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Old April 27th, 2009, 05:48 PM   #3
Tim Hays
Posts: n/a
Default V&A Rug Collection Visit April 2009

I agree with all that Louis wrote in his December 2008 report on the rug and textile collection of the V&A. We have been trying to get a look at the rug collection for three years and finally were successful last Friday!

After repeated enquiries both on-line and in person we discovered that in order to see the rug collection one must write or email the V&A Islamic Arts Department at least 21 working days in advance. If staff are available and the room is open, one can obtain a viewing of the collection of Persian and Turkish rugs as shown in Louis' first two photos.

Showing the rugs requires two staff members-one to untie and pull the rug 'racks' from their closed position and one to hold and secure the individual racks in the open position. be sure to bring a flashlight as the lighting is poor at best. Although reduced lighting helps preserve the color of the rugs, it makes viewing them difficult.

The persian collection consists of 19th and early 20th Century work shop products most of which were acquired between 1870 and 1920. There is no catalog as such, only a typed listing of the rugs listed by acquisition number. The arrangement of rugs on the rack sequences does not seem to follow a comprehensible order. Although most of the pieces are in good to excellent condition there were few really outstanding pieces on display.

The "Turkish' rug collection consists mostly of Caucasian pieces from the pre-Soviet era. Some of these are very nice and seem to represent the Eastern and Western Caucasus traditions well. There were two quite good Talish long rugs of both the open and decorated field varieties. Turkish rugs per se were poorly represented, but there were some interesting old fragments from most of the traditional weaving areas. Basically there were few tribal items as the collection is focused on workshop and village pieces.

I don't have any photos to share because the viewing conditions were not conducive to the use of my aging digital camera. However, there is an excellent book on the V&A rug collection available from n-line sources, but alas not in the large V&A bookshop.

My understanding is that this book was compiled by the last curator of the collection who actually had expertise in the area of rugs and related textiles. The current staff, although helpful, don't claim much real rug expertise. I wish the V&A would simply photograph the collection, cross index it to the listing and publish as a CD/DVD or on line. There are nice items here, but they are displayed without context or attention to their cultural significance.

We saw only the rugs shown in the Louis' first two photos. The rugs and kilims on the other side of the room were not available to be shown. We spent two hours admiring the display and studying some pieces in detail, but came away somewhat unsatisfied.

We also had the opportunity to view some interesting rugs, tomb covers and tapestries from the time of Shah Abbas. They were part of a British Museum exhibit on Shah Abbas and the creation of modern Iran. These were all luxury pieces of silk and metallic thread construction and sourced to the Carpet Museum of Iran, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, and the rug collection in Milan. There was much to interest those with an interest in Islamic art generally and Persian art in particular.

A fine catalog of the exhibit is available in both hard and soft copy.

Regards from Berlin

Tim Hays
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