Posted by Bob Kent on 02-24-2003 09:00 AM:

promise and potential of rug books

Great article. ... As a new ruggie, I became interested in some areas through aesthetic appeal (e.g., Baluch, Kurd) and then bought a few books. Must be how it goes. The first books I read seemed to suggest that designs were diagnostic -- if it looks like this, it was probably made there and about then. But more reading suggests that while structure and color may be more useful in making attributions than design (and as Steve has noted here, structure isn't really used without design), the rug literature might be more reliable (the same object is given similar people/place/time/ intention attributions by different sources) than valid (the attributions are correct). (The Baluch and Kurd stuff I like seems to be more heavily shrouded in the mists of foggy history, etc., than other types). Since I only care to read about things that I find enjoyable aesthetically, I've made peace with this by trying to just see a lot of pictures and cooling my enthusiasms about age, place, non-commercial intent, etc. Perhaps the rug literature would be of more use to collectors (versus curators, scholars of particular peoples, etc.) if less emphasis was placed on attributions, at least the more speculative issues, and more attention was paid to the aesthetic differences that experienced observers appreciate. I think that Mark Hopkins' ORR bit on Jaf bags which emphasizes aesthetics (colors, spaciousness, fluid drawing) is a good example.

Posted by John Collins on 02-24-2003 01:56 PM:

This is a very nice synopsis. It is a shame to stop at 1970, however. The catalogues of Herrmann may be the single most influential publishing enterprise of twentieth century in forming the 21st century's view of rugs as art.

John Collins

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 02-25-2003 12:45 AM:

1970 is the Present


It seems that 1970 is perceived as being the beginning of The Present Era in rug books (and collecting). Murray Eiland first published his book in 1973, I believe.
Your point that the Herrmann catalogues influenced rug collecting to this day is further evidence that the 1970's began the current popularity of rugs as collectibles and Art.
The early 70's found James Opie, John Wertime, Jenny Housego and others in Iran at the same time that economic pressures brought a flood of tribal weavings to the market.
By the 1970's, the opening of the floodgates of Oriental Rug publications had begun, and the modern era of collecting began in ernest.
Granted, there has been a market for rugs all along (and there have been collectors). But it was the time between the availability of mass-produced machine-made carpets (and wall-to-wall carpeting), when worn out rugs were thrown in the trash, and the Back-To-The Earth movement of the late 1960's, that there was a wasteland of interest in oriental rugs.
The same phenomenon took place in other crafts a few decades after the beginning of the industrial revolution. A backlash against this mass industrialization to more natural materials and construction formed the basis of the Craftsman movement. In this country, Mission furniture and Craftsman homes and Utopian communities developed. The depression, subsequent war and rebuilding during the "modern" 1950's changed the focus of popular culture.

Utopianly yours,

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Richard Tomlinson on 02-28-2003 08:12 AM:


thank you ever so much for your comments.

adding to mr kent's observations, i would like to add my 'criticism' of the little world of antique rugs.

in my limited time as a collector (if i may be considered that) i have found little help from books and experts - with a few notable exceptions. i guess what i am trying to say is that it seems almost an 'exclusive' club. some people know. others guess.

books provide examples - visual references. they provide structural analyses. but rarely do they offer insights into why experienced collectors, for example, select a piece as worthy of publication in HALI.

what a pleasure it would be to find a book that "compares" the merits of particular pieces.

i have seen so many bloody tekke torbas that look similar in design and colour, and yet, attract significantly different interest and prices.

i believe comparisons and contrasts would be a GREAT way of educating we who live on the fringes of the imperial rug circle.

richard tomlinson

Posted by Steve Price on 02-28-2003 09:45 AM:

Hi Richard,

Books don't work very well for the kind of education you'e talking about. I think the best way to get it is hands-on examination of lots of rugs of varying quality, with input from as many collectors/dealers/connoisseurs as possible, so you can sort out the facts from the fantasies.

Really great learning can happen at previews of major auctions (Sotheby's, Skinner's, Rippon-Boswell, and the like) and at dealer fairs at ACOR and ICOC. These give you the opportunity to see and handle from several hundred to several thousand rugs in a reasonable amount of time, to compare specimens of the same type, and to get lots of opinions from others.


Steve Price