I Can't Make My Choices Fit the Categories

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Posted by Marla Mallett on May 17, 1999 at 09:14:22:

Jerry and all,

While it's easy to cite favorite rug books (Kircheim's ORIENT STARS or Olcer's TURKISH CARPETS FROM THE 13TH-18TH CENTURIES for me), choosing the "best" from regional categories is tough! Do you mean most credible text? Or most inspiring photos? They're rarely combined. Because of its poor photos, it would be difficult to recommend Cecil Edwards' PERSIAN CARPET to a beginning collector, though this is certainly among the most important in its category. The same could be said of Parvis Tanavoli's SHAHSEVAN. Though Parvis may be the most credible current researcher concerned with 19th and 20th century Iraning weavings, his books are filled with plates that simply aren't very appealing. Richard Wright's collection of RESEARCH REPORTS--stuffed in a loose-leaf notebook--provides some of the best reading on my shelf, but even when parts of these materials are summarized in CAUCASIAN CARPETS AND COVERS, they are unlikely to excite a beginning collector.

With price in mind, to both stimulate the interest and hone the eye of a new ruggie, I'd go for the variety and visual riches offered by the following:

CARPET MAGIC, Jon Thompson. Unique, because it both informs and stimulates.

ORIENTAL CARPETS: A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE, Eiland and Eiland. The new edition has great photos (unlike the last edition) and an expanded text. Murray has also now provided references to guide anyone who wishes to explore specific areas. Not just for rank beginners.

ORIENTAL RUGS FROM ATLANTIC COLLECTIONS, eds., Dodds and Eiland. This catalog from the Philadelphia ICOC offers a wide array of excellent pieces from every geographic area. 331 good plates.

ORIENTAL RUGS FROM PACIFIC COLLECTIONS, ed., Eiland. More collectible pieces--many within the means of ordinary collectors. 281 plates plus some useful text. I find this and the publication above to be better than most "surveys."

TURKMEN: TRIBAL CARPETS AND TRADITIONS, Mackie and Thompson. The 1980 ICOC exhibition catalog from the Textile Museum.

KILIMS: MASTERPIECES FROM TURKEY, Petsopoulos. Unfamiliar to many folks, this shows a more inspired and slightly wider-ranging selection than the deYoung's McCoy Jones Collection Catalog. Not to be confused with the huge 1979 volume by Petsopoulos called simply, KILIMS.

FLATWEAVES OF TURKEY, Brandsma and Brandt. Shows 19th century pieces of types available to collectors of modest means. It also includes bags. This covers material neglected by the Atlantic and Pacific Collections catalogs.

THE CHRISTIAN ORIENTAL CARPET, Gantzhorn. I'm serious. It's a $35 bargain. Unless one wants to spring for the $350 TURKISH CARPETS FROM THE 13TH-19TH CENTURIES, Gantzhorn offers the best collection of plates of important "classical" carpets. Though his text foolishly credits Armenian production with virtually all that's worthwhile, a great many other publications have done precisely the reverse--perpetuated myths of Turkic origins to the exclusion of all else.

CARPETS IN THE PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART, Ellis. Good large plates of early workshop carpets from all areas. Very inexpensive, as well as infomative.

CARPETS OF THE VAKIFLAR MUSEUM ISTANBUL, Balpinar and Hirsch. Again, an alternative to much more expensive volumes.

I have to agree with John Downie that Alister Hull's book, LIVING WITH KILIMS (as well as his LIVING WITH TEXTILES), probably does more to stir an initial interest in non-ruggies than any other publication, although it is not very informative. But Hull demonstrates how tribal weavings can enrich one's environment without the expenditure of megabucks. We continually hear complaints that there are few new young collectors around. Hull's approach is more likely to change that than exhibitions of $50,000 fragments and talk that discredits all but the rarest material.


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