The intricately woven carpet of red and blue and green, with its asymmetrical pattern of sickle-shaped leaves and floral profusion, was created by an unknown artist in Persia, for someone important, possibly the shah, in the first half of the 1600s to decorate the dais of his throne. Later, it fell into the hands of a dealer in Paris, where a blustery billionaire industrialist-turned-senator from Montana fancied it. William Clark probably hung it on the wall of his Fifth Avenue mansion in New York in the early 1900s. Upon his death in 1925, his will bequeathed the rug, with his other art, to the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Highly acclaimed — yet rarely seen except in art books — the carpet spent most of the next 88 years in delicate storage.

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