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.