Home > Archive >The Eagle Soars in Philly
email: jc@rugkazbah.com
Sat, Dec 23rd, 2006 11:17:35 AM
Topic: The Eagle Soars in Philly

While most eyes were fixed on sothebys 72nd street salesroom another quite less glitzy provincial auction house was also holding a rug auction.

Freeman’s, America’s oldest auction house, which is how they bill themselves, was that happening place on Thursday, December 14. Their location on Chestnut Street in the City of Brotherly Love , which is how this metropolis and capital of the great state of Pennsylvania is known to those who are also old enough to know what the Liberty Bell, which also resides there, looks like was the focus of more than just one rug collector who wanted to add their so-called single medallion Eagle Kazak to his wool pile.

RK learned of Freeman’s Kazak some weeks ago when we heard it was confusing some supposedly knowledgeable East Coast rug fans – was it new, old, very old or a fake?

We sorta planned to make the trip to Philly to see it in person but we never made it south of NYC and cannot personally weigh in on the veracity of this weaving’s age.

However, we have heard the opinions of several folks who did see it in person and along with the sale result -- it sold for $346,000.oo – we’d probably come down on the side of those who believed it was a very old example.

RK is pretty familiar with these rare Kazaks as we owned for sometime one of the most acclaimed ones, which we bought, also at auction, 20 years or so ago.

We also owned the one illustrated in jim burns’s Caucasian Rug Book (sorry but we do not have a book handy to scan so you all could see it).

Both of these rugs were quite similar to the most famous and highly regarded example of a single eagle, which is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

To claim, as we believe, the Freeman example belongs to this rare group of rugs only in a somewhat tangential regard is something some might take exception with. However, to claim the single eagle, along with the Star Kazak, is the epitome of Caucasian Pile Weavings would be a statement few would contest.

In fact, these single eagles are seen by many as the direct descendants of the legacy of the Dragon Rugs and the precursors of the ubiquitous Eagle Kazak, almost every “good” rug auction offers.

Rightly or wrongly, these factors plus the powerful design and glowing coloration single eagles invariably possess provides a heady mixture of greed and allure for Caucasian Rug Collectors, especially those with the fat-wallets necessary to procure such a trophy for their wall or, God-Forbid, their living room floor.

Just to put things into perspective for all those of you who haven’t been rug collecting since you were in short pants, we paid about $37,500 for the piece we bought at auction in Europe in the early 1980’s.

We bought it under some intense competition that was, perhaps, somewhat equal to what the situation at Freeman’s was on Thursday.

We owned the rug for about a year and then sold it to ebberhard herrman for a, at the time, quite substantial and hefty sum.

But, also at the time, we did not realize the hypnotic trance some collector of hermann’s would experience by just sitting in the same room with our rug and it end up, as we heard, selling for over $200,000.

The other single eagle we owned was also bought at auction, in fact we believe it was in Philly but can’t exactly remember. Regardless, we bought it with a partner and then bought him out.

We liked the rug and owned it, too, for some time.

We then consigned it back to that dealer, and former friend, who sold it to burns for, we were told at the time, only a small profit over what it went for in the sale.

We believe it sold in the sale for about $7,500.00 but it was not nearly in the condition the other one we sold to Hermann was. Nor do we believe our ex-friend the dealer told us the truth about what burn’s did finally pay.

As far as we are concerned, the fact the Freeman eagle is woven on a cotton foundation, not wool as the other are, and it has drawing that is not found on the others, implies it belong to a related group of rugs, as we ventured to explain above.

Where was it made? And by who?

These questions are good ones and ones we surely could not answer, especially since we have not seen it or handled it.

We also cannot say whether or not the price it made was ridiculous or correct.

From our vantage point it seems excessive but, hell, what’s a dollar worth these days and how many “important” Kazaks come to the market?

Rugs are cheap by any standards of comparison in the Art World and the reality a 200 years old Kazak with a rare design in useable condition sells at auction for almost $350,000.oo is something anyone who has experience in the upper echelons of this art area has to agree is nothing remarkable.

In fact, the reality it didn’t make $500,000.oo might be even more unbelievable.

Author: jc
Sat, Dec 23rd, 2006 11:17:35 AM

By the way, we would just like to add, should it not have been clear by what we have already said: RK doesn’t like the Freeman Kazak very much.

We do recognize how other eyes, perhaps not as sophisticated as ours, might see it as a wonderful example but, to us, it is only a pastiche.

Its design nothing more than a footnote in the book of Caucasian Rug designs.

We particularly do not believe the rote repetition of those open-palmette that flank the central eagle medallion have any roots in history.

Actually we see them as nothing more than thoughtless, uninspired add-ons to a traditional design format.

The borders are unremarkable as well, leaving only the eagle medallion to discuss.

Well, there was that humongous price...

Author: Sue Zimmerman
Thu, Dec 21st, 2006 02:35:30 PM

RK Replies:

We have requested you refrain from expressing view and opinions here.

Not because we do not agree but only because you have nothing to say that is worth sifting thru the BS and stupid notions you mouth in the same breath.

Do you believe we care if you agree or disagree?


Most dragon rugs commercial? Yep. Agree. Proceeded by Caucasian embroidery motifs? Yep. Good point. Agree. Vote for your candidate for "archetypal iconography" of dragon rugs? Hell no. Nice try, though.

Author: robert
Wed, Dec 20th, 2006 08:09:01 AM

RK Replies:

Valid points you raise, Robert.

As you may realize, RK does not use the word “tribal”. We prefer, lately, non-urban as the descriptive modifier we believe you are referencing and will use that in our reply.

We also, for some time now, have preferred the term small-scale society when we write or speak about such weavings.

Since Village and Town is likewise an acceptable terms as far as we are concerned, we like it as well.

But we all know names in the rug-game are like musical chairs—only there for convenience.

Now in answering the second part of your post, one must recognize none of the rugs the Freeman Kazak can be closely related to are non-urban, therefore why such we expect it to be?

You know, calling a rug a workshop production is no damnation and we all must recognize there were fabulous rugs made in workshops—be they royal ateliers or small private facilities.

Even rugs made with materials and designs given by someone outside the weavers circle, a kind of home-workshop situation, can be some of the ones that we all ohh and ahh over.

So actually, Robert, we don’t exactly get the drift of your intentions by introducing this thought in your argument.

Because the Freeman Kazak is really a rather “commercial” product—the cotton foundation being one of the strongest indicators, by the way, to RK’s belief the weaver was working by the “clock”, so to speak, and not from the "heart".

We expect, in cases like this, to see various “short-cuts” and other manipulations employed to make the job easier and, of course, faster.

The lack of complexity in the border is easy to see but the somewhat incongruity of juxtaposition of this simple border with such a robust and complex field, perhaps, somewhat harder to recognize. But it is there and again this shows the rug is quite commercial. More importantly for us, it indicates this is not really a historic weaving but rather, one that is a reflection of earlier ones that were.

This is not the time to expound on RK’s views on Caucasian Dragon and the related group of Blossom carpets.

However, we will state almost all of them, yes even those that are centuries older than the Freeman Kazak are “commercial” rugs in our opinion.

It is sure all these were based on even earlier models. What were those models?

Not to be a tease we will tell: large scale silk Caucasian Embroidery.

Here also is our candidate for an archetypal weaving that is the base for the iconography displayed by most of those silk-needle works and Caucasian Dragon and the related group of Blossom carpets :

This embroidery, unlike the Freeman Kazak or any of the rugs we can looking at in discussing it, appears to us to be non-urban(i.e. your “tribal”).

We believe everyone should agree here, right?


But it seems not to be a “tribal” or even a peasant type rug like those associated with Moghan, but more likely a workshop production.

I still wonder about the border, it seems small and cramped relative to the field design.

It is a guard border rather than the main border?

Author: robert
Tue, Dec 19th, 2006 10:40:01 AM

RK Replies:

Yes, it seems almost all of the single eagles are different, with different materials the most evident of their disparities.

We believe, when we are able to scientifically test them, we will find other less visible and far more minute differences.

Discovering these factors will hopefully enable us to place their probable places of manufacture more closely to certain geographic locations.

Since the sale, a number of people have checked in with us and expressed their views.

The consensus is the rug dates circa 1800 and quite beautiful.

We would believe it was not made, as you forward in Kuba-Derbent but rather more into the Moghan area.

This is just a guess on our part and until we actually see it we’d rather discuss other, less circumstantial, issues.


the cotton and border design suggest eastern caucasus, possibly kuba-derbend area. also, the coloration, if accurate, sugests derbend; compared to the colors of the piece you sold to herrmann, very different...

Author: jc
Sun, Dec 17th, 2006 02:27:24 PM

The best buy at any of these sales according to us was this so-called Lori Pembak Kazak at Freemans.

We’ve been to their saleroom a number of times and know how excellent but damaged rugs can sell there for very little.

This was a perfect example:

It’s a great, early example and, actually, not in bad shape, considering. But irrespective of the lack of pile, that can always be replied, it’s drawn with that delicacy of line

few other Kazak can equal.

This was a great buy and, to be honest, we were planning to carefully check-it-out, but didn’t, when we viewed the eagle, we never viewed.

The paltry $3,250 it made would never have happened. It could just have easily could have gone to $12,500.

Trust us on this one, had we made it to the sale and decided to buy the Lori, it would have gone there…and maybe more.

We don’t like buying at auctions and well recognize the price propensity quotient that happens when we do.

And, after all, since all these great rugs are, justifiably, priceless, what’ another 10,000$?

We’ll leave you all with that thought, and, that lucky buyer as well.

But be sure to note: RK knows there was more than one buyer holding that winning paddle.

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