All the President’s rugs

Antoine Persian Carpets Cleaning and Restoration Studio has been working with some of South Africa’s finest tapestries and rugs for the last 28 years. Amongst these are items at the Groote Schuur Manor in Rondebosch. Myself and the ladies responsible for restoring the collection at Groote Schuur recently visited the estate to learn more about its rich history and its collection of tapestries and rugs.

Groote Schuur curator, Alta Kriel, mentions that the schuur (granary) was built in 1657 and was used to protect harvests from the rainstorms and gales of the Cape winter. Jan van Riebeeck was commissioned to plant vegetables and grains in the Cape for sailors aboard the Dutch East Indian Company ships.

The granary was re-designed and re-built by Sir Herbert Baker to what it is today. The house, which was declared a national monument in 1993, houses priceless treasures of Eastern, European and African provenance. Some of which belonged to Cecil John Rhodes who used to live there.

Groote Schuur is also known for hosting the first official meeting between Nelson Mandela and state president at the time FW De Klerk. De Klerk was the last president to stay in the house. Today, President Thabo Mbeki resides in one of the more practical residences on the estate.

Tapestries and rugs

Of all the tapestries and rugs, the four seventeenth-century hand-woven Flesmish items make a huge impression. Three of the tapestries depict the continents of Africa, Europe and America. The fourth, misidentified as representing Asia for many years, is now known to be a portrayal of the goddess, Victory.

Africa as portrayed in one of the four Flemish, hand-woven tapestries.

Africa as depicted in one of the four Flemish, hand-woven 19C tapestries (Photographed by Alain Proust; Groote Schuur – Great Granary To Stately Home)

The tapestries representing Africa and Europe was given to Rhodes by his uncle, while the remaining two was given to his cousin Miss Peacock. These two were given to the then President Jan Smuts, who at the time lived at Groote Schuur. The Rhodes Trustees gave these to Smuts as a token of their admiration and gratitude for his contribution to the commonwealth.

This beautifull Hamadan rug greets visitors at the entrenace of the Groote Schuur Manor.

This beautiful Hamadan rug greets guests in the lobby of the Groote Schuur Manor (Photographed by Alain Proust; Groote Schuur – Great Granary To Stately Home)

Amongst some of the beautiful rugs that Antoine Persian Carpets Cleaning & Restoration Studio has worked on is this beautiful Hamadan rug featured above.