Re: Dating by eyeballing a dye

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Posted by Sophia Gates on June 22, 1999 at 10:57:09:

In Reply to: Re: Dating by eyeballing a dye posted by R. John Howe on June 22, 1999 at 08:35:12:

Hallelujah! What an intelligent comment. I particularly appreciate your understanding of "the tribal eye" - I agree with you 100%. We are trying to impose
our own taste on other people's art, thus missing the boat.

God save us from "good taste".

As far as ambiguous dyes is concerned: anybody who says they can eyeball a dye & declare it "N" or "S" is a liar. (My opinion). Unless, of course, it is Really Obvious. It's not so hard to figure out the flourescent orange that's tip faded and bleeding all over the warps! A genius this does not make you!

I used to think I was Color Challenged, in spite of being a highly trained painter, because there are times when I can't tell cochineal from RIT. Now I realize that it's really difficult and I don't feel so bad. Also, sometimes it isn't the color per se that might jump at us, but how it's used. I have a beat-up old Kuba/Chi Chi with a soft palette - ivory, tan, navy, etc., with accents in red and orange. I was sure the orange was "bad" because the chroma seemed so loud - then I compared the color to an old Kurdish piece I'd bet my life on, dye-wise - and lo, the orange was the
same color! It's just that compared to the soft ivory and tan of the surrounding area, the orange looks "hot". Other markers (wool wefts, super execution, lots of subtle abrage, etc.) seem to date the rug to a respectable age (whatever that is), so I now believe the dye is probably madder. The corrollary to the Screaming Orange Syndrome, of course, if the presence of these "other markers", which could include handle, quality of wool and weaving, grittiness of back, and overall balance of hue, value and chroma; quality of spacial relationships; excellence of drawing; meaningful sense of design - taken all together, these might lead us to declare the dyes natural because they seem to point to significant age. Again though, I think I would put my final trust in a chemistry set if a really large sum of money was involved! Nevertheless, I think in a case like this it's probable that one could be highly (95% - 99%?) accurate about the colors, and many a buck has been spent based on such an appraisal - and probably rightly so. I acquired, many years ago, an old Ak Chuval from Maury, based on his assessment of its extraordinary (for an Ak Chuval!) age. In the years it's hung serenely next to my bed, I've had no reason to doubt his assessment - and it must be said, this piece was used hard and is badly damaged - but its overall quality marks it as a real Thoroughbred. I would be utterly shocked, in that case, if the dyes were to test synthetic. But I would love the piece no less.

Finally, I'm beginning to wonder whether, in the long haul, it will really matter,100 years from now, if a piece is art, i.e., if it speaks, if it has that "je ne sais quoi" that raises it above the level of good craft, who will care whether it has a trace of Ponceau 2 or whatever? Truly sophisticated collectors are beginning not to care now! The problem is our evil friend, Mammon; and his cohort, Other People's Opinion. And what have they ever had to do with art?

Best wishes, all of you, and many thanks for your (many) insights.


PS, there's a related discussion, although oriented more to the Internet, on
RugNotes. You might be interested if you haven't seen it already.

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