Centuries old local rug importer provides unique Oriental rugs

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Centuries old local rug importer provides unique Oriental rugs

  • by Angela deGregory
  • Special to Historic City News

Mussallem Galleries is a spotlight sponsor for the Lightner Museum’s Dressing Downton exhibition.  The Lightner was lent a total of ten rare and historic rugs to use in the special exhibition.  They are combined into elaborate room settings in the Grand Ballroom Gallery.

Mussallem Galleries original Florida location was in Saint Augustine.  In the late 1890’s, Henry Flagler purchased rugs from the Mussallems to use at his opulent hotels.  Mussallem Galleries is now located in Jacksonville and has been family owned and operated for five generations.

“The museum is proud to have such a highly-esteemed sponsor involved with the special exhibition,” Director Robert Harper told local Historic City News reporters.  “Now that the Dressing Downton exhibition has been extended through February 4th, the Lightner Museum is excited to have the opportunity to have these magnificent Oriental rugs on display for a few more weeks.”

When Museum Curator Barry Myers and Harper approached James Mussallem about becoming a sponsor of Dressing Downton, they were hopeful the gallery would be generous and donate one or two rugs.  They were pleasantly surprised when the gallery exceeded expectations; Mussallem continued to provide classic Oriental rugs until all the vignettes were covered.

The majority of the museum’s staff and volunteers had not seen the rugs until it was time to roll them out, and seeing them for the first time was comparable to Christmas morning.

Nearly every room setting of the exhibition contains a unique Oriental rug that would be suitable for Downton Abbey, and the Lightner Museum could not imagine the exhibition any other way.

A crowd favorite is the Silk Arabial in the drawing room of the exhibit. This elegant rug is 12′ x 18′, the colors are vibrant, and the pattern is so detailed that it almost glitters. The opulence of the silk rug perfectly contributes to the clothing and Lightner’s collection in the space.

Although they provide their clients with fine decorative arts, paintings, and jewelry, Mussallem first specialized in Oriental rugs in 1897.  Myers compared Mussallem Galleries to a high-end museum where everything is available to purchase.  The ten rugs currently on display will also be offered for sale at the close of the Dressing Downton exhibition.

There is still plenty of time to visit the Lightner Museum, check out the Dressing Downton exhibition, and see these magnificent rugs for yourself.  Please purchase tickets in advance.


The Lightner Museum is a non-profit cultural institution sustained by the generous support of individuals, businesses, and sponsors, including Historic City Companies, Inc. publishers of Historic City News.  This exhibition is funded in-part by Bank of America, St. Johns County Cultural Council, St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, and the Beaches Tourist Development Council, Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, WJCT Public Broadcasting, and Visit Florida.  Exhibition produced by Exhibits Development Group in cooperation with Cosprop Ltd., London. Downton and Downton Abbey. ©2016 Carnival Film & Television Limited. A Carnival Films/Masterpiece Co-Production. Carnival logo ©2005 Carnival Film & Television Limited. Masterpiece is a trademark of the WGBH Educational Foundation. All Rights Reserved.  Photo credits: © 2018 Historic City News contributed photograph by Thomas Wolf, PhotoArchitectural

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