A Woven History

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[caption id="attachment_2405" align="alignnone" width="577"] A fine antique French Aubusson Tapestry, c. 1700. Photo by Steven Barston.[/caption]


A French tapestry woven of silk and wool hangs in J.H. Minassian and Co.’s Pacific Design Center showroom. The tapestry, created 300 years ago by Aubusson Factory in France, tells the story of how a castle lady, distraught over town gossip, consults a fortune teller. While her anguished expression seems dramatically modern, the tapestry’s style is classic.

Fabrics here typically depict stories and—like these age-old gems it sells—the store itself has a history. Minassian, a connoisseur and collector who taught at UCLA, opened the store in 1905; it has since passed down to relatives. The present owner, David Soleimani, continues the tradition of fine tapestry dealing.

“I like peaceful, romantic, harmonious rugs,” Soleimani says.

Rug-making originated 2,500 years ago—first in Persia, then spreading to Turkey, India and China as “a celebration of life…also symbols of wealth-investments handed down,” Soleimani says. The art of making rugs was often a family secret. Hand-woven by women and children, carpets were often colored with dyes made from fruit and vegetable juices—saffron, walnuts, watermelons.

According to Soleimani, Persian rugs spark the most interest in collectors. The collector’s favorite, Tree of Life, hangs in his office. “When I bought this, I promised the owner I would never sell it,” he recounts. The 100-year-old rug designed by Ahmad, the most acclaimed Persian artist of his time, retells a Persian folktale. Soleimani has acquired his international collection from auctions and collectors in the U.S. and overseas. He also makes custom rugs in factories throughout the world; each rug takes six months or more to make. Fine quality wool is selected; yarn is cooked, boiled and hung in the sun. Although Soleimani works with a design team, he often designs his own. “Color is of prime importance,” he says—and so is craftsmanship and detail. His 3,000 weavers tie each knot by hand.

Rug-making as art and business has always been subject to politics and—particularly in volatile Iran—its future is precarious. “Labor is getting more expensive…political regimes are unstable,” Soleimani states. For now, take comfort.These beautiful tapestries and rugs have a home in the Pacific Design Center.