Condition and Age
Other things being equal, the condition of a rug and the extent to which the dyestuffs have been altered by light exposure often influences our estimates of age more than we realize. In the old Lefevre auction catalogues they often claimed that a carpet was from the last quarter of the nineteenth century, but that if it were not for its excellent condition an earlier dating would have been appropriate. There are many apocryphal stories of otherwise collectible rugs of good age that were not saleable because they had never been exposed to light.
I want to repeat a story of my own that I reported years ago on Turkotek. In the unlikely event that anyone remembers, I apologize in advance. A leading and completely straightforward dealer in Persian tribal rugs sent me on approval two Afshar bagfaces with very similar designs. He recommended the nineteenth century piece that had softened colors and slightly worn pile, but included the second piece that was in perfect condition with somewhat harsh colors presumably to illustrate the decline in quality that occurred in the twentieth century. I didn’t question his dating. The price of the older piece was twice that of the younger, which seemed reasonable to me. By chance, Val Arbab, my tennis partner, came by and saw the two bagfaces. Almost at once, she said “Leslie, you realize that these are the two faces of the same double bag.” She had noticed that the warps came in groups that had different colors and textures, and that they matched exactly on the two faces. She was right, but I still bought the “older” piece.
On the one hand, older pieces are likely to show more wear and light-induced color changes than newer ones so, statistically, condition may be some sort of guide to age. On the other hand, we collect single examples not statistical ensembles so condition is, at best, a very weak guide. Maybe, we should often think of rugs as “older looking” or “younger looking” and hope that there is at least a reasonable if not perfect correlation with chronological age.
it is an almost universal principle isn’t it? Of two cars with same production date one may have 50 thousand miles on the clock and the other 150, and it shows and influences its reselling value. A wooden boat with clear varnish at the same mooring for a few years will be lighter on the side where it is exposed to the sun. After another few years this will be side where it begins to leak.
In that respect thinks have not changed much since the old donkey hit the same old track day after day, always exposing the one side of the double-back to the intense late morning sun, and returning only, when the cool of the evening has begun to set in.