Posted by Rudolf Hilbert on 05-10-2002 04:32 AM:


Hi Michael,

probably I have not understood your assertions about establishing the provenance of a weaving. I would be thankful for more clarification about this.
I think will never, never, never be possible to establish the exact provenance (history????) of a tribal weaving that is e.g. more than 150 years old.

Or should I rather assume the notion of established provenance as a new means of commercial elevation of certain weavings ?

With best regards,

Posted by Steve Price on 05-10-2002 06:22 AM:

Hi Rudi,

I'm sure you're right about establishing reasonably precise provenances on anything antique, so the objective is probably more in the realm of things to be desired than of expectation that it will happen in very many instances.

As for provenance and its effect on market values, that's been true for a long time. Look in any Sotheby's catalog and note the mention of provenance when it includes a distinguished collector or famous person. In African art, where fakery has been practiced for at least 100 years, having documentation of when, where and by whom a piece was collected significantly enhances value. Fakery is a relatively recent development in tribal and village rugs, and it wouldn't surprise me if documentation of the source becomes an increasingly prominent element of defense against fakes.


Steve Price

Posted by Michael Bischof on 05-10-2002 08:29 AM:

Hallo all,

The first reason why provenance has to do with market values is the fact that it costs much more to be able to supply pieces with a known origin - in a way that is "research-proof". One must maintain a kind of independant infrastructure at the area where pieces are collected. To be sure of the "fate" the piece has one has to run an own facility to do it ( and to document it). We had proved to certain people in the USA why this is essential. No more details here.

The topic of provenance has, in addition, some other aspects.
In the middle of the eighties this mother-goddess hypothesis came up. The first input came from Herwig Bartels at an ICOC lecture where he suggested that Anatolian designs might have pre-Turkic origins. Inpendant from this it was a common story within circles engaged in "feminist history" and
identity finding and in esoterics. At an already very late stadium Mellaart/Balpinar/Hirsch introduced this approach to the kilim topic. The claim was that kilims are the rest of an extreme old textile culture born in Anatolia in the neolithic period , that lived there till today. The Turks are late epigones that just copied it. For Balpinar and Hirsch it was a sudden 180° turn. Until that time they had shown excellent field research that proved the opposite idea that kilim weaving was related to tribal groups (nearly all Turcoman) in a way that just started to be discovered. What influence it had in the USA I do not know. But here it was influential. It created, as a stimulus, a lot of interest and discussions.
The crucial point is, of course, to give evidence for such a far stretching thesis, to present facts.
In order to do it Balpinar/Hirsch made public a term "yerli", the locally settled population as against the nomadic Turks, and claimed that certain motifs of archaic appearance seem to be restricted to such yerli villages. This was opposite to material that I had collected in the previous years, assisted by a later ethnographer, Dr. Jasmin Hofmacher, and a later geographer, Michaela Kühnert. Our result showed that wherever we found weaving centers there had been or still are focusses of Turcoman
people - especially at those areas which were claimed to be dominantly "yerli" ( the Toros mountains,
the edge of the Phrygian area).

Let me come back to that kilim exhibition in Essen. There is one piece from the Vok collection where we know even the house where the kilim was found. Therefore this piece can be studied, in the future, if there is some intention to do it, on the level of textile art. Did they people who live in this village today make this piece ? Without this firm knowledge it would have been difficult even to specify the area where it was made.
There was another early kilim which will be published later which is related to an exciting group of very early, "secretive" pieces of very early vintage. The place where they were found is known. But it is a "public house", so to say, and therefore we do not know which group has made them at what place. The "fate" of this kilim is known, it has been "trimmed" to obtain a more early look. The methods ,which were most used most likely, are known and so future interpretations about this piece might be corrected. But: as the real origin of this particular kilim is not known ( a C-piece) we cannot use it as a tool to research their older ancestors !

One further aspect: many years before we had given an unusual Eastern Central Anatolian village rug from the tiny township of Develi, about 17th century, to a Turkish dealer in Vienna on consignment.
With its real origin ! He could not sell it, it came back. When he was asked how he had offered it he said: Develi is no name. I said it is a Bergama rug ! - Now, Rudolf Hilbert, imagine you would have bought it as the last missing link for preparing a lecture at ICOC. Using this piece you could demonstrate that for this type of Bergama rug a certain scheme of combining colours, unlike all previous scholars had outlined, does not apply. When the applause is over - what have you done
then ?

In order to avoid to appear dogmactic or even amateurish: knowing the origin is, as we have written,
important only for the textile art level. For collectors it is not important, however. If they are happy with what they have we have - yes, a happy end. Knowing all details more often than not would not
make happy. Let us have fun.



Posted by Rudolf Hilbert on 05-10-2002 08:48 AM:

Hi Steve,

who could be an authority to document the provenance of a weaving ? the dealer from whom I buy ???

I think, the mention of the previous owner in an auction catalog is no meassure in establishing provenance in the sense of Michael's type A / B / C categories. It only tells that the person has submitted the weaving to an auction and nothing more (in many cases).
The idolatry of well known previous owners adds significantly to the market value. That's a fact everyone can observe. But it does not guard against fakes either.
I personally try to guard me against fakes by exercising a good deal of scepticism and reason:
How big is the probability that Caucasian rugs from a purported 1-st half 19 ct. are in "full flesh" and with only minor repairs?


Posted by Steve Price on 05-10-2002 09:04 AM:

Hi Rudi,

There are a small number of pieces with reasonably reliable provenances, although we are not likely to find them in the marketplace. The Rickmers and Dudin collections, for example, have fairly trustworthy provenances. That is, the
approximate year and location in which they were collected is known. You are right (and I'm sure Michael agrees); there are very few rugs about which we know even this much, and it is not a complete history from the loom to the collecting even for them.

Such pieces are very important from an art historical point of view, though, and studying them is probably the best route to understanding the rest.

And my noting the mention of provenance in Sotheby's catalogs was not intended to suggest that the provenances were known to the extent that Michael believes (and I agree) would be ideal. I raised this just to point out that the notion of provenance influencing market value is not new.


Steve Price

Posted by Michael Bischof on 05-11-2002 06:20 AM:

A straight answer with full details would offend the rules of Turkotek. So I have to split it into one general remark and further details which I am ready to supply via e-mail.

- if the "file history" for the piece (covering the last 12 years without any "hole") is not there
this is a heavy argument against any higher price in negotiations. The classical example
is the second hand car business. What if you later find out that the car that you bought
has had some heavy accidents and that it was perfectly camouflaged ? With a C-piece
you take such a risk.
- knowing the former owner/collector makes sense only if you know the way he collected,
to be more specific: how close did he try to come to the subject ?
There are (A) people who really try this. Some mount their pieces at home and discover a
lot of hitherto unknown details by doing that ...
Rich, famous (B) collectors who buy the flowers of the season from the famous established
dealers, let them write their books later and do not come that close to these delicate details.
In this case the fact that a piece came from them is no advantage, the opposite. It is claimed as an argument for a high price but there is no real ( checkable) gain.Until you
would be able to find out from whome this dealer , their supplier, had got it. Maybe,
sometimes, you could then research it back. But then you enter mine fields. I would like to
encourage you to do it. At least it is entertaining ... but be prepared for a zero result. Keep
in mind that what came up at ACOR now is known to the leading players for at least more
than 10 years ! For kilims in Central Europe I know 3 such "good" collectors. 1 well
known, 2 not very well known. In the USA I do not know a collector with this style.
- try to look at the person who offers something, not at the piece. If the contact is good
you may get a lot of details, if not - not. Keep in mind that the whole carpet trade is set up
so that the customer will never get the truth, at least not for the commercially interesting
details. Do not try to override this rule, you would only ridicule yourself - try to get the
technical details and the "file history" as detailed as you can and keep attention to any
details that could be confirmed by independant sources. If you are a type that likes to fight
with the dealers you will unavoidably make a fool out of yourself, no help. Great collectors work opposite: the offer trust to carefully selected counterparts as this is the most motivating
source ( if this person would feel ashamed in case it could not confirm this trust: the strongest power that I have realized in more than 25 years in this field) - and they normally get much more than one could rationally expect.

The best general advice for a collector I once reat in an article written by Michael Franses:
study the object as good as you can - and they buy the best that you can afford ! For anybody long enough involved in these "textile affairs" the most unpleasant moment comes when he is invited to go through 50 - 60 mediocre something pieces and is expected at the end to state
something like "bravo !" or "I am tempted to be jealous".

Posted by Rudolf Hilbert on 05-11-2002 12:00 PM:

Dear Michael,

thank you for the enlightening and clarifying remarks about your concept of provenance. But I am still not completely convinced of its usefulnes. What about the fate of the weaving before your 12 year benchmark ? These objects have often been for a long time in the local (European/US) trade. I guess there is very little chance to know what the collector/owner did with a given piece in the 1960/70's (harmful treatment by washing, inexpert repairs, inappropriate storage, ...). So, what is the value of knowing the history of the last 12 years, compared to the total history of 100 - 200 years of, say some Caucasian rug ?


Posted by Michael_Bischof on 05-11-2002 12:38 PM:

short reply
Dear Rudolf,
this answer can be short: to be sure that certain "innovative" methods of treating antiquities have not been applied to the piece in question. The situation before about 1990 is a total different one. Look at the ACOR piece and make up your mind.
More stuff by e-mail - be beware of the Turkotek rules, please !



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