Posted by Jerry_Silverman on 04-24-2003 09:50 AM:

A Gathering of Nonbelievers

I have generated a review of some of my impressions of ICOC-X, on which I invite comments. You can read it by following this link:

Jerry Silverman

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 04-25-2003 10:02 AM:

Hi Jerry,

Thanks for your review.

The rug you define "of a similar vintage" as Jerry Raack’s is certainly interesting. The main motif reminds me some Shirvan - see Bennett’s plate 224-5-6, or the Moghan on plate 167. Or the Gendje on plate 150. Well, also Kaffel’s Daghestan 60 and 61.

If this is a new production made with the recycled wool from old kilims, the people who made this (and Raak’s) are definitely good. They know how to make very appealing rugs.

Are those fakes? I guess they are, IF they are sold as antiques.
Strictly speaking, they are not copies, they are reinterpretations. I vaguely recall of a "falsifier" (forgot his name) who made very good reinterpretations (not reproductions) of old master’s paintings. Now those "fakes" are collected.

How was this one labeled? What about its price? I mean, could you give us an idea speaking about price per square foot, roughly. Provided you know it, of course.


Posted by Steve Price on 04-25-2003 10:09 AM:

Hi Guys,

Without intending to inhibit discussion, I just want to drop a reminder that selling price is one of the things we try to avoid unless it's really necessary in order to make some other point.


Steve Price

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 04-25-2003 11:33 AM:

That’s why I asked for the "price per square foot, roughly". Not knowing the rug size, there is no way we can tell its actual price.
The idea was, if Jerry could supply the information, to compare the price per square foot to the DOBAG ones.
But perhaps this is not a good idea if, like it seems, it was sold as an antique.


Posted by Jerry Silverman on 04-25-2003 01:40 PM:

Dear Filiberto,

I didn't get as far as asking about price. The rug wasn't claims on paper. Jerry Raack and I were looking at the rug when one of the men in the booth came over and asked about our interest. I asked if he thought this could be a new rug.

"Oh, no!" said the dealer. "This is 19th century." So I told him I had seen something very similar a year ago which had fooled experts. The dealer wasn't moved. Asking the price at that point would have probably started a fight.

Two days later I was strolling through the Dealers' Fair when the guy from the booth came up to me and asked me to come with him to examine a rug at another booth. He led me to a large, pristine Karachopf Kazak - great color, full pile, classic design, labelled as 19th century. And damn if there was no corrosion of dark colors and "blooming" wool knots. He swore it was no more than five years old and had been made in Turkey.

"I've seen thousands of these being made and in warehouses in Turkey," he said, establishing his bona fides as an expert in recognizing fakes. In his next breath he claimed once again that his piece was authentic. When I suggested we take another look at it, he told me it had been sold and was gone.

And that's where it ended.

These aren't reproductions. They are fakes made expressly for the purpose of deception.



Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 04-25-2003 03:39 PM:

Thanks, Jerry.

I see.
I’m told it’s not too difficult to clip the browns in order to simulate corrosion. They could even make "simulated" repairs. So, how the hell one can distinguish a real old rug from a fake?


Posted by Jerry Silverman on 04-25-2003 04:48 PM:

Dear Filiberto,

I think we discussed this at some length about a year ago, but it was in a "Show & Tell" and may not have been archived. Perhaps Steve will remember.

The conclusion we reach, however, is still fresh in my mind.

How do we detect a fake made to deceive? It ain't easy.

Fakery has long plagued other collecting areas. Rugs have been relatively immune. (Except for the work of Tuduc - the guy whose name eluded you in a previous posting.) The reason is simple: the payoff with rugs is too small. Fake a Picasso and you stand to make millions. Fake a Kazak and the payoff is much more modest. But not negligible. For those with the time, materials, skill, and low-cost labor it still beats honest work. Which is what I believe we're seeing here.


Posted by Jerry Silverman on 04-25-2003 05:41 PM:

Okay, folks, with Steve's help here are the relevant pics of the piece offered on eBay.

Please compare these with the images of the ICOC X Dealers' Fair piece.

And then to the image of the fake from ACOR6.

Perhaps now you can see why my first reaction to seeing something I've never seen before but instinctively like is suspicion.



Posted by Steve Price on 04-25-2003 06:43 PM:

Hi People,

Just for clarification: the piece Jerry refers to as having been offered on eBay was sold some time ago.

Filiberto notes that brown or black pile can easily be clipped to look corroded. This is true, of course, and many Turkish rugs made in Caucasian designs and colors in the 1980s and 1990s had clipped blacks. I don't think they were intended to deceive - it made a nice relief surface. It isn't hard to tell this from corroded blacks, though. Corroded black is hardly ever uniform - the pile height will vary in different parts of the rug. Also, in places where the corrosion is pretty severe, you can usually rub some of the remaining pile off easily with your fingers.


Steve Price

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 04-26-2003 06:14 AM:

Hi Jerry,

No, it wasn’t Tuduc, I was speaking about painting forgery.
I used the mighty web to refresh my memory and discovered I was sort of mixing two famous art forgers. The first was the Dutch HAN VAN MEEGEREN, the Vermeer forger. The second was the Hungarian ELMYR DE HORY. Up to 90 per cent of his forgeries are still hanging undetected in museums and galleries, according to his biographer. I read people are collecting his forgeries and there are even fakes De Hory.
Thanks for posting the e-bay rug. I like that too. IMHO it is worth of collecting, like De Hory’s paintings.
Best regards,


Posted by Patrick Weiler on 04-26-2003 02:05 PM:

Thank Goodness for Poverty


The rug at the Dealers Fair certainly had features of age, from the darker white wool and the low pile to the variegation in some of the colors. There were a number of Rumanian "copies" of old Caucasian rugs on the market a dozen years ago that were very good - except the abrasion in the blacks was obviously put there with a rotary sander - the adjacent areas of other colors were similarly abraded, which doesn't happen in truly old pieces.
As for the "perfect" Caucasian rugs being made in Turkey, I am sure that they would not be selling for flea market prices, so I do not have to worry about accidentally getting one in MY collection!

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Michael Bischof on 05-12-2003 01:55 PM:

Hi everybody,

well, Patrick, I am not that sure. At the end, in case a piece did not sell, the price will go down. And then ... ;-)

As far as I understood Jerry the approach to have a close look does no longer reveal if a certain piece under examination is a fake or not, yes ? Anybody to propose any other approach then ?

This time I could not visit ICOC. Jürg Rageth had a similar speech/lecture in Traunstein at the kilim exhibition ( which we mentioned in our salon discussion about "Kilim" ). About 2 years ago.
He discussed in detail a "phoenix-and-dragon" piece, radiocarbon dated to ca. middle of the 18th century, as far as I remember, sold into an American collection. In case it would be true a striking continuity of this weaving tradition. However having heard his
lecture my conclusion was : the least improbable assumption is that it is a high quality fake. Unless the collector is able to document by proper research where the piece was exactly from and under which circumstances this special tradition could go on that far.

In other terms: the status of an A-piece in our proposed terminology would have been necessary. The owner was quite upset to hear of this opinion - later I heard the piece was given back to the dealer ( who had got it via Istanbul, as hearsay claims to know).
Did Jürg follow up this story further ?


Michael Bischof

Posted by Sophia Gates on 05-12-2003 05:20 PM:

Good Dyes

Michael, if it's the piece I'm thinking of - it was tested and turned out to have ALL synthetic dyes.

I missed part of the lecture but Marla told me that Kurt made a point of saying how beautiful the piece was, that it looked EXACTLY like the old ones.

Which brings up another point I've been trying to make for ages: if synthetic dyes can fool people that completely - into not just looking like late 19th century "natural" dyes - but as good as 15th century dyes - hello???? What's the big deal? Doesn't this really mean that the COLOR RANGE employed, how & where it's used, how the wools are prepared, are ultimately the important factors?

I think it's time for people to start looking at rugs as art and not as a conglomeration of materials.

Best to all,

Posted by Steve Price on 05-13-2003 11:32 AM:

Hi Sophia,

The problem is, while many collectors see rugs as art and collect them on that basis, there are a number of other factors that are important, for good reasons or bad. For example, there are people who collect antiques because antiques are old. This applies to some rug collectors as well, and the materials used go a long way toward establishing the age of a piece. And, of course, there are not many rugs with a lot of artistic merit.

While collecting things because they are old may seem irrational, collecting is a fundamentally irrational activity, so we probably shouldn't devote much energy to worrying about that. The value of a hubcap, postage stamp or coin (or even an airsickness bag - there are people who collect them, too!) is only marginally related to its aesthetic or artistic qualities. I know of no moral imperative that would make one motive for collecting superior to another.

That, to quote Winnie-the-Pooh, is How Things Are.


Steve Price

PS - I enjoyed meeting you at ICOC.

Posted by Sophia Gates on 05-13-2003 12:32 PM:

Old = Good?

Hi Steve -

Indeed, I enjoyed meeting you as well! I have some thoughts about your talk, concerning stray reds in Turkmen weavings, but I'll save that for another post. Meanwhile -

I agree with you absolutely about the fact that collectors of antiques like really OLD antiques - stands to reason! I'm into antiques other than rugs and part of the joy of touching an ancient piece, or even one just a generation or two old, is the sense of touching history. My first antique was purchased when I was just 21 - I bought a couple of necklaces made of 2500 year old faience "mummy beads" from Egypt - and they thrill me to this day.

What bugs me, however, is the assumption that Old Is Better/More Beautiful, whatever - and its corrollary - that Newer Is Uglier - It Ain't Necessarily So! And that goes not just for color composition and ranges, but for proportion, subject matter, spatial relations - we make value judgements all the time concerning age = esthetic value - and toss onto the trash heap pieces which we were previously ecstatic to own, but which, once discovered to have - horrors - Synthetic Dyes - regardless of their beauty.

THAT, I say, is anti-art. What's wrong with having in one's collection pieces of all ages?

Recently - or perhaps I should say - once again - I've become interested in Chinese antiques - and there's a snarled web if there ever was one! Part of the difficulty in that field is inherent in the Oriental view of copying: it's considered, not just acceptable, but necessary in order to learn one's craft! So you can imagine the difficulties inherent in determining the Tang-ness of one's Tang horse! Indeed, it's pretty close to impossible, TL tests to the contrary notwithstanding - they've proven to be expensive and accurate only a degree, and easily circumvented by a smart "faker" (copyist?)

Actually, rug collectors are lucky in that there was such a clear divide between the use of natural vs synthetic dyes in terms of age - it gives one at least a rough guideline in terms of age. I say "rough" - because there's NOTHING to prove that a piece made in 1920 - or 1970 or 1990 for that matter - with all-natural dyes - isn't a member of the coveted group of pre-1870 paragons! And trying to establish age by using esthetic guidelines alone is, as we've seen again and again, futile.

My point? Look at the big scheme of things when considering your rugs! China, for example, has been producing enviable art for over 5,000 years. The difference in age between an 1870 rug and an 1850 rug is pretty darn slim when looked at that way. In fact, since people have been making art for tens of thousands of years - even a sixteenth century piece isn't really OLD old! The collector of Shang Dynasty bronze, in fact, would be upset to find that his piece was a 16th century copy! But to the 21st century collector, the Ming copy of a Shang original is quite fascinating - not least for what it has to say about the fact that the Ming artisan found the ancient Shang piece worthy of being copied, although he lived in a vastly different time! The esthetic values of Shang were great in their time and they remain great today - much like the dragon and phoenix emblazoned on that 19th century rug.

We're all part of a much larger sweep of time and history than we usually consider...part of the joy of studying and collecting art - antique and otherwise, is that it brings us into touch with time...with change, and with the type of power and beauty that never fades.

Indeed, the rug containing "early synthetics" may well be of great historical value. Those rugs, after all, reflect the ending of one age and the dawn of another. And if it's beautiful or visually interesting too - why should it be considered less so because of what's coloring the wools?

Best to all,

Posted by Michael Bischof on 05-13-2003 02:21 PM:

redirect ...

Hallo everybody,

may I insist on my question: it must be a misunderstanding. The phoenix-and-dragon-piece that I mentioned
was without synthetic dyes. It had been radiocarbon-dated, but not to the 15th century but to the 18th century. A time gap of about
200 years. It was sold as an antique piece, of course but the question arose whether it was a fake. When it was discussed by Juerg Rageth
at the mentioned Traunstein lecture people were quite shocked to be invited to such a possibility: a fake that could hide even from high level experts ( Prof. Enderlein from the Berlin Museum , for example , who closely examined it). I want to know whether Juerg had followed up what happened with this piece since that lecture in Traunstein !

And I was curious about other peoples reactions to potential fakes at the dealers exhibition at ICOC. In Milano they were quite some but often people judged just by prejudice. I failed to meet anybody to tell me
how he discovered that a certain piece was a fake. To be remembered: the piece that Jerry showed here again ( this little Anatolian minder-kind of weave ...) was exhibited last
year at ACOR, much later ...

Yours sincerely

Michael Bischof