Home > Archive >the late Morton (Bob) Bradley Sale
Sun, Jun 26th, 2005 11:36:53 AM
Topic: the late Morton (Bob) Bradley Sale

This weekend in Arlington, Massachusetts. the rug "collection" from the “Bradley” estate was sold at auction. RK attended the preview and sale and will, in the next day or so post further photos and commentaries on the more interesting lots.

We actively participated in the sale and purchased several pieces and probably will, sometime in the future, post pics of what we bought.

We will also, in a future post, talk a bit about the collection and auction in general.

We are, however, now including a photo of the lot that brought the highest price at the sale, 309A - a "Salor" kejebe torba fragment.

This fragment, unlike the complete single medallion sold this past Friday at sothebys in New York City, was a late - what we like to refer to as second period - version of the type (or if you will an early third period example). The sotheby piece was an early second period (or if you will a late first period) one. To see an early first period piece, please refer to the example in Schurman "Central Asian Carpets"

Let us once again state for the record that none of these large posh torba are ancient, as we believe the kejebe pattern - those with kejebe and "complex" medallions - is a somewhat more recent convention, i.e. circa late 18th century at the earliest.

We have never seen one that strikes us as ancient.

We did, at one time own a Saryk kejebe torba - it is illustrated in "Tent Bag - Tend Band" - that we feel predates any known Salor or "S" group example.

This is not the time or place to begin to enumerate the hows or whys concerning the development of the kejebe but, trust us on this one, we have developed a rough schematic progression to explain the process that culminated in this design’s gestation.

The sotheby example was presumably knotted on fully depressed warps with an asymmetric knot open to the left. Since we did not attend the sale or preview, we cannot vouch for this presumption and, unfortunately, all of the folks who we have spoken to told us they didn't bother to check it for themselves. This is typical for ruggies, who talk the talk but rarely ever walk the walk.

In any event, since we did attend the Morton preview and sale and personally handled and photographed the fragment, we know that piece was open right.

This difference, open left or right, is highly significant and important as it differentiates the mythic "S" group from ordinary Salor work.

Besides being open left or right, there are several other criteria that must be applied in order to place any example into its proper place in the design type and to, more importantly, understand it. Needless to say this also must be done to "value" it, i.e. answer the how much is it worth question.

One of these criteria is the dye palette, particularly the dyes used for the silk highlights. We know there were at least three different ones - cochineal, kermes and lac. For all intents and purposes third period pieces use cochineal while the second and first periods have kermes and lac. They also can have some cochineal but not a great amount.

This factor is, we feel, as close to any single determinant one can use to place one of these torba into perspective.

Of course, one must really scientifically analyze any dye to positively determine its origin but anyone with enough experience and expertise can readily determine the difference between cochineal and the other two dyes in these pieces with some degree of certainty. However, determining whether kermes or lac is present is impossible without proper analysis. Again this is not the place to discuss the various methods of dye analysis but it is important to note the necessity of applying them to positively know what dye is present.

Another factor we have noticed that can be used to place one of these examples into perspective is the articulation of the design, particularly the shape of the outline of the complex medallions, the size of the ornaments within the medallions and especially the size and placement of the "kejebe" with the niche.

Again we are not presently interested disseminating what has taken 30 plus years to learn about Salors, "S" group and the kejebe torba. But for those of our readers who have carefully followed our other writings on this subject we believe they have gotten a pretty good idea of what we have developed.

Anyway, at the Bradley sale the fragment brought $12,500 plus a 15% premium, which was, in our opinion, a price that was way too much. Besides for the fact it is, at best just 3/4 of a complete piece - that is if it was a "two seater" and, at the least only 1/2 if it was a "three-seater" , the drawing of both the kejebe, medallion outline and interior ornamentation was quite compressed compared to the best, first period, examples of the type. But, in all fairness to it, the drawing overall was surely acceptable compared to other second and superior to all those from the third period.

While the red color used for the woolen areas of the Bradley piece was rich and very beautiful, we found the over use of cochineal silk to be garish and, to our eye, somewhat disconcerting and actually ugly. This over-abundance of silk is typical for later Salor work and, like the design compression and lack of proper proportion, hallmarks for these groups.

After a protracted, and what seemed to be an excruciating ordeal for the bidder in the room who finally ended up buying it against a phone bidder, the auctioneer finished off the sale and the, by then dwindling number of those in the crowd, clapped.

It was bought by wanna be rug dealer, beau, aka Bo Bo, ryan who is clearly in our opinion someone with more money than rug sense (actually cents in his case, as the Bo Bo as we have christened him still is a neophyte ruggie).

One of the other rug dealers at the sale opined he is figuring since the piece at sothebys brought $32,500 he got a “bargain”. Well, should that be the case, let us burst Bo Bo’s bubble and tell him:
1. the piece at sothebys was not only complete and definitely earlier bit it was also better in all respects and far more beautiful.
2. half or three quarters of a rug is never worth a pro-rated percentage of a complete one
3. and even if it was, the sellers costs associated with selling a piece at sothebys would take another bite out of the proceeds.

But in the heat of “battle” many auction bidders get carried away and then the old buyers regret quickly sets in.

We are sure the subtle factors of open left or right and dye sources were lost on a wanna-be like Bo Bo or, perhaps if he was lucky enough to be bidding for someone who is picking up the check, any customer who would be even more foolish than he to have him as their “expert”.

RK is sure to hear about what actually was making the little wheels in Bo Bo's cranium turn and are even more sure we will all see this fragment again.

Author: jc
Sat, Jun 18th, 2005 10:06:37 PM

On first glance this small sumak rug, lot 79A that measured about 3 feet by 5 feet, looked early. Well at least pre-synthetic period (1860 or before) but actually there were a number of chemical dyes present and we believe it dates circa 1875.

It was, however, a masterpiece of both design and workmanship. The extremely fine and crisp weaving, with a high warp and weft count (both pattern and structural), allowed a very detailed design to be created.

Here is a close-up of the interior of one of the major medallions:

Notice the two cutesy little animals and highly articulated palmette outline that bears witness to the much earlier, and very similar ones, found on the Caucasian Dragon Carpets of the 17th and 18th centuries.

The single border and “honey-comb” warp finish are also both features associated with pre-1870’s work and can lead to the impression this piece is older. But the warp was cotton, which without the presence of the synthetic dyes, would have presented a somewhat curious factor for anyone attempting to date it pre-1870.

In any event we liked it for what it was -- a great later example of dragon/palmette designing done in sumak technique.

By the way prior to the sale we had a conversation with a leading European dealer about this piece. He was incredulous when told there were synthetic dyes and insisted there weren’t. Guess he thinks he imagines more than RK knows, which was just another one of his blunders vis-à-vis RK.

But that assertion was not nearly as foolish as an ex-East Coast rug dealer, who now has a shoppe in San Francisco and the initials pp, who insisted, to anyone who would listen, the Salor torba Bo Bo bought was not a fragment but a complete piece.

Yesshh, what a dummy since it was pathetically obvious, even in the low resolution photos on the auctioneers advertising, it was only a fragment. Never forget rugdom is full of people who are full of their own bluster and BS and it is always necessary to see and handle any rug for yourself.

The sumak sold for $3,750.oo plus 15% premium, which was in our estimation a quite reasonable price.

We have some photos of other lots so stay tuned here.

Author: jc
Thu, Jun 16th, 2005 09:37:53 AM

This Borjalu Kazak is another piece from the Morton Collection many people had designs on acquiring. And rightly so says RK.com.

The condition was surely not what old timers in the rug trade used to call “German-condition”, i.e. perfect. It was, however, very presentable and, with the right restorer and materials, could have been made so to an uneducated eye. Well, almost that is.

Since RK doesn’t ever allow condition to enter into our equation of whether or not we are interested in a weaving, we mention the condition only to help readers get a complete ‘picture’ of what happened on sale day. That said, we must remark that yes, a piece’s condition does affect the price we might pay but it never is any other type of determinant.

The Borjalu had very good colors, with an outstanding purple being the best of the bunch. This particular rich shade of purple, rather than the ubiquitous ‘aubergine’ or even less desirable faded ‘brownish’ color that oft times passes for “purple”, rarely appears in 19th century rugs, being almost exclusively a pre-1800 feature. But here it was in this Kazak that was surely circa 1840 at the earliest and perhaps as late as 1870 on the other end of the dating game.

Unfortunately, the Borjalu did not have the ‘killer” drawing the earlier examples of this type – wide undulating ‘latch-hook’ border and narrowish mostly empty field – demonstrate. This was the main reason we left it alone and it sold to a phone bidder for $8,500 plus premium. That result was, what we felt to be a pretty reasonable price, considering the “auction fever” that presaged the sale.

Let’s be clear here, we liked it and do definitely respect it as more than a valuable “floor rug” but it was not, by any means, a best of type or even anything that could be considered a great example of the type.

Here is a close-up that shows it off to the best degree:

We will continue to post more photos and commentaries about this sale as time allows. So say tuned.

Author: jc
Sat, Jun 11th, 2005 05:23:57 AM

RK previewed the sale several days before the regular sale preview and while there spent some time talking with the auctioneer, who was extremely accommodating and is, by the way, quite interested in Oriental Rugs himself. He told us most of the carpets had been collected by Mr. Bradley's mother-in-law who was an active antique buff during the period just after WWI and thereon.

Wow, when one thinks about the fabulous early rugs that were available during her buying times you'd have to be somewhat dismayed over what she did manage to purchase.

We have seen this happen at other times as well -- collectors missing the great pieces and ending up buying lesser goods. Whether they did this because of the advise of an Oriental rug "expert" or because they were penny-pinchers who did not want to "spend" for better examples it matters little as they end up in the same place – collecting lesser examples. This phenomena also occurs with many of today’s “collectors” and there are a number of “collections” we know about that could be similarly described. Tsk Tsk.

After what the auctioneer revealed to us about the history of this collection we would be inclined to say that it was hampered by both reasons -- not enough knowledge coupled with the desire to buy "cheap" and not necessarily right. Anyway the collection is what it is, or more properly was what it was, and here are two other pieces RK thought were among the highlights.

The first is an Akstafa prayer rug:

If any piece had to be said to have garnered interest before the sale, it would have to be this prayer rug. It was in reasonably good condition, though the pile was low in many places with almost all the blacks in some of the boteh completely corroded out. The original selvedges remained almost intact but the warp finish was gone and so were a few rows of knots at the bottom end. All said, it needed about 2500-3000 dollars of expert repair work to make it as "mint" as possible.

As many faithful readers know, RK does not believe in, or ever get involved in, repair/restoration, as all we do is conserve/stabilize the piece so it can be handled without causing further damage.

There are many reasons for our dislike of repair/restoration, the most salient being the ever-changing nature of the “cutting edge" or "latest" techniques devised by restorers. Over the past century different people have recommended different techniques to repair rugs and all of these have later been proven ineffective or, and this is a most case scenario, actually harmful to the weaving.

When considering "decorative" rugs we can see the logic in repairing them, however, for historic/collector pieces, we don't and have always recommended to all who will listen the fallacy, and we feel waste of money, involved in/with repairing these types of weavings. "Nuff said on this topic.

The Akstafa prayer had a beautiful color palette and excellent quality wool and weaving. It was a very excellent example of a type of rug that has over the past years not exactly been a "rare" commodity. It sold for $6000.oo plus a 15 percent commission, which we felt was quite reasonable.

The second piece we are illustrating is another prayer rug:

This rug was somewhat later than the Akstafa but had quite high pile and even more exceptional colors. That said there was the presence of some synthetic dye, while the Akstafa had none.

We really took a liking to this little square prayer rug and had there not been any synthetic dye we would have probably been the successful buyer, adding it to the two other pieces we took home from the sale. But, alas, it wasn't synthetic free and we left it for other buyers even though we really liked its sweet innocent charm, bold rendition of a "head and shoulders" mirhab and unusual, though derivative, border design. It sold for $5,500.oo plus a 15 percent commission.

During the coming days we will illustrate a few other pieces from the sale so keep watching this space.

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