Re: Through the Microscope

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Posted by Harry Ulfan on July 05, 1999 at 18:02:51:

In Reply to: Re: Through the Microscope posted by Jerry Silverman on July 05, 1999 at 01:17:43:

: : : I think it started with Kurt and myself visiting the belly of the beast,that would be the MET, and watching Noboku put our pieces on the table under a huge Nikon surface scanning microscope hooked up to a TV moniter. With this device things like "z" spin and "s" ply took on true meaningfulness. The minute details of masterwork weaving became obvious. Great weaving includes things like asymmetric weft packing, staggered knotting, and I got the impression that the true masterweaver tuned her loom like a musician tunes an instrument. I became familiar with fiber breakage in old rugs and high intensity black light characterization. There are large books full of the most minute detail of dye stuffs through the ages along with true color plates. Have you ever seen any of this stuff? I am beginning to believe that C-14 analysis is just another whipping boy. Collectors have strong opinions which make them collectors. Nobody is interested in the "truth" here; just their gear and how much they like it and how much less they would like to pay for it. This is after all one of the most logical "sounding" bunch of people on the internet. Last note, the breakage of fibers from the back of the knot bundle seems to be correlated with age. I am sure there are uses which predispose to this kind of damage but the oldest rugs all have this sign. A good microscope is made by Leitz that does rugs perfectly;1200.00 dollars. Jim

: : Jim:
: : Can you describe in any greater detail what you mean when you refer to asymmetric weft packing? Is there a distinction in your mind between staggered knotting and offset knotting? If there is, can you describe what you mean by staggered knotting and how it was used?
: : In your mind is there a correlation between the breakage of fibers from the back of the knot bundle with the handle or feel of the back? You may recall several posts referring to the feel of the back as being one of the factors assessed when judging age. I wonder if the two are connected based on your experience? Thanks. MW

: And while you're at it, Jim, do you know of anywhere we can find scan-able photos of these characteristics that we can post here? Knowing that these indicators might be of value in assessing age, I'd love to see just what they look like.

: Cordially,

: -Jerry-

Dear Lady and Gents;
I modestly think that this interesting discussion
is running into the end of a dead-end alley.
I think that your very useful comments lead
closer and closer to the conclusion that , save
for the "conventional" extremely subjective
"methods" of dating rugs (extremely unscientific) , there is simply no acceptable method of really
dating a rug and saying with certainty that one's
conclusion in this regard is indisputable.
This argument , that appears clearer as we go
along , leads to a very important question :
Do we need to know a rug's age in order to be
able to put a monetary value on it or in order to
be able to appreciate it and enjoy it (love it )
After reading Jim's very revealing posts .I couldn't
help myself from asking the (silly , perhaps)
question : If the guy at the Met put a "new"
Kashan with 900 KPSI under his great microscope - wouldn't that look pretty amazing
from a technical standpoint? Or a modern silk
Hereke for that matter?
The point is , I think , that Jim put under that
microscope pieces that first passed the "conventional "methods of dating under his
hands (and eyes) .
All of that is bringing me back to a point I've been trying hard to make on this board. If older
doesn't necessarily mean more expensive then
why do we have to bother with examining items
under the microscope ? If technically superior
does not necessarily mean a better artistic
expression why do we have to bother with how
exactly the weft is spun and at what intervals?
In my opinion , we have to teach ourselves how
to appreciate (and love) the things that really
matter : How this artform talks to us (moves us).
I think that it does it by means of color , composition and how these two factors are "out
there" in a piece as means of bridging the gap
between what the weaver was trying to say
and what we hear .
My "forte" is the visual arts , and so I can't not
draw analogies , and I think that they are valid.
Here's one : It is said (rightly) about Flemish
paintings of the 14th and 15th centuries that the
artists "used the telescope and microscope at
the same time" . Look at at these paintings
carefully from very close-by and you'll see the
most amazing mastery of technique and attention
to every little detail . Many of these artists were
undoubtedly first class technicians , but (with
few exceptions) we do not know their names
and their works do not fetch the highest prices
at auction. Rembrandt Van Rijn , on the other
hand , who lived and worked in the spirit of the
same era , seems to be almost the extreme opposite. He managed to tell us his story by
means that are far beyond being a superior
technician. If you look closely at a Rembrandt -
you'll be amazed at how "crudely" the details
are handled , there's no telescope here and
certainly no microscope. He managed ,in his
genius , to tell a much more effective story ,
way beyond technical details , that stood far
better the test of time than the technically
amazing works of his predecessors and
contemporaries.We all know , of course , what
a Rembrandt can fetch at auction.
Now , back to rugs . I'll use one simple example
to further the point : Check out the Ersari Khali
on the cover of Elena Tzareva's book - it is
magnificent . I am probably not the only person
who thinks so , or it wouldn't be on the cover.
It is rather crude (728 KPSI only) technically ,
but it seems magnificent to me because the
weaver (artist) dared to use different , beatifully
arranged , colors and composition. The book
says that this rug is mid-19th century. I suspect
that this was determined by "conventional"
means (look , handle etc.) , it was not put under
a big microscope. As for how much it might fetch
at auction (theoretically of course) - probably
much much more than it would if it was made
last year in Afghanistan with 900 KPSI.
The final conclusion : After we determin the age
by the good old-fashioned methods (and there's
no question that we desire and are willing to pay
more for the older) ,we should relate directly to
the pure artistic merits of a piece (or the lack
thereof) in appreciating it and valuing it with our
pocketbooks .

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