Posted by R. John Howe on 02-16-2006 09:53 AM:

A One-Rug "Collection"

Dear folks -

One of the frequent items of advice given to collectors is that they should not only focus their interest, but also continually purge their rugs for quality, so as to achieve gradually a small collection of real merit.

This advice seems to have been taken to heart by the owner of this rug in the Anatolian exhibition.



Caroline Beard, who asked me to take her picture with her rug, confessed that it is the only oriental rug she owns.

Now Steve Price is going to look at his dictionary and claim that she does not have a collection (three items is said to be the lower limit).

But I thought you'd be happy to know that at least one person seems to be exercising the order of collecting discipline that is often advised.

Regards,

R. John Howe


Posted by Steve Price on 02-16-2006 09:55 AM:

Hi John

She must be the ultimate specialist collector.

Regards

Steve Price


Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-17-2006 09:06 AM:

Hi John,

I guess she bought it from Mr. Dodds. See picture in our Portraits Gallery:



Very interesting rug.
Regards,

Filiberto


Posted by Tim Adam on 02-17-2006 09:42 AM:

What's so special about this rug, except that it is perhaps unusual? Is it the colors, the wool, the design? It all looks rather pedestrian to me.

Does anyone have access to the cited references?

Tim


Posted by Steve Price on 02-17-2006 10:11 AM:

Hi Tim

The rug is unusual, for sure. It doesn't sing to me nor, I take it, to you.

The only references I see in the exhibition report are to the gallery labels on the rugs. They were written by Dennis Dodds and are reproduced verbatim in the report.

Regards

Steve Price


Posted by Ben Mini on 02-17-2006 10:36 AM:

18th century? That seems pretty ambitious to me. I would, of course, have to actually see the rug before really disputing this date, but as it stands I am pretty skeptical. Do we have additional photos? Ben Mini


Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-17-2006 11:24 AM:

I am partially responsible for the appearance of this rug here: I suggested it to John because I like it.
Why? Letís seeÖ Perhaps because itís simple, rustic, genuine and self-confident.
Regards,

Filiberto


Posted by R. John Howe on 02-17-2006 11:24 AM:

Dear folks -

The image that is up is the only one we have.

This rug was published in 1996 as Plate 49 in the catalog for ICOC VIII and was shown there as part of one of the exhibitions.

The only additional information I have on it is the catalog caption (which I expect Dennis also wrote) which says:

"Central Anatolian (?), 18 century, 2'9" X 4/8". Anonymous.

"The origin of this enigmatic prayer rug is elusive and its structure and design pose questions yet unanswered. Purchased in Central Turkey in 1979, it was called Manastir, a group of rugs known to be heavily wefted and woven with a limited palette. Its stark, yet contemplative design of an eight-pointed star inside an octagon is supplemented by two elements at the bottom of the panel. Rather than portraying a literal instruction to the rug owner to "stand here" while praying, these shapes likely symbolize the feet of the Prophet in the manner of a 17th century silk embroidered prayer rug in the Topkapi Saray Museum in Insanbul (Tezcan and Delibas, pl, 102)."

Dating, of course, is very problematic and the current modal tendency (optimistic dealer assessments aside) is to be quite conservative.

That's probably the best practice, but Harold Keshishian, the long-time dealer, collector here in the Washington, DC area is skeptical about how frequently we say things are "late 19th century" or "turn of the century."

He argues that it seems implausible that almost everything we have was made between about 1875 and 1910. And he will often say "I suspect this piece is older than we think it is."

I say that not to defend this particular dating, but to indicate how troublesome this area is and how odd some of our tendencies about it seem when looked at more closely.

I see lots of American embroidery samplers dated in 1810s-1860s. They are usually on rather fragile cottons. Most rugs are made of studier stuff, even if they were in fact used on the floor. My bet is that there are more 18th century pieces around than we know, we just don't know how to recognize them.

Observation: Hey Tim! Please put a rug that you like. There's no need to be too strictly a dissatisfied consumer.

Regards,

R. John Howe


Posted by Ben Mini on 02-17-2006 11:35 AM:

If this is a prayer rug, and if it is really 18th century, then it is in super-duper condition for a rug of such age--perhaps people only prayed very carefully on this rug? Ben Mini


Posted by Steve Price on 02-17-2006 11:55 AM:

Hi Ben

Condition is not a very decisive criterion of age, especially in a prayer rug. If this one was used for prayer, it would not have had contact with shoes or with feet that had not been washed immediately before contact with it. If it was in a mosque, it might even have been buried beneath the surface by other rugs, sheltered from abrasion and light.

Even if it was not used in prayer, it might have hung on a wall for much of its life. And, if it was badly worn, it may have had lots of restoration.

I'm not attributing it to any particular time by making these comments, just pointing out some of the circumstances under which a rug might be in excellent condition (as judged from a photo) despite great age. Perhaps the most extreme case is the Pazyryk rug, woven more than 2 millennia ago, but still in extraordinary condition.

Regards

Steve Price


Posted by Ben Mini on 02-17-2006 12:18 PM:

"Condition is not a very decisive criterion of age, especially in a prayer rug. "

Steve, I basically agree, but 18th century is pretty darn ancient in rug years and I tend to be suspicious of such dates absent some serious patina, serious conditon issues, or serious restoration.

Does this rug have restoration? It doesn't seem to have much patina from the photo, and even if it had been hung up for 170 years of its 200 year life--well, even then 30 years is ample time to utterly blitz a rug. My previous post was a bit sarcastic, but my point remains: the rug just doesn't look over 200 years old. Maybe it is, but why should we accept that ancient date without more evidence?


Ben Mini


Posted by Tim Adam on 02-17-2006 01:31 PM:

Hi everybody,

I was thinking of the following the references:



I anyone has images of these pieces, and could post them, that would be great.

John: I like the Bidjar rug in the other mini-salon very much.

Tim


Posted by R. John Howe on 02-17-2006 07:40 PM:

Tim -

You said in part:

"...I like the Bidjar rug in the other mini-salon very much."

Me:

I must be misunderstanding. The "other mini-salon" is on Caucasian rugs. Could you be referring to the recent "color" salon discussion and this rug?





I think it important to pin this down. I was beginning to suspect that "good rug" was an empty set for you.

(And I say that without defending this Anatolian selection at all.)

Regards,

R. John Howe


Posted by Tim Adam on 02-17-2006 09:41 PM:

Hi John,

(If this post provokes any more reactions, then I suggest moving it to another place, so as not to clutter the discussion of the Anatolian rug under discussion.)

First, I miswrote. I meant the Bidjov rug from the Caucasian salon. Actually, I never liked these rugs very much, until we discussed this type here on Turkotek. Seeing the Bidjov you presented and realizing a possible connection to the Caucasian palmette rugs made a big impression.

There are lots of other rugs that I find fascinating, although much of what I see leaves me cold. Below are four examples of rugs that I find very special. Unfortunately, none of the images really does justice to any of them.









Tim


Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-18-2006 04:18 AM:

Hi Tim,

When John asked you ďPlease put a rug that you likeĒ, I think he meant ďfrom the Philadelphia exhibition.Ē

Ben,

quote:
the rug just doesn't look over 200 years old. Maybe it is, but why should we accept that ancient date without more evidence?

Nobody here is saying that the rug is that old. John only quoted the catalog caption.

Any doubts are licit, of course, but Iím afraid that discussing the age of a rug from a small photo is Ė as usual Ė very difficult. One should at least see it in the wool.

Then, about Johnís hint on sellersí optimistic over-dating: that is a problem as old as the trade. One should expect that serious scholars and dealers shouldnít indulge in that practice, right?
At the end of the day, itís their reputation that guarantees the credibility of their assessments and itís up to us to believe it or not Ė needless to say, depending of what we think of their reputation.
Regards,

Filiberto


Posted by R. John Howe on 02-18-2006 06:18 AM:

Filiberto, Tim -

Oh no, I was not restricting things at all for Tim.

His negative evaluations of pieces here fall like an unremitting rain. Sometimes there are near verbal sneers (how could anyone have been so benighted as to...?).

I was truly interested in determining whether there was anything at all that he liked, and if so, what that might look like.

I am glad to have been mistaken and to find that he does find some rugs attractive.

Regards,

R. John Howe


Posted by Ben Mini on 02-18-2006 09:14 AM:

So, it's a coarse Turkish rug with lots of wefts between the rows of knots--purchased as a 'Manastir' (a known type of coarse Turkish rug with many wefts, often with limited pallets and produced well into the 20th century), but it was sold as 'Central Anatolian'. By '18th century, Central Anatolian' I suppose that there's an implication that this rug is either related to or part of the so-called 'yellow-ground' group of mostly early to mid 19th century Konya (?) rugs.

But this rug doesn't really look like those 'yellow-ground' rugs, does it? Yes, I know that not every 'yellow-ground' rug has a yellow ground. Some have red grounds for instance, like the rug in question. But still, I just don't see the similarity. I found a photo of one of these Konyas in Eiland's big book (plate 162) and it's border is similar to the border of the rug in question--at least the vertical parts of the border. Still, the border in our rug lacks the grace, the spaciousness, and the wonkiness, of the obviously earlier piece. And the horizontal border is cramped in a way that would surprise me were this rug truly 18th century. Also, I've come to expect apricots, and purples, and lilacs, etc. in Central Anatolian rugs of such ancient vintage. As far as I can tell, our Philadelphia rug has only red, white, and blue.

You are all right to say that you can't truly judge age without seeing and handling a rug, but even without handling this rug, I just don't see how it fits in with the vocabulary of 18th to mid 19th Central Anatolian rugs. Am I really alone in feeling this way? Have I missed something?

Ben Mini


Posted by Tim Adam on 02-18-2006 09:17 AM:

Hi John,

I am sorry that my posts provoked such negative reactions, but I am glad this issue is settled



and look forward to a season of great rugs on Turkotek (no sneer intended).

Regards,

Tim


Posted by Steve Price on 02-18-2006 10:36 AM:

Hi Ben

You wrote, So, it's a coarse Turkish rug with lots of wefts between the rows of knots--purchased as a 'Manastir' (a known type of coarse Turkish rug with many wefts, often with limited pallets and produced well into the 20th century), but it was sold as 'Central Anatolian'.

Maybe I'm reading too much into that, but it looks to me as though it implies that there was something sinister about it having been bought in 1979 from someone who called it Manastir and sold 20 or 25 years later as Central Anatolian. Many dealers in Turkey (and elsewhere, of course) attribute their wares to surprising geographic origins. I see nothing in this that arouses my suspicions, especially, since the person who put the information about the rug's history into public view is the guy who bought it and sold it.

You continued, I suppose that there's an implication that this rug is either related to or part of the so-called 'yellow-ground' group of mostly early to mid 19th century Konya (?) rugs.

I'm afraid I missed whatever it was that you saw that implied that giving it a central Anatolian attribution related it to the "yellow ground" Konya group.

Again, I am not defending the attributions of date or of place of origin, just trying to keep things on an even keel.

Thanks,

Steve Price


Posted by Ben Mini on 02-18-2006 11:09 AM:

Steve,

What was it Jim Opie used to say: "I buy Shiraz, I sell Qashqai"

I don't think there's anything too sinister in that, and I would hope that we could all buy Shiraz and sell Qashqai.


My mention of the 'Yellow Ground' group was because that's a known type, a group of rugs generally agreed to date from 18th to 19th centuries, coarse as heck, and loaded with more wefts than was probably necessary. Since the rug in question is also being touted as 18thc. Central Anatolian, and since the Museum description of this rug states, "Certain structural and design characteristics found in this unusual rug are consistent with a particular type of weaving from central Anatolia. There are 5-6 wefts between each row of symmetric knots," I therefore concluded that a connection between this rug and other multi-wefted, super-coarse, 18th-19thc Central Anatolian rugs was being made. My post was meant to imply that from a color and design perspective, this rug just doesn't seem to fit the bill. Perhaps I'm wrong. I'm certainly open to that. Is there another 'type' of Central Anatolian 18thc. pile weaving I should compare this piece to?

Ben Mini


Posted by Steve Price on 02-18-2006 01:07 PM:

Hi Ben

I didn't pick up on the multi-weft connection; now I see your point. Jim Opie's quip is a variant on the second hand shop window sign: "Best prices for your junk; we sell antiques."

Regards

Steve Price


Posted by Tim Adam on 02-18-2006 10:58 PM:

Hello everyone,

I found one of the rugs that Dodds referred to:

One of the "animal pelt" carpets in the Turkish and Islamic Art Museum in Istanbul. The other one looks very similar, so I didn't scan that one.



Could someone else locate the other references?

Tim


Posted by Cevat Kanig on 02-19-2006 08:16 AM:

Hi Tim,

Is this the one that you mean in Mevlana Muzeum ?



Regards.


Posted by Tim Adam on 02-19-2006 10:29 AM:

Cevat,

I doubt this is the one Dodds had in mind. It should have some similarity with the rug under discussion.

Tim


Posted by Tim Adam on 03-30-2006 12:03 AM:

Hello all,

When I saw the rug in the flesh today it remined me of sleeping rugs. It is super coarse with thick pile. From the back it looks exactly like a sleeping rug, with many wefts between each row of knots. The pile is still in quite good condition. No localized wear at all as you might expect from a prayer rug.

Tim


Posted by Wendel Swan on 03-30-2006 01:08 PM:

Hello everyone,

This simple prayer rug or sleeping rug was exhibited at the ICOC in Philadelphia in 1996 at Woodmere, where I must have seen it. However, I donít recall it specifically from the exhibition. I know Iíve seen the image in Oriental Rugs from Atlantic Collections, but Iíve never paid particular attention to it.

From the moment my hand first touched it last Friday, I realized its wonderful tactile qualities. It feels, as the Persian expression goes, like a handerchief: very soft and supple.

Tim, I have seen only one prayer rug that looks as if the wear might possibly be from use in praying. Even if a rug were used only for prayer, it would take years or even decades of use five times a day to produce noticeable wear in the areas where the feet, knees and hands come into contact with the rug.

As Iím sure Tim will attest, this rug is much different in the flesh than one would expect.

Wendel


Posted by Tim Adam on 03-30-2006 02:04 PM:

Hi Wendel,

I was just thinking that given the delicacy of this rug, wear would show up rather quickly had it ever been used for prayer. The fact that there is no wear doesn't prove much one way or the other. But why would one want to produce a coarse and high pile rug as a prayer rug? It's rather impractical. As a sleeping rug it makes sense, however. And in that case the two blue ornaments make sense too, indicating where to put your feet and your head.

It seems to me that there is really no indicator that this rug might be a prayer rug other than it being directional.

Tim


Posted by Wendel Swan on 03-31-2006 08:32 AM:

Tim,

Your use of "delcacy" in describing this coarsely and loosely woven rug is apt. From images alone, it is difficult to imagine how delicate it feels.

My 20th Century filikli (which most would consider to be a sleeping rug) with one knot per square inch has been shown here on Turkotek in the past. It also has that loose, blanket-like feel, although the pile is 5-10 times longer.

Wendel