The collector’s exhibition entitled “Gems from New England Collections” was, in RK opinion and that of many others we spoke to, the highlight of the various exhibitions at acor/Boston.
While the quality of the rugs on view there was variable, we found it to be the most consistent, as compared to the weavings in the other eight exhibitions mounted in the hotel’s exhibition spaces.
Here are a few photos of the pieces we chose for comment, the first our pick for most "interesting":
Lately, for the past decade, RK’s investigation and focus has been centered on archetypal Turkmen and Turkish pile rugs, but actually the strongest and most significant area of our collection and longtime interests are historic, archetypal flat-woven pieces from Turkey and the trans-Caucasus. Since we have seriously collected soumak khorjin for more than 30 years it might not come as a surprise to say this one was, perhaps, the only piece from any of the exhibitions we would like to discuss questions it raises.
In our efforts to collect and study them we have focused our attention solely on the earliest examples, and in this pursuit we have uncovered some important information. Based on that knowledge we have developed many personal ideas about these fantastic weavings.
Regardless of their small format, usually about 2 foot square, the best of of them encapsulate and create the majesty and power far larger and more imposing weavings generate.
To describe them as small is beautiful or great things come in small packages would not be unreasonable.
We have never seen another example of this type with such a medallion or the four blue, red and yellow ‘figures’(are they abstract birds?) placed in each of the corners.
This might be might another opportunity for us to put into perspective, or is it to debunk, an idea many rug collectors hold as gospel: the concept widely spaced motifs, vs. ones in closer proximity, are synonymous with earlier dating. This, like many aspects of rug lore, is not exactly written in stone as numerous early rugs, flat-weaves and textiles position iconic motifs in close proximity.
But this is not the case for the way they are aspected in this soumak khorjin. Here there is a sense of crowding, which is the first and most obvious clue it is not as early as it might appear.
The main border is also misleading, and honestly we are not enamoured of the hooked-motif (could it be an abbreviated amalgam of the archaic Dragon and Phoenix?), as it is occasionally sighted in later trans-Caucasian-type pile rugs -- another sign this soumak is not earlier than middle 19th century.
It does appear to have silk weft, invariably a sign of workshop production and not village or encampment. We believe many of the khorjin with silk-weft are “workshop” produced rather than genuine clan weavings. And concerning this piece we’d have to agree, as the fineness of the materials and weave, plus the presence of some “silver” metal highlights, all contribute to this assessment.(ed. comments about this soumak bag have been revised several times, the most recent in December 2016, to more accurately present our most current thoughts and opinion. Over the ensuing years four other examples have come to light and we have had the chance to handle three of them. One was what we would classify as a recent reproduction (a fake). We also have seen a pair that had ecellent coloration, far better than the acor example. We had the opportunity to study them carefully and determined them to be genuine and at least as early as the acor khorjin. Most probably we could imagine the three, and not the recent fake, were all made in the same place. The fourth example, we have only seen in picture, is quite faded, seemingly much more so than the acor example that also appears to have suffered some color damage. These khorjin are definitely at this pont a small rare group and RK wonders if, or is it when, will others might turn up?)
The second piece we illustrate is also a soumak khorjin bagface:
This bag, which appears from all available info to be a Bijar area piece, had its other half also on display.
This is a pretty snazzy soumak but one that was even better was exhibited years ago at the icoc/Philadelphia. It is illustrated in the “Oriental Rugs from Atlantic Collections” publication.
Here are the two bag side-by-side for comparison:
We attended the icoc/Philadelphia and this Bijar soumak was the only one of the myriad on view that was a masterpiece.
In all respects, the piece on the right is superior to that on the left and, perhaps, the far more animate articulation and depiction of the trellis flowered field, and especially that of the main border, are the most readily comparable features to demonstrate this superiority.
The acor/Boston is a good one, the icoc/Philadelphia piece a great one and one we believe is the archetype of this august group of Persian soumak bags.
We have some other pictures from the collector’s show to share and comment about and will do that soon.