Each Fall and Spring for the past years RK.com has offered commentary on the auctions Skinner/Boston has organized. And each time we have had trouble finding any “collector” rugs that deserved to be called exemplary. This Fall’s collection at Skinners is no different, in fact, it seems to us to be even worse than the past years, as difficult a feat as that appears to be.
But after reading the publicity the auction house has generated for this sale you’d have to think they were talking about a completely different auction than the one they are trying to hype.
Here’s what Skinners has said about their sale:
“Skinners Fall 2005 Auction of Oriental Rugs & Carpets will feature a wide variety of offerings including over 50 room size carpets. Styles include Ushak, Serapi, Soumak, Kuba, Fereghan-Sarouk, Talish, Tabriz, and Moghan, Karabagh, Konya, Khotan, Tekke Chuval, and more. Skinner rug auctions also offer tribal and village weavings, textiles, and antique decorative carpets of merit.”
”Carpets of merit”? Where are these carpets RK would like to ask the Skinner folks, as not even one we’d class as meritorious jumped out of the catalog when we checked it out.
OK then, let’s take a look at some of their offerings through our bright eyes and not through the rose-colored glasses the Skinner rug people must be wearing 24/7.
The first of the handful of almost and wanna-be “carpets of merit” we have chosen for a bit of scrutiny is lot 91, an Akstafa Long Rug:
The catalog description, which by the way we’d agree with states as follows:
“Southeast Caucasus, third quarter 19th century, (rewoven ends), 9 ft. 5 in. x 3 ft. 10 in.” However the over-the-top guesstimate of $10,000-$12,000 will not in our opinion be met and we’d rather suggest a $5,000 - $7,000 estimate. Granted Caucasian rug of this ilk are used a furnishing carpets and while that market has many hot spots where explosive prices have shot-up we doubt this piece will ignite any firecracker bidding.
By the way we believe more than half of the “collector” type rugs in this sale, which includes those like this lot, have the words “rewoven” or “rewoven ends” in their descriptions. Have so many of these pieces made the ocean voyage to Turkey and back? If so there have been some busy repairers working for the consignors to this sale. Or is it that most of these rugs come from the same consignor?
Anyway this Akstafa, like almost every other lot in this large 297 piece auction, would be best described as pedestrian rug weaving exemplified – regardless of Skinner’s attempt to categorize them as having merit.
Lot 95 a so-called in the catalog Talish Prayer Rug is the next piece we’ll put under our microscope of reality:
Sorry to tell the Skinner rug expert but this would be better described as a Gendje rather than Talish. In fact, there are no characteristics present to lead anyone to such a conclusion—well anyone who has a strong command of knowledge about Caucasian rugs that is.
Again the minor end reweave is mentioned in the catalog description and likewise the estimate $4,500-5,500 will, in our opinion, not be met and setting the bar at $2,000-$3,000 would be far more realistic.
Design-wise Lot 97 is one of, if not the, most interesting rug in the sale:
But calling it a Chelaberd is foolish and archaic as using a quill pen.
While RK readily agrees many of the descriptive “names” or “tags” used in rug terminology are in sore need of proper categorization (the various spellings of those names discounted of course), anyone who calls themselves, or has a job title that includes the words “rug expert”, should by now know enough to avoid using such meaningless and outdated terms like Chelaberd and that other miserable moniker “trans-Caucasian”.
We will take Skinner’s experts dating of this rug as “last quarter 19th century, as accurate even though the proportions and drawing would suggest an earlier dating. Over the years we have seen other Caucasian rugs where the presence of synthetic dyes belied their early 19th century or older level of draftsmanship and drawing and would not be surprised if this were the case here as well. But regardless of its age, the weaver who created this rug was well steeped in the history of the visual terminology of Caucasian weaving. We like the rug for that reason but again don’t believe the catalog’s $7,000-$9,000 will be met. Might we suggest $4,000-$5,000 as more realistic?
Stay tuned for Part II of this review and more of RK.com’s unbiased comments.