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Zeigler Sultanabad Rugs: The History and Design

Western fascination with ancient, Persian-style rugs dates back literally centuries. Proof of that is found in Zeigler Sultanabad rugs. The very roots of these exquisite rugs can be traced back to the idea of serving the tastes of European consumers enthralled with the intricate designs and vibrant colors of these pieces and determined to add them to their suite of home décor choices.

The Iranian city of Sultanabad — renamed Arak in 1930 and these days known primarily for its steel, petrochemical, and locomotive industries — was purposefully founded in the early 1800s as a center for commercial rug production aimed at westerners.

Indeed, during the late 19th century, the firm of Ziegler and Co. established a factory in Sultanabad/Arak with the objective of producing rugs for Western rug fanciers with the means to own them. One hundred and thirty-eight years later, in 2021, Zeigler remains synonymous with quality Sultanabad rugs.

Sultanabad and Mahal rugs

Sultanabad and Mahal rugs had been produced in the area around the city of Arak, which has a history of rug weaving dating back to the mid-17th century. The term Sultanabad has come to distinguish the oldest and highest quality Mahal carpets, also known as Ziegler Mahals, named for the above-mentioned British company (established in 1883) that supervised the production for exports to the West.

Most Sultanabad and Mahal rugs have bold floral designs, whether they utilize classical medallion or overall designs of vine scrolls and palmettes (albeit typically with larger weaves). Dark reds and blues are common colors with highlights of soft green and ivory. 

Zeigler Sultanabad rugs from the 19th and 20th centuries

Today, antique Zeigler Sultanabad rugs from the 19th and 20th centuries are arguably the most desirable among so-called Persian town weavings, attracting both interior designers and discerning buyers with their casual yet surprisingly modern-looking designs which elevate virtually any setting, from dining room to living room, library to entranceway while complementing furniture styles from contemporary to antique, rustic to polished.

Not surprisingly, the best antique Zeigler Sultanabad rugs are highly coveted and not easy to find in the international market, which is why reputable vendors such as Mansour are essential to ensuring that the resulting quality, provenance, and materials of the carpets are authentic and exactly as claimed.

Legend has it that Oriental carpets from Sultanabad were a product of a cottage industry and frequently produced at the family level, favoring a moderate weave and thicker pile. Still, Sultanabad rugs are as prized as the more finely knotted Ferahan and Mohajeran Sarouk Persian carpet styles from this same Arak district, today rather less glamorously nicknamed the “industrial capital of Iran.”

Of Ziegler & Co. and their Zeigler Sultanabad rugs, Wikipedia sagely notes that, “Western designers modified classical Persian designs, marking the first time westerners directly affected Persian designs (beyond influence through market demand). 

“In step with the beginning of the Arts and Crafts Movement, Ziegler modified designs to be larger size, along with a larger rug size to suit western room specifications. Arak's palette changed, as colors were softened in an effort to appeal to European and American tastes.”

There really is something spellbinding about these antiquated, quietly beautiful rugs. For example, Mansour’s Rug #15886, a Ziegler Sultanabad West Persia late 19th century measuring 11’ 4” by 16’ 1,” presents a constellation of colors, from salmon to periwinkle blue and designs that aren’t quite flowers but rather intriguingly flower-like and thus endlessly captivating.

Traditional hand-woven Persian Ziegler Sultanabad rug

The rug is described on the site as a “traditional hand-woven Persian Ziegler Sultanabad rug [with] a royal blue field of broad tonal palmettes issuing floral vines, in a bold shaded ruby palmette border, between refined ivory and sand geometric floral stripes.” 

Also stunning is Mansour’s comparatively compact Rug #4071, also a Ziegler Sultanabad West Persia from the late 19th century yet measuring just 6’ 3” by 10’ and correctly described as possessing “a warm ivory field of blossoming palmettes issuing angled vines and floral motif, in a shaded brick orange linked turtle palmette border, between fine double vine stripes.”

Other examples of Ziegler Sultanabad rugs from Mansour’s vast collection include:


#10371, a stunning 7’10”x10’1” rug with a shaded malachite field and brick-red accents

#5629, which features a central column of arabesque medallions

#27226, a dramatic royal blue rug with tomato-red delicate floral vines

#17856, a densely patterned blue-green rug with a complicated floral motif

Given that Mansour represents the largest antique rug collection in the world, these few examples, while stunning, are veritable drops in the bucket of what is available to connoisseurs amid the company’s vast collection of true, handmade, top-quality Persian and Oriental rugs. 

Over at the Ziegler & Co. site, the aim of the Sultanabad collection is clear: “Ziegler & Co. designs and produces rugs with a softer palette than most traditional Persian rugs. Created with the western market in mind, our rugs are an excellent fit with the design trends and colors found in the west. Complementing a wide variety of contemporary and traditional furniture with their distinct patterns and softer colors, Ziegler & Co. rugs can be found in the finest homes, resorts and institutions in the world.”

As well they should. Ziegler Sultanabad rugs aren’t just a wise investment for the ages. They are a declaration, a celebration of beauty and comfort, and style. What could be more timeless?