Conservation of the Ardabil Rug: The Oldest Dated Carpet in the World

Los Angeles Home of Rugs on Jun 2nd 2024

The Ardabil Carpet stands as the world's oldest dated carpet and one of the most beautiful and historically significant treasures. Crafted in the town of Ardabil, north-west Iran, it honors the burial place of Shaykh Safi al-Din Ardabili, a Sufi leader and ancestor of Shah Ismail, founder of the Safavid dynasty. Believed to have been commissioned by the court for the Shaykh's shrine, this carpet has a rich history dating back to AD 1539-1540.

The carpet's exquisite design features a vast rectangular field with a large yellow medallion at its center, surrounded by pointed oval shapes and hanging lamps, symbolizing a place of worship. Its intricate filler patterns boast ten colors, derived from natural dyes like pomegranate rind and indigo, creating a mesmerizing ‘ripple’ effect. With about 5,300 knots per ten centimeters square, the carpet's dense wool pile allows for remarkable detail, making it a true marvel of early Safavid dynasty design.

After surviving an earthquake in the late 19th century, the Ardabil Carpet found its way to the Victoria and Albert Museum, where it was praised by designer William Morris for its “singular perfection.” Acquired in 1893, the carpet is now displayed in the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art, lit for ten minutes on the hour and half hour to preserve its vibrant colors.

Discover the meticulous conservation techniques that ensure this masterpiece endures for future generations.