The Vagireh: A Rug Less Ordinary

Hadi Maktabi

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Zoom @ 10:00am ET

Vagirehs (rug samplers) are probably the quirkiest and funkiest of all antique carpets. At the same time they are arguably the most honest and human, being the closest to the weavers’ spirit and mind. They were never intended for commercial use and were made to instruct younger weavers in their ancestral skills. As such they also reflect a community’s shared memory and cultural heritage as they saw it, or as they saw fit to transmit to subsequent generations. In parallel, samplers were used by incoming European enterprises to showcase new combinations of color, motif and design to both their customers and to the weavers who may have been unaccustomed to them. I have been collecting and dealing with vagirehs for over 20 years and remain endlessly fascinated by their ceaseless capacity to incite wonder and awe via their brilliantly simple ingenuity. My talk will describe a wide set of antique vagirehs of various provenance, shape and formula. It will be with a more personal rather than academic perspective.

Born into the 4th generation of the Middle East’s oldest dealership of Oriental & antique carpets, Hadi Maktabi initially specialized in Mathematics at Oxford University before completing his PhD in Islamic Art with a focus on Carpet Studies under the tutelage of the late Jon Thompson. He has been an advisor to a number of auction houses and museums including the V&A, Louvre, the Carpet Museum of Iran and the Imam Reza Shrine Museum of Mashhad. He assisted the latter in investigating and cataloging their substantial collections during which he discovered a hitherto unknown carpet signed by the elusive weaver Mohtasham and rediscovered the famous Safavid silk garden carpet.

A regular contributor to Hali and other academic journals, Hadi taught Art History at the American University of Beirut for ten years before founding his own gallery for antique carpets & textiles in Beirut. He expanded to the EU in 2020 and is actively trading with a global audience. His primary focus is the period of 150 years linking (or separating?) the Safavid Age to the Revival era, which formed the topic of his doctoral thesis and subsequently was developed for his bestselling book The Persian Carpet: The Forgotten Years (2019).

In 2018 Hadi was the recipient of the inaugural Carpet Star Award for Exemplary Antique Carpet Retailer, presented by Carpet Collector Magazine (Hamburg) and Domotex Trade Fair (Hanover). That same year he curated the carpet section of the landmark exhibition of Qajar Arts at the Louvre, “L’Empire Des Roses”, towards which he lent the museum four royal Qajar carpets from his collection. Artworks sourced, curated and sold by Hadi are found in various international collections, public and private, including the Nickle Galleries (Calgary) and the Musée Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac (Paris).

Members may view the video of this lecture by logging in. Please login or join to become a member.