Several days ago, RK received an email from hali announcing a rug and carpet sale in Italy at Finarte Casa d'Aste in Milan.
Today, the following ‘preview’, aka unpaid advertisement, appeared on the hali website. This is typical business for hali – to use their magazine and website as basically nothing more than a vehicle to advertise for their advertisers and to glorify those rug grandees, like dodds, who rightly deserve to be repudiated rather than exalted.
In this vein let’s add our unbiased comments after those agenda-driven ones cocked up by hali’s editorial staff.
Ours, in italics follows theirs:
“Over the years the Milanese auction house Finarte Casa d'Aste have from time to time waxed enthusiastic about antique carpets and textiles, on occasion employing the cataloguing expertise of leading members of the Italian C&T community such as Alberto Levi, then lapsing again into relative disinterest. In its latest reincarnation, their specialised department is being run with unaccustomed vigour by veteran dealer Umberto Sorgato, aided and abetted by Nunzio Crisa.”
Here is a perfect example of hali’s bent view of reality. In fact, this sale is no better or run with more vigor than any of the others this auction house has mounted.
It is clear the hali editorial staff is bereft of anything substantial to say and therefore most of their comments are nonsense tip of their hat compliments or just plain boring and droll observations. Read on
“For their Spring sale on 23 March 2006, held in the Palazzo Busca at 71 Corso Magenta, Sorgato and Crisa have assembled an extremely diverse offering, encompassing textiles from Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and Japan, as well as European tapestries and textiles, in addition to their main grouping of traditional oriental carpets and kilims, both collectable and decorative.”
On the surface this is true but what about the quality and rarity of those offerings? We can tell you, as we have seen the catalog, there is nothing of great shakes in this sale. In fact, most of the merch looks like left-overs and worse. There is not one great Near Eastern piece up for grabs. The best piece in the sale is a European tapestry but as for the Oriental Rugs – nada of real interest there.
“The first part of the sale (lots 1–130) begins with a small group of beadwork cache-sexe from the Cameroons, followed by a not especially inspiring assortment of Shoowa (Kuba) raffia 'velvets' and dance skirts from the Congo, as well as Pygmy bark cloths, a Dida textile, some 'kente' cloths from Ghana and a pair of Tuareg reed weavings.”
Picking out the Kuba raffia velvets and calling them “not especially inspiring” is myopic, as the entire sale deserves such an appraisal, as far as we can see.
“There is a rather good selection of Late Antique textile fragments from Egypt, a fragment of Safavid boteh design brocade, and some small Ottoman embroideries.”
Good compared to what? We’d have to reply these pieces are not exceptional and anyone who is selling such merch will have as good or better a selection.
Clearly the scrivener of this “preview” knows nothing about Late Classic textiles, or anything else as far as we are concerned.
“A variety of antique European textiles includes several French and Italian silk brocades, velvet panels and borders of assorted ages, origins and quality, as well as two rare blue-and white Perugia 'towels' of the 16th century, and an excellent Sicilian embroidered border. And there is a intriguing group of highly collectable 20th century Fortuny textiles, including a printed cotton cover and fout(sic) velvet cushions.”
These, too, are by and large average goods and anyone who is familiar with these types of weavings, or who sells them, can verify our assessment.
It’s one thing to endeavor to present a sale like this in a good light but doing so disingenuously or from a position of ignorance is not what we call good journalism.
“A strong group of European tapestries with excellent provenances, all very thoroughly catalogued by an outside expert, are likely to be the sale's high ticket items. These include a typical early 16th century Flemish courtly scene, a slightly later armorial hanging, an elaborate game park scene, either Brussels or Enghien, and a late 17th century allegorical work from the Van der Borcht manufactory in Brussels.”
We agree here – these tapestries are good to high quality, too bad the rest of the sale falls flat on its face in comparison.
“Among the flatweaves, both Oriental and European, are a late 19th century Aubusson with an oriental design, a rare Karabagh kilim in 'Franco-Russian' taste, and an attractive northwest Persian kilim, catalogued as Bijar but in all probability Shahsavan work. The best of a group of sumakhs, which traditionally perform well in the Italian market, is a rare and colourful diagonally striped cover, previously published by Alberto Boralevi in Sumakh.”
From our vantage point this is all fluff and unpaid advertisement, as these offerings are far from stellar – they are totally ordinary and unexceptional.
“The second part of the offering, the old and antique Oriental carpets, begins with a small square classical period Smyrna (floral Ushak) carpet, almost certainly reduced in length and with severe corrosion in both field and border. The following 170 lots encompass the entire gamut of 19th (and 20th) century weaving, from the pan-Asian carpet belt, beginning in Bergama, Kula and Gördes in western Anatolia, via some good-looking yellow-ground Konya rugs, 19th century Caucasian village weavings, and a standard range of 19th/20th century Persian and Indian decorative carpets, to a large group of Chinese, East Turkestan and Tibetan weavings.”
It would have been far more truthful and expert to say: “The following 170 lots…” would have been better left out of this sale, as they are pedestrian, decorative floor coverings that have nothing to do with anything that could be called the collector market.
“The Far Eastern/Himalayan offering is particularly strong, as one would expect in an Italian sale, with, among other things, a Nichols Tianjin deco rug and numerous other late 19th century Ningxia, Beijing, Baotou and so-called Mongolian rugs, There are two rare Khotan runnera(sic), a very damaged but clearly superior Gansu rug, and a number of Tibetan pieces, including a white-ground saddle cover illustrated in detail on the catalogue cover, and a truly bizarre object, crafted from a Tibetan tiger rug into a long sausage-like tube, open at one end and containing a brass offertory bowl – apparently such items were hung at temple entrances to collect alms.”
Again, besides for a couple of these lots, most are common and not interesting, well at least not to us or anyone else who is past the beginner stage of collecting.
“Among other items to look out for, in no particular order, are a 19th century Ushak prayer rug, in outstanding condition, inscribed ' with the celebratory Mashallah', a silk Kashan with a most unusual border and end panels, a 19th century Tabriz with the classical Indo-persian 'Portuguese' design, a dramatic ca. 1900 Sarab with blue cruciforms on its camel/yellow field, a good 'Tree' Kazak, and four fairly modest Turkmen torbas. One each from the Arabachi, Saryk, Salor and Tekke tribes, and all but the Salor with versions of the kejebe design.”
Might we add: look out for and be sure not to get auction-fevered by this sale or hali's starry-eyed review because if you do that morning after hang-over might not be as easy to dispel as last New Year’s was.
In closing let us state there is nothing inherently wrong with this sale.
What is wrong is hali's efforts in kiting and hyping it up.
But, after all, isn’t that what hali has always done best?