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University of Connecticut University Libraries

Antique Oriental Rugs
of the Silk Route

from the Gregorian Family Collection
March 27 to May 21, 2000
John B. Gregorian
Antique Oriental Rugs of the Silk Route from the Gregorian Family Collection will be on exhibit at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut--Monday, March 27 - Sunday, May 21. The Dodd Center is open Monday, 8:30 am - 7 pm; Tuesday - Friday, 8:30 am - 5 pm. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

The Gregorian collection surveys the history, art and diversity of oriental rugs. It was begun by Arthur T. Gregorian, a World War I refugee from Persia who settled in New Britain when he came to the United States as a boy. In l934, he moved to the Boston area where he founded Arthur T. Gregorian Oriental Rugs in Newton Lower Falls, Massachusetts. John Gregorian is now president of the company. In addition to significant antique rugs from Persia (Iran), Turkey, India and the Caucuses the exhibit will include photographs from collector John Gregorian's forthcoming book Oriental Rugs of the Silk Route, (Rizzoli, New York, April 2000).

Youth Program
During the exhibit, students in grades 7-12 from area schools will be invited to tour the exhibit with University of Connecticut graduate students who have been trained as docents for this exhibit. The tours will focus on the geography of the Silk Route and on the art and culture of the Middle East as represented in the carpets. This program is being directed by Billie M. Kapp, co-director of the Connecticut Geographic Alliance, in cooperation with the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut.

Reception and Talk by Collector/Author John Gregorian
Sunday, April 30, 2 pm; The Dodd Center

A highlight of the exhibit will be a reception and informal talk by John Gregorian, collector, second-generation merchant, and author of the forthcoming Oriental Rugs of the Silk Route (Rizzoli, New York, April 2000). He will comment on this family's collection of rare and valuable rugs and share his experiences as a veteran trader in the bazaars of Iran, Turkey, India, and Pakistan - remarkable places he has been visiting since he was a teen over 30 years ago. Also participating will be founder Arthur T. Gregorian and John's son Scott and daughter Melissa, who are active in the 65-year-old family business.

Notes David Kapp, chair of the Libraries' Exhibits Program, "This exhibit represents an extraordinary opportunity to view antique oriental rugs of a quality and beauty usually seen only in the homes of wealthy collectors or museums, and to learn about the ancient silk route and how Middle Eastern culture and esthetic ideals were introduced to New England as early as Colonial times."

The popularity of oriental rugs among Western cultures can be traced to the 13th century, when Europeans established trade along the Silk Route to China which included caravan routes stretching from the Golden Horn, in present-day Istanbul, to Chinese seaports.

Travelers passed through Anatolia, the Caucuses, Persia, Central Asia, and China, trading European goods for indigenous products such as silks, pepper, and oriental rugs.

Despite their beauty, oriental rugs were not highly valued as a trade item until the 17th century. Then, Dutch artist Hans Holbein and other painters began to depict these rugs in their portraits to underscore the status of their European subjects. A few rugs entered the American Colonies during the 18th century, but they did not become the rage until the 1800's when fast clipper ships reintroduced oriental rugs into elegant homes in the US when they returned from Pacific voyages. Experts speculate that this is how these rugs got the name "oriental" rugs, which earlier had been called "Turkey Carpets" when they traded through Constantinople (Istanbul).

The Gregorian Family Collection includes historically significant rugs that illustrate this art form as practiced from the 19th through early 20th century. The exhibition, which has been on view at some 70 university and museums in North America, is on loan to the Dodd Center from the Gregorian Family Collection. Featured are rugs from Iran (Persia), Turkey, India and Central Asia. "These rugs exemplify the craftsmanship of primitive weavers along the original route to the Orient and include styles that are often seen in early New England homes. The rugs are bound together artistically and historically by weavers who devote countless hours to their craft," explains John Gregorian.

Antique Oriental Rugs of the Silk Route is presented with support from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, University of Connecticut.