Ziegler Mahal & Ziegler Sultanabad Persian Antique Rugs
The first World Oriental Carpet Exhibition of 1891 in Vienna represents a growing familiarity - both in Europe and America - with the art of the hand-woven Persian carpet. When an ever-growing demand from those new markets exceeded a dwindling supply base - replenishment involved something of a mideast-west joint-venture to manage and invigorate production. An influx of British and American firms enlisted local carpet producing facilities for the mass-production of the popular styles of Persian rugs for export to London and New York. By 1883 the British-Swiss company Ziegler & Co had set up offices in Sultanabad - now Arak - the hub of the major rug-producing area which included a small village by the name of Mahallat - from whence the Ziegler Mahal carpet has it's origins.
The Mahal Rug Style
The Mahal Rug Style -- may feature an ornate floral center with corner medallions on a plain ground, or lightly-colored field with subtly-contrasting overall design including scrolling vine-work patterns and palmetto-like figures (but not herati or boteh patterns) - or delicately arranged flower motifs rendered in muted pastel colors on a darker navy or rust field. Attributes of the ideal Mahal carpet include originality, artistry and especially, from the interior decorator's standpoint, both versatility and compatibility - they compliment the finest interiors and other works of art. Thus they are considered to be among the finest 19th/early 20th-century antique rugs due to both their long-term investment and unique aesthetic value.
The Persian Rug Boom
According to the Encyclopedia Iranica ...
... the major catalyst in the Persian carpet boom was a growing international market for these products, directly linked with the increasing strategic and commercial importance of the Middle East to the industrialized nations. Factors contributing to the popularization of both antique and contemporary Oriental carpets included the great world's fairs and major museum exhibitions, the contemporary Arts & Crafts movement in England and comparable phenomena in Europe, and resulting changes in furnishing fashions. The growing purchasing power of the Western middle classes fueled this demand.
The Rug Producing Area of Sultanabad
An area with a tradition of rug-weaving, the city of Arak (Sultanabad), from late-19th until mid-20th century, was Iran's most important center of carpet production for the export market. Due to it's strategic location on the Tehran-Bagdad trade route, as well as built-in cottage industry comprised of experienced craftsmen, Sultanabad was ideally situated to serve as headquarters and base of operations for the multinational Anglo-Swiss firm, Ph. Ziegler & Company.
Sultanabad (Arak) is located in the nearby vicinity of the rug producing towns of Saruq and Mahallat, for which the Sarouk and Mahal (Ziegler Mahal) rugs, respectively, are named. While the term Sultanabad has come to distinguish the oldest and highest quality Mahal carpets, Sultanabad rugs themselves may also be referred to as "Zieglers".
Ziegler & Co. and the Ziegler Mahal Carpet
Ziegler & Co. had not only established a presence by 1878 - the very inception of the export industry - but was instrumental in shaping how rugs would be produced in Iran and what rugs would be woven in Sultanabad for the next 50 years. The company's designs were essentially westernized versions of traditional Persian designs - a synthesis of eastern and western style where traditional Persian color palettes, designs and sizes were modified to the specifications of Western retailers. In addition to its workshops in Tabriz and Sultanabad, the company had offices in Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz. Finished carpets for delivery were processed at Ziegler's facility in Sultanabad, where the rugs were inspected and packaged for shipment to New York and London.
Original Ziegler (Ziegler Mahal) carpets - produced by Ziegler & Co. from late-19th to early-20th century - represent state-of-the-art Persian craftsmanship and innovative design and, as such, are highly prized by collectors. As none of the carpets produced for Ziegler and Co. bear logos or inscriptions, factors such as overall quality of execution and weave, rug-size, knot-type, age and, when applicable, provenance can determine authenticity. Mahal antique rugs are typically found in the 10' x 14' (foot) size range with knot-counts usually ranging around 120 KPSI (knots per square inch) and may feature either Turkish or Persian knots.
The Ziegler Mahal rug design has proved to be such an enduring success that it is still copied by many reproduction carpet manufacturers today. That both antique-style as well as modern-design carpets are being produced (esp. in India and Pakistan) and also marketed and sold under the name 'Ziegler' constitutes a consumer "heads-up". Although referred to as "Ziegler Carpets" (whether spelled 'Zeigler' or 'Ziegler'), these rugs, of course, are neither genuine antique rugs nor affiliated with the long since disbanded Sultanabad-based carpet firm Ziegler & Co. in any way whatsoever.
Due to increased demand, the best Mahal rugs have become very hard to find in the current market and, hence, a genuine Ziegler carpet, especially a larger sized piece (such as the examples shown above and below), can fetch a premium price at auction (as indicated).
Notable antique Ziegler carpets in famous collections include a large carpet (above) that had been
owned by Sigmund Freud and that sold for $92,000 in 2001.