TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  A Study Piece
Author  :  John Howe
Date  :  10-05-1999 on 07:53 a.m.
rjhowe@erols.com A few years ago I was in Utica, N.Y. to deliver the eulogy for the first professor I ever had in college: a man who had been my intellectual mentor. At the meal after the funeral, my wife and I were describing our route south and asked where there was likely antique hunting in the area. We were pointed toward an antique row that runs along Route 20. There in a coop I saw this Caucasian piece. (Note: The purple stain in this image is on the photo but not on the rug.) I knew why the design of this piece appealed to me. Its octagon-shaped medallions seemed similar to some Yomud usages. Here, for example, is the back cover of the catalog for the Jon Thompson sale in 1993. The image is a detail of a Yomud main carpet, intended to be the star of that sale but which did not ,as I recall, sell. I asked the price and was told $160 and so I asked the owner's name and phoned her after coming home and bargained a bit and bought it for $117. I told her in the process that it seemed to me to be only a study piece and that it was not a candidate for restoration and that, in truth, is what I thought. I don't collect Caucasian pieces and so I showed it to a few dealers and couldn't get anyone to offer me more than $150 for it. One dealer friend to whom I owed a favor surprised me by pursuing me about it and I relented and sold it to him for $150. Over the next year I watched him violate what seemed to me every rule in the book about how much to put into a restoration. He made two restoration efforts locally but was not satisfied and finally sent it to Turkey and had it fully restored including the reweaving of both ends. It was admittedly now, a quite impressive and rather expensive piece. I went to the Denver ACOR and bought Ralph Kaffel's book on Caucasian prayer rugs and encountered plate 37, which looks like this. Plate 37 and the piece I had bought seemed to me to be nearly identical and Kaffel's text was intiguing. He says that plate 37 "was one of the first to be attributed to Moghan. Jean Lefevre identified this type in 1981 as distinctive group of prayer rugs, with a strong geometric style which he assigned to the Moghan regionůThree further examples of this type have subsequently published. All four examples feature a white-ground field with octagon pattern and kochanak or "horn" devices under the prayer arch. (In this rug kochanaks also appear in the spandrels.)" When my Hali arrived in which the Denver ACOR was treated, Peter Stone, who is reputed to know his Caucasians a bit, singled out plate 37 and rhapsodized about the rarity of such a Moghan piece. I've been comparing the piece I found with Kaffel's plate 37 for awhile now and the only difference I can see (excepting for the lack of kochanak devices in my rug's spandrels) is that the octagonal medallion designs in mine seem a little flatter top to bottom than those in the Kaffel piece. And while I'm not sure I can distinguish a Moghan handle from a Shirvan handle, my piece seems to me to have a classically Shirvan feel. I've not seen the Kaffel piece in the wool. But the possibility is exciting. My little $117 "study" piece is still for sale here in Washington, but may now be too expensive for me to afford on two grounds. Not only has a great deal been invested in its restoration, but it may also be the fifth known member of a rare group. You can never tell what you're going to find in the next booth of some coop. And sometimes you can't tell what you've found when you find it. Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE:A Study Piece
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  10-06-1999 on 02:37 p.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear John, Am I correct in assuming that the image of what was once your piece was made before, not after, the expensive restorations? It is an interesting rug, and must have been wonderful once (not to mention being a fairly rare bird), but judging from the image the condition makes the prices you mentioned seem fair. Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:A Study Piece
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  10-06-1999 on 09:06 p.m.
Dear Steve et al - You are correct. The poor pieced-together photo of the piece I found is a "before" image. That is, in the condition in which I found it and before any restoration work had been done. I've thought frequently of taking some "after" photos. I was tempted at one point to do so and to send them to Ralph Kaffel and to Peter Stone. Personal sloth has intervened, perhaps functionally. Regards, R. John Howe

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