Tinco and his Ziegler carpets

The title is misleading. Purposefully so, because it points towards the hidden stories behind Tinco’s life (which we seek to unravel).

We know that Tinco Lycklama brought oriental rugs from Persia. Some have survived, and some have vanished (and may be still in some collection, somewhere). We don’t know (yet) if they were from Ziegler, but they may have been.

But, anyway, who was Ziegler?

We’re still in Tabriz, hundred fifty years ago. Tinco arrived in that city on 8 April, 1866. One of his first and most important visits was one out of necessity. He had to meet Mr. Würth.

Persian rug from Tinco’s collection – Location: Musée de la Castre, Cannes (F)

Back in Tiflis, a local Russian merchant – who also performed banking functions – had provided Tinco with papers that would facilitate assistance – and money! – from Mr Würth in Tabriz. Würth was involved in import/export in all sorts of goods – one of the very few foreign operators in this bustling merchant city (the most important center of commerce, after Tehran). Würth was also some sort of banker. And… he was Swiss. He was an associate of Mr. Feidinger, another Swiss national. Tinco writes that both gentleman were extremely helpful and of the most agreeable company. After doing their business, Würth and his wife welcomed Tinco for dinner at their ‘country home’, not far outside Tabriz’ city walls. There, two more Swiss attended the dinner, Messrs. Meili and Bauman – both Swiss nationals, once again. Tinco also met with the Russian consul-general Stoupine (and his wife), as well as the British consul-general Keith Edward Abbott, who was the dean of the European community at Tabriz at that time.


The story of the Swiss in Persia is interesting. Very little documentation seems to survive, but some researchers estimate that between 10-15% of all exports from Persia came through Swiss traders. In fact, some Swiss were in Persia as early as the 17th century (does it surprise if we say those early Swiss were clockmakers?). Even Jean-Baptiste Tavernier (1605-1689), one of Tinco’s inspirations, came to Persia in the company of a Swiss maker of jewels and clocks, Hans Rudolf Stadler (from Zürich).

Antique Tabriz Rug from Ziegler - Late 19th Century - Source Nazmiyal Collection
Tabriz rug from Ziegler – late 19th century – From the Nazmiyal Collection

Whereas Tinco doesn’t mention it (as it happened a few years after his travels in Persia) Mr. Würth and Mr. Baumann actually formed the Tabriz branch of Ziegler & Cie – a Swiss company that focused on trade with Persia – as early as 1869. In fact, they invested heavily in the rug trade and introduced production and logistical systems that enabled the Persians to manufacture carpets on a near-industrial scale. Through Ziegler’s international business set-up, these carpets ended up all over the world – and Ziegler carpets are still associated with the western perception of what oriental rugs are about.

Interestingly, in 1874, a Dutch company by the name of J.C.P. Hotz & Zoon set up the “Vennootschap Perzische Handelsvereeniging” (Persian Trade Association). The son, Albertus Paulus Hermanus Hotz (1855-1930), was only nineteen when he travelled to Persia in 1874 – coincidently staying at many of the places that Tinco had visited just a few years earlier. From 1876 onwards, Hotz developed a range of activities, mainly in carpets and banking. Given the attention given to the publication of Tinco’s travel writings (between 1871-1874), it is hard to imagine that the Hotz would not have been aware of Tinco’s travels. They may even have met Tinco for advice, as he was the only living Dutchman to have traveled the region and having business contacts on the ground (such as Würth and Baumann, and through them the Ziegler company). The first Dutch consul-general in Persia, Richard Christian Keun van Hoogerwoerd (1838-1906), arrived in 1868, and Tinco left Persia one year before, but there is a solid chance that both have been in contact afterwards. In fact, it was consul Keun van Hoogerwoerd who advised Hotz early on to establish a business in Persia.

Tinco may or may not have bought carpets through Würth and Ziegler. But, he had a close connection to people involved in the industrialisation and internationalisation of the Persian carpet industry. Possibly, another interesting axis for investigation.

Some background information:

  • About Ziegler & Cie. on Wikipedia… (also check the page in other languages)
  • Etemad, Bouda : “Une maison suisse de commerce en Perse: Ziegler & Cie (1860-1934)”, in Revue Suisse d’Histoire, 1987 (see document…)
  • Witkam, Jan Just : “Albert Hotz and his Photographs from Iran: an Introduction to the Leiden Collection”, in “Iran and Iranian Studies”, edited by Kambiz Eslami, Zagros Press, Princeton, 1998 (see document…)
  • Interesting background and photography about Ziegler at the Ajam Media Collective…


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