Alice de Rothschild’s Vase Carpet Trio at Christie’s, April 2016, London, United Kingdom
The result of the highly anticipated auction of Alice de Rothschild’s Vase Carpets Trio at Christie’s exceeded all expectation. The three carpets fetched over $3.5 million, making it one of the most anticipated events in the world of Antique Rug Collecting.
The trio of carpets from the Persia’s Safavid Dynasty era (15th-17th Centuries) were previously unknown and will create truly a once-in- a-lifetime event. An overwhelming excitement in the rug collector community anticipates the availability of these exquisite pieces. This is not unlike hearing that a new symphony or chamber orchestra piece by Mozart or a new and unknown painting by Van Gogh or Monet was discovered in the attic of an unremarkable house. The presentation of these three beautiful and previously unknown pieces brings great excitement to the antique rug community.
The Rothschild family was considered one of the wealthiest and biggest supporters of fine arts and culture in Europe for several centuries. The family was considered the most important banking family of Europe. In 1700s, the five sons of Mayer Armscheld Rothschild established major banking operations in Austria, Germany, Italy, France and England. By the 1900s, the Rothschilds had accumulated the largest private fortune in the world. The Rothschild family members were among the most prolific collectors in the field of Islamic Art and when the Orientalist interiors became fashionable in the third quarter of the 19th century, the family remained at the forefront of this emerging taste.
Alice de Rothschild (1847-1922) was the eighth and youngest child of Anselm and Charlotte von Rothschild whose “vase trio” carpets are attributed to her collection. It is not known when these trio of carpets were added to Alice’s collection. The rugs along with the estate were passed on upon her death to her nephew James Rothschild (1878-1957), and the carpets remained close to the family until the recent auction.
The term Vase was first coined following an exhibition organized by May Beattie in 1976, which highlighted a group of carpets featuring stylized vases and a similar weaving technique. The term has since been used to signify all of the carpets woven in this manner, regardless of whether their designs include vases or not.
Each of the three carpets is very different from the others in design and size. They provide a fascinating opportunity to view side by side the very best of Kirman weaving, spanning a hundred years from the end of the 16th to the end of the 17th century.