Re: Are better rugs peferentially preserved?/Harry's post

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Posted by Patrick Weiler on June 22, 1999 at 22:35:31:

In Reply to: Re: Are better rugs peferentially preserved?/Harry's post posted by Steve Price on June 22, 1999 at 20:17:22:

: Dear Patrick,

: I didn't even know I was being picked on (what, me, insensitive?)! I never said anything about the Khan or his treasures.

: Let me take one last crack at it. The khan probably preserved the pieces he thought were the best ones he had. The poor people probably preserved the ones they thought were the best ones they had. Not always, but often enough to be a factor determining what, on average, got preserved.

: Now, which ones did the poor people think were their best ones? It is likely that the cost of the rug was an element that influenced their thinking. In fact, why would they buy a more expensive one if they didn't think it was better tha nthe cheaper one? It did cost more, after all.

: Now, if the poor people tend to preserve their most expensive pieces more than their least expensive pieces, and the rich people do the same, what happens to the population of rugs woven during their periods of initial accumulation? What happens is, on the average, the better ones get preserved and the worse ones get trashed. And when they hand these things on to their kids, they tell them, this is a really expensive, high class item. Take care of it. Sooo, the surviving older rugs are, on the average, better than the typical rugs made when those things were woven.

: Anyway, why not talk a bit about how to determine the date of fabrication of a tribal rug? Wouldn't that be a neat change of pace?

: Regards,

: Steve Price
I was thinking of acquaintences who protect their collections of velvet paintings and black-light psychedelic posters as though they are the finest artistic statements of the century. :-)

I was visiting a well known rug dealer when he brought out a baluch bagface and asked if I could guess its age. The combination of reds and the presence of a too- hard green led me to suggest not earlier than 1st quarter 20th century. He asked again, while he was holding the bagface, when I thought it was woven. I tossed it around in my mind between 1925 and 1930 and, because of the refinement of the design, said 1925. He then showed me the date woven in, which translated to 1925. He said I was the first person to guess the date exactly. Most others guessed considerably earlier.
I suspect most of us would like to own earlier weavings and either because of wishful thinking or due to constant reinforcement by dealers, auction houses and writers, persist in dating these perishable things earlier than they really are. Inwoven dates, as suggested, are rare in rugs and more so in utilitarian weavings. These can be reasonably used as benchmarks, with due caution. On the other hand, the Wright-Wertime tome on Caucasian Carpets and Covers might be a bit too conservative in not acknowledging that certain designs may have been woven earlier than their "anchor piece" examples.

A fairly good rule of thumb is when the design or colors or combination of them change significantly from their established predecessors, a watershed in that style of weaving has been achieved. Sometimes for the better, but more often to a more degenerate adaptation - which is then used as the baseline for future weavings of the particular tradition.
The founding of the Pahlavi "dynasty" was such a watershed in tribal/nomadic weaving in Persia. One could argue that most nomadic/tribal weaving was affected to some extent. Some of the more remote tribes, such as Lur and some "baluch" tribes, being out of the way, may have been affected less.
For the Turkmen, it was periods of upheaval and unrest, such as the coming of the train and Russian conquest. Prior to that it was inter-tribal warfare, resettlement and forced migrations.

Of course the introduction of synthetic dyes impacted traditions, and, therefore our ablility to pre and post-date this occurence.
In our own times such things as the earthquake in Armenia, the breakup of the Soviet Union and Azeri-Armenian warfare brought rugs onto the market. Significant impact was felt in Turkey with the breakup of the Ottoman empire early in this century and, particularly, the "ethnic cleansing" of the Armenians out of Turkey (could this be responsible for the sudden blandness in color of rugs of this age from Turkey?) and the segregation and mistreatment of the Kurds up to this day.
Ruling class artistic imperatives impacted style and design in relatively easily defined time periods, such as the Mejidiye influence in the late 19th century Turkey.

Wear and significant use provide a gauge of age in many rugs, but we are surprised when an apparently unused rug appears on the market with a pedigree of great age.

So, the old saw of the dealer, that it takes handling a lot of rugs, is true, but an understanding of the history of the weavers adds a dimension to our ability to date a rug.

Would you like to put up a few examples for us to take a guess about?

Patrick Weiler

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