The skinner sale has already been tattooed with the epithet “over priced dealer goods”, which, on the surface, appears to be right on.
The sale at grogan’s, which might have the same number of trade consigners as skinners, has avoided a similar ‘curse’ by having the opposite type of estimates—ones that are too low.
RK has commented on the vagaries of auction price estimates and would someday like to see an auction with properly set estimates. But that hope is clearly another bit of wishful thinking and the two sales held in conjunction with the acor/Boston event are both marred, in our estimation, by their erratic and unfounded estimates.
That said there are also far too many misattributions and erroneous dating guesstimates for us to do anything other than criticize the cataloguers who put these sales on paper.
The skinner sale is almost twice as large as grogan's but the presence of more is not necessarily better and, in this case, that proverb hangs true.
Most of the rugs at skinners, in fact almost all of them in our opinion, are either late, not great, mediocre examples or musts to avoid. Let’s start off this preview with the worst of those musts to avoid.
The first is lot 148 a Manister Prayer rug – winner of RK’s worst rug at any major rug auction in the past two decades:
Man is this one gruesome rug and RK challenges anyone to send in a pic of a rug from an auction they think is even worse.
Manister is a Turkish village where a number of later 19th century rugs, often pseudo-prayer rugs like this one, were woven.
While those weavings can hardly compete with others from other locations woven during this sunset period of Turkish Village weaving, a few of them are interesting. But not this one by a long shot.
In fact, it is one of the ugliest rugs RK has ever seen and surely the worst example of a prayer rug published on this site.
We wouldn’t let our dog sleep on this atrocity and might even think twice about putting it, as a liner, in the girlfriend’s kitty-litter box.
It is an atrocious, ghastly mess and the $1,500-2,000 estimate an insult, as far as we are concerned.
Perhaps our selecting the cover lot:
as one to avoid might confuse some readers who want to believe skinner’s expert’s judgment that this is an exemplary weaving. It is not and we sincerely suggest anyone who might harbor such thoughts to forget about serious rug collecting.
This rather diminutive prayer rug, which carries a date of “1864”, typifies the lack of design quality, color and proportions almost all post 1850 Caucasian rugs demonstrate.
We like nothing about this little late pseudo-prayer rug and the $10,000-12,000 estimate is nothing but hype and nonsense.
It is not as bad as the Manister but, in our estimation, runs a close second.
Another piece the cataloguer hopes someone will fall for is lot 60, a “Kazak” prayer rug:
Like the cover lot, this prayer rug is a pastiche, and a not very good one at that. It is probably a very late, end of the line, Karachov, and while there are horses for courses, this nag couldn’t win the Podunk stakes, let alone the Kentucky Derby.
There is nothing we like about this rug, the misshapen wonky drawing, the lack-luster coloration and rote, meaningless drawing go miles to support our opinion.
Granted the estimate, $3,000-5,000, is more realistic than the cover lot but it, too, is way overpriced and we doubt it will be in anyone’s shopping cart next Saturday on sale day.
Ladik prayer rugs are, as a group, perhaps the most elegant and well drawn of all the 18-19th century Turkish urban-made prayer rugs.
But looking at the miserable example the dead-eyed skinner’s rug department dredged up one would be wont to know this unless one was well versed in Turkish prayer rugs.
Again, we’d have to remark there is nothing we like about this rug and the $2,500-3,500 estimate it carries is wishful thinking at best.
RK should also add our dislike of Ladik prayer rugs that, like this example, put the “tulip” flower panel below the mirhab and not above it.
We do not for a minute believe this is the way it should be and have never seen a Ladik with this turned-around feature we like.
Obviously, this one at skinners doesn’t do the trick and we will be surprised if there is even one real bid for it on sale day.
As Johnny-Rotten of the Sex Pistols groaned: “It’s ‘orrible”.
There is a well-defined group of supposed “Chodor Prayer” rugs RK has never believed are anything other than airport-art and one of these is in the skinner sale:
We have seen and handled a number of these over the years, though, we must say,we have never been moved to buy one.
And you can bet the farm skinner’s piece will definitely not make us reach for our back pocket next week.
The purpose for the stair-step upper portion, which is the defining characteristic of this group, has never been explained with any conviction and to us it appears to be nothing more than “quaint” affectation.
This example is not one of the worst but neither is it one of the best and while the $7,000-9,000 estimate is somewhat in line with asking prices others of this group have carried, the reality of this one reaching that price is, in our estimation, virtually non-existent.
Again, skinner’s cataloguer is reaching for top shelf prices while providing second-rate or less merchandise. Will this fly on sale day? We say not and look for many bought in lots at skinners.
We will try to look at some other lots that are not musts to avoid later if time permits but we would like to end this installment with a rug we do like:
Called a “Kazak” in the catalog, which is a good guess, we’d prefer calling it Kurdish from perhaps the Moghan area.
While any exact location for the production of this rug, or any assignation to a particular group, is impossible, Kazak is definitely something it ain’t – not in weave, coloration or materials.
Granted we have not handled it as yet but know enough to be sure of our estimation.
While this is clearly a mid-19th century rug, it is, to our eyes, an excellent one.
Exciting design, good proportions, harmonious coloration and rarity all combine to make it an exemplary weaving for this period.
And the border, which for us is the best part, is very reminiscent of a reverse soumak we collected many years ago and now illustrated in the Weaving Art Museum’s soumak exhibition:
The soumak is some long generations older than the skinner rug and the subtle differences in the expression of that border design hint at this age differential.
The skinner rug is lot 32 and it carries a $2,500-3,500 estimate that strikes us a bit low – we expect this rug to do better on sale day, as it is one of the few pieces in either skinner or the grogan sale that deserve to be lauded.
That’s it for now and while we have picked out some other pieces from skinners sale to comment on, time does not permit our doing that now.
Stay tuned for more…