TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  "Fragments": A Mulit-faceted Question
Author  :  John Howe
Date  :  08-30-1999 on 08:05 a.m.
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Mr. Gorden's anti-fragment thesis has, as others have pointed out, several aspects.

I think he is right that sometimes dealers fashion strategies to justify their claims that the fragments they have for sale are deserving of high prices. But dealers do this with regard to whole rugs too. So far, nothing distinctive about fragments.

Secondly, he suggests that fragments are almost always hopeless "wounded" in terms of the aesthetic criteria that he advises should be our primary one. Steve has argued a similar thesis more than once on these pages. Again, most of us would not find the suggestion that it would be preferable always to have a whole piece, if one could find or afford it, controversial. In my own case, this "if" is a large one since I enjoy rugs and textiles but often cannot afford what my eyes tell me is the sort of piece that really deserves to be in my collection. So I compromise, and sometimes buy a fragment that I can afford. But I would argue that I do not need to give up entirely on aesthetics when I acquire such pieces.

In my office I have a not rare but quite dramatic Yomud tent band fragment displayed that is in fact a single 25 foot piece composed of two fragments sewn together at a color break in an unobstrusive way. I know that break is there and that this piece is not whole but the enjoyment I get from it is in fact mostly aesthetic. Similarly, as I write I am looking at a fragment that probably came from a Central Asian ikat garment. It is likely quite old, arguably 18th century. I bought it entirely on the basic of aesthetics. I like the pattern and the colors in it. Yes, the dealer argued the likely age, but it cost me $100 and another $50 to have it mounted. Would I rather have the entire garment it came from? You bet, although I would have difficulty displaying it. But should I cut my self off from the aesthetic satisfaction that looking at it daily provides? A third instance, is one I am probably going to cite every time somebody suggests that we should ignore fragments. Here is a Tekke main carpet fragment that I owned briefly and again bought almost entirely on the basis of aesthetic considerations. There are similar Tekke carpets in the market but I have not yet been able to afford one. Is a whole carpet of this quality better? Undoubtedly. But I do not think I have to abandon aesthetic quality when I point to the virtues of this piece. It is for me quite beautiful. I think both the color and the drawing meet a high aesthetic standards.

Last, I am in danger of identifying myself as a hopeless "scholastic" if I keep making arguments like this but the word "fragment" is almost hopelessly ambiguous in it application in both the rug market and in rug analysis. Technically, of course, any piece that isn't entirely whole is a "fragment." This means that a bag face without a back is a fragment. I have, by pure chance (it was in a rug book I bought), an eloquent letter written once by James Opie to a purist collector suggesting to him that he was cutting himself off unnecessarily from some aesthetically excellent material (which not incidentally Opie had for sale) as a result of this collector's insistence that all the bags in his collection include backs.

Most of us don't go this far in our application of the word fragment. Often, I notice, the use of the term is strategic. If someone else owns a piece or if a buyer is assessing it for possible purchase, the word "fragment" is more likely to be employed. But sellers and piece owners are less likely to call attention to a missing guard border to an elem that is not as deep as it once was. So I think one problem with Mr. Gorden's thesis is that while he make a stern argument against fragments, he does not specify how closely he advises that it be applied.

Nevertheless, an interesting question to ponder.

R. John Howe

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