The following five photos and commentary comprise the last installment of our Bradley sale coverage. The first four were what we considered to be the least interesting of the offerings we chose for review and the fifth, the Kurdish palmette rug, was one of the two pieces we purchased.
The first, a Kazak/Karabagh prayer rug, was not too old, probably circa 1870-1880, but it had all natural dyes and an unusual design.
The field reminded us of some western Anatolian Bergama area pieces, particularly the large central lozenge (that has a Turkish funerary stele look about it) and its pair of smaller flanking ones. The weave of rugs made in these areas of the Caucasus is typically coarse and this piece followed suit.
We liked the open drawing of calyx and leaf main border, the simple tertiary barber-pole guard stripes and single blue and red serrated tooth guard border, as well as the uncluttered work in the spandrel above the mirhab.
The next lot was also rather atypical, as we don’t remember ever seeing a photo of a Melas with a similar design.
This one had nice fine weave and again an all natural dye palette. While the design was not particularly dynamic, nor were the colors those which light up the eyes of collectors, this small Melas rug had its charms and was, perhaps, one of the best buys in the sale and it sold rather reasonably.
Speaking of unusual the next piece, a small square mat, had an attribution that stumped everyone we spoke to except for one astute NY City dealer who purchased it on the phone against the room. He was the only person who knew, like we did, this was Shah Sevan work.
The pastel coloration and extremely high pile were atypical for Shah Sevan work – as strange as it might sound we believe it was made in Western Turkey from the wool quality -- but that’s exactly the provenance this piece carries. The rich purple, glowing green and blues were its high points, as the spirited but derivative Dragon rug palmette field design did not really have much to offer. Again we liked it for what it was and believe the purchaser will do quite well with it.
The large format rendition, with its open drawing style of the well known vase Kuba design, works quite well here
However, we could not see dating this piece any earlier than the later part of the 1860’s and for that reason we begged off being interested in purchasing it. That said, it was in good condition and, while the coloration was not nearly as outstanding as some of the pieces it shares this design with, it was still quite a decent buy.
We found the charms of this Kurdish palmette rug too strong to resist and took it home with us.
It appears to date from the at least the early 19th century and, frankly, we would not be surprised if it was circa 1800 or even older. While basically complete about a third of the field was well worn down to the knot collars, however, the glowing rich coloration and wonderfully articulated design were enough to make ours, and any other knowledgeable viewer’s, eyes light up with that special reaction only great rugs engender.
Compared to the great sales of the pre-1990 decades RK has attended, the Bradley sale was not really anything to write an express mail letter home about but considering those which have come post- 1990, it surely deserved one. Not only were there more than 60 pieces that were previously never offered for sale but among these were some unusual and excellent mid-19th century ones. RK felt the Kurdish palmette rug and the other piece we bought, but have decided not to illustrate at this time, were the only pieces in the sale that predate the mid-19th.
Age surely isn’t everything, nor does it mean every really old rug is a great one but one thing is sure, the number of great rugs made prior to 1800 is exponentially higher than those made afterwards. This is undeniably true for village and clan-group weavings while among those made in larger towns and cities, as well as royal ateliers, post-1800 there is a far larger percentage that are worthy of praise and admiration.