RISING STARS: THE CONNOISSEUR’S CHOICE IN
ANTIQUE ORIENTAL CARPETS
Text: B. Alexandra Szerlip
To find out about the current trends in high-end antique Oriental rugs, I spent a couple of hours walking through the galleries of Claremont Rug Company with its president and founder Jan David Winitz. Established 38 years ago, Claremont is today considered one of the world’s premier purveyors of 19th-century Persian
and tribal carpets, a reputation attested to by its prestigious international clientele, many of whom have commissioned Claremont to decorate multiple homes, as well as private yachts and airplanes. Much of Claremont’s often-rare, ever changing inventory has been acquired from long-held private collections.
We began our tour with a stunning antique Persian Serapi ca. 1875, its colors all derived from natural plant dyes. Why do sophisticated buyers gravitate toward this particular geometric style? “Because they’re bold, they’re strong,” Winitz explained. “They fill large spaces in a very majestic way.”
Twenty-first century homes often feature large expanses of glass, he continues. “The nuances of color in the Serapis play very well in light-filled rooms. Conversely, their palette of contrasting light and darks hold up well in more dimly lit traditional homes.” Notice,” he adds, “the shifting color tones you see in this particular carpet. It’s a prized technique known as abrash, employed to create the sense of great visual depth.”
On to the antique Bakshaishs, the crème de la crème of larger geometric design carpets hailing, like the Serapis, from mountainous Azerbaijan of what was Northwest Persia. The very best of these, woven before 1875, are prized by Claremont’s connoisseur clients for both their rarity and incredible artistry. On the wall before us hangs a luxurious stretch of beige, golden brown, champagne and blonde, the natural palette of undyed camel hair. On close inspection, each large rosette is unique, yet all work together as an integrated whole. The Bakshaish village weavers were among the few to use camel hair, making pieces of this caliber quite rare. Winitz compares their collaborative efforts to jazz music. “A team of weavers would get together and literally jam, improvising, yet always working in harmony.”
Among the most sophisticated and prized 19th century Persian rugs are the Motasham Kashans, displayed in another of Claremont’s four galleries. Recognizable by their realistic, curvilinear botanical designs, extraordinarily fine knotting, softer palette and exceptionally luminescent wool, this collection of Motashams consistently retains its place in the High-Collectible or Connoisseur-Caliber category of Claremont’s Oriental Rug Market Pyramid™. He stressed, “The reason we can consistently offer 1800s Motashams, so rarely found today, is that we have access to many lifelong collectors who own one or two of these gems.
We continue onto the “Collector’s Gallery,” home to Winitz’s smaller collectible rugs, including the perennially favorite Caucasian rugs. Here, I’m met with a quartet of peacocks, two flying upward and two swooping down! “This,” Jan explains, “is a Caucasian Akstafa. Notice that each bird is unique” those weavers ‘jazz jamming’ again within the parameters of the overall design. A number of our clients work in technology, and these asymmetrical designs offer a counterbalance to their everyday responsibilities. Spending time with these rugs offers an expansive mental and emotional space, if you will. The more you look, the more you see. Which is why, I think, Caucasians have proved ‘trend-less.’ Their following has only grown in the over almost four decades we’ve been in business.”
Encompassing every notable style and region of origin, Claremont offers an abundance of the rarest rugs available on the world market. Its carefully curated inventory is a treasure trove for the highly discerning, those who understand what Frank Lloyd Wright meant when he said, “Give me the luxuries and I’ll willingly do without the necessities.”