The city of Sultanabad (which is now known as Arak) was founded, in the early 1800’s, as a center for commercial rug production in Iran. During the late 19th century, the firm of Hotz and Son and Ziegler and Co. established a manufactory in Arak / Sultanabad whose sole objective was to produce rugs to meet the western demands. They even brought over western designers to conform to the western tastes of the time. This was the first instance of a hands-on western influence in the industry (which until this point was sheltered from western insights). Many of the Persian Sultanabad rugs that were woven by Ziegler and Co featured more updated colors as well as larger scale all over patters which some in the art history world attribute to being the initial formation of the Arts and Crafts movement.
The term “Sultanabad rugs” (as opposed to “Mahal carpets“)is mostly a term that is used to reference the “better” rugs that were woven in Arak.
While both the Sarouk Farahan and Sultanabad rugs were woven in the same general geographic area the two are quite different. While the Sultanabad rugs do share some of the Persian design repertoire, they tend to have a larger, more supple weave (and accordingly exhibit a bolder, more large scale design).
The design of Sultanabads tends to be more closely associated to those of Heriz or Serapi. That said, the line work of Sultanabads are more curve-linear and classical while they do maintain a more casual and tribal feel. Sultanbad rugs will often have more warm color palettes which also tend to resemble those of the earliest Sarouk Farahan Persian carpets.
The rugs of Sultanabad are extremely desirable in the modern marketplace. The popularity of Sultanabad rugs go back to the mid-19th century. These carpets were designed and produced primarily for export to European consumers, as was the case with the Ziegler firm.
Designers in Sultanabad tinkered with the more traditional Persian color palettes. Though rooted in history, these weavers reinvented the old Persian designs and adapted them to suit the more Western tastes.
Although the rugs of Sultanabad were not always considered purely Persian, they have become classics in their own right. Carpets inspired by the designs of Sultanabad are still manufactured for Western consumers today. Antique pieces from the area sell for top-dollar at auction.