detailed imagery presents itself with each regional carpet telling a story.

Common Threads 

Persian rugs showcase gardens, flowers, plants and animal motifs made with the most intricate craftsmanship. Finely knitted designs display visuals unique to the municipalities where they are knitted. Rugs from Isfahan are mostly floral in design, lush with gardens. Tabriz rugs have a medallion in the middle and feature weeping willows and cypress trees. The Ardabil Carpet on display at the Victoria and Albert Hall Museum in London is the world’s oldest dated carpet, from 1539-1540.

Floral Meanings of Rugs

Persian rugs have unique symbolism with each floral design. Flower blossoms represent youth, and springtime. Cypress Trees reflect the connection between Earth and Heaven. They are ubiquitous in Iran. One such Cypress Tree near Yazd, the Arbakouh is over 4000 years old. It’s considered the oldest tree in Iran and the second oldest in all of Asia. Leaves are a symbol of constant metamorphosis, growth and regeneration. Lilies are a symbol of purity and spirituality. The Pomegranate on a Persian rug denotes harvest and abundance. Tulips signify growth and rebirth. Symbolic representations in Persian rugs parallel those of the Persian New Year.  

Iman Sadri can be followed @DrImanSadri