Christie’s said the quality of the rug reflected the great talent of the weavers of the Iranian city of Kirman, who were “arguably the most inventive and influential of all carpet designers”.
The Kirman ‘Vase’ Carpet measures 11ft 1in by 5ft and apart from some minute repairs in the centre is in outstanding condition, according to Christie’s.
It is the world’s most expensive carpet, beating the previous world best of $5.5 million (£3.6 million) set by the famed Pearl Carpet of Baroda in March last year. The Pearl Carpet also set the record for a work sold at auction in the Middle East then, at Sotheby’s in Qatar.
Embroidered with up to one-and-a-half million of the fabled ‘Basra’ pearls, which are harvested in the southern Gulf region and along the coasts of Qatar and Bahrain, the Pearl Carpet is believed to have been created as a gift for the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad in the holy city of Medina in Saudi Arabia.
It was commissioned by the Maharaja of Baroda, who died before he could make the donation and the carpet remained in the family collection for over 100 years.
The Pearl Carpet broke the record held by a silk Isfahan rug dating back to the 1600s, which went under the hammer for $4.45 million (£2.9 million) at Christie’s in New York in June 2008. The rug was previously sold in 1990 to tobacco heiress Doris Duke who donated it to the Newport Restoration Foundation after her death.
Another 400-year-old hand-knotted Safavid Silk Rug from Isfashan, Persia, sold at Sotheby’s in London last October for £2.7 million.
Among the world’s most expensive rugs is also a 16th-century Tabriz medallion carpet, which once belonged to the Rothschilds and was bought by Sheik al-Thani for $2.4 million (£1.6 million) in early 2008, far above its $410,000 high estimate.