Subjective criteria?

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Posted by Steve Price on June 26, 1999 at 11:04:23:

Dear Friends,

Yon wrote, in introducing this Salon,
"The most common method ... is to correlate age from various features such as wool and dye quality, spaciousness of design, or shape of guls. Close students of the subject have developed a myriad criteria by which age can supposedly be judged."

This, Yon notes, raises some interesting questions:
1. Where did these criteria come from? I assume that they have been handed down over the years, and most likely have more than a grain of truth in them along with some misconceptions that we don't recognize as such. That is, this is Rugdom's equivalent of the oral traditions found in many cultures.
2. How reliable and accurate are they? My guess is that they are pretty reliable for arranging rugs of a particular genre (say, Turkmen, or Shahsevan) in approximate order of their age. Putting reasonably accurate numbers (say, the nearest quarter or half century) onto that sequence, though, is probably unjustified most of the time. We simply have too few anchor points from which to estimate.

Yon points out that the provenance of the Turkmen rugs with the earliest collection dates only gets us back to the end of the 19th century. For tribal rugs from northwestern Iran and the Caucasus, I don't know that we even have any with provenances that can be traced that far. Some pieces for which we know the actual ages with some certainty would would be valuable, but in their absence, we just have to kind of muddle along and hope for the best. It's probably needless to add that I don't believe C-14 or any other physical method used so far has solved this problem.

Steve Price

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