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Salon du Tapis d'Orient

The Salon du Tapis d'Orient is a moderated discussion group in the manner of the 19th century salon devoted to oriental rugs and textiles and all aspects of their appreciation. Please include your full name and e-mail address in your posting.

So Many Questions

by Jerry Silverman

There is a hierarchy of knowledge in the world of rug collectors. Like the dietary “pyramid of nutrition”, it is wide at the bottom and narrow at the top. Novices comprise the vast majority. Those who have seen some rugs and read a bit about them are far fewer but still relatively numerous. True cognoscenti/experts/scholars are rare, indeed.

What links them is a chain of questions that leads inexorably from the general to the specific.

“What’s a good rug for my entry foyer?”

“How can I tell this is a Bijar?”

“Is this a new or an antique Bijar?”

“Who wove this Bijar?”

“Is this Bijar collectible?”

“Where does this fit in the structure and design evolution of Bijars?”

...and so on.

The degree of competence with which a person can answer each of these questions is - to some degree - a measure of one’s position in the hierarchy of rug knowledge. We have all experienced this. Friends decorating their homes sidle up at a party and say, “You know about rugs. Would you help us find one for the living room?” Or “I’m going
to Turkey. Can you tell me what I need to know to buy a rug there?” But a collector of Baluchis is rarely queried by a collector of classical era Ushaks. At that level there is the tendency to know more and more about less and less.

The situation reminds me of “The Two Jakes” - a generally unworthy sequel to “Chinatown” in which there was one especially memorable quote from the character, Jake Gittes: What I do for a living may not be very reputable. But I am. In this town I'm the leper with the most fingers.

So, here’s what I’d like to propose for this Salon:

In what directions would you like rug-related knowledge to advance? What questions would you like answers to? What are your suggestions for future research?

To get the ball rolling, I’d like to suggest that 18th and 19th century travel literature be thoroughly surveyed to learn if there are more on-the-scene observations about the techniques of weaving and uses of rugs. There is a great wealth of such literature. It was very popular at the time. It would be surprising if there were as few references to rugs as are now known.

What would you like better information about?