Today a piece written by michael, aka little lord, franses appeared on the hali website. This rather long winded “review” of the recently installed Islamic Exhibition at the Musée des arts Décoratifs gave franses the opportunity to write about the splendors of “classical carpets”, a term which has in the past two decades been reserved exclusively for Persian and Turkish court produced weavings made during the late 15th to the mid-17th centuries.
We are sure RK is not the only person who questions why non-court weavings made during this time period are not also referred to as “classic”.
Of course, our questioning is purely rhetoric because we know certain high profile ruggies, like franses, want to separate court rugs from those made outside these political and economic large-scale societies.
This nomenclature discrimination was purely a commercially motivated exercise; one designed to make court produced weavings appear far more “important”(read valuable) at the expense of their non-court produced relations.
This maneuver has been quite successful, and, while franses and his cronies(and their bank books) are presently basking in the reflective glow of the huge prices these so-called “classical” weavings regularly make, RK is sure this prejudiced discrimination against equally historic and beautiful non-classical weavings will someday soon be exposed as the totally hypocritical behavior it can be proven to demonstrate.
There is no mystery why franses and others have labored, and labored very successfully, to divide the world of antique/historic oriental rugs into these two camps: “classical” carpets and “collector” carpets.
RK has touched on this topic before but, after reading what little lord franses had to say about the Musée des arts Décoratifs exhibition, we felt it important to revisit it in some more depth.
Many moons ago, in fact in 1973 when we first met little lord franses, he was totally immersed in the buying and selling “collector” carpets – Turkmen, Caucasian and Turkish pile carpets and kelim.
At this time franses was dealing these rugs to a small group of European collectors. At first franses worked with his family, who were all involved in the rug business; then for the Hugh Moss gallery in the West End and finally he set up on his own.
It was during this period franses was initially involved in producing several rug exhibitions with catalogs.
Somewhat later, towards the end of the ‘70’s he co-authored the “KILIM” book with yanni, aka backdoor, petsopolous and all the while he continued to buy and sell these “collector” rugs.
At some point in time, probably circa 1982/3 franses gave up dealing “collector” rugs and jumped ship to become almost exclusively involved with “classical” carpets.
Not a bad move financially for franses but, and this is a big but here, franses’s real reason for leaving the “collector” rug world was not because he was so prescient a financial wizard but because he could never get past his inability to really learn, and then disseminate, much that was original or significant about the “collector” rugs he was selling to his best clients, robert pinner and Marino Dall’Oglio.
The fact franses published nothing we’d call remarkable, or even hardly anything interesting, about collector rugs, besides their pictures, is an important piece of information that, when combined with his working on the “Eastern Carpet in the Western World” exhibition, led directly to franses’s abandoning the “collector” rug to concentrate on “classical” ones.
RK has never been interested in “classical” rugs. We do appreciate and recognize their beauty and amazing technical craft.
However, their designs and associated iconographies leave us cold.
Well, basically, because they do not have the direct and seemingly unbroken connection to “pre-history” and the archaeological roots we associate with the origins of the oriental carpet.
Sorry this is not the time or place to begin to unravel this statement but, to any serious oriental rug student, researcher or collector, it should be clear early non-classical rugs display design iconographies that are far more intellectually stimulating than the almost universally pretty and decorative floral, and floral inspired, designs found on “classical” carpets.
To bring this discussion to a head we must stress the fact, and yes it is fact, the iconographies displayed on the archetype examples of non-“classical” carpets probably were more closely related to their sources than were the artist-designed urban-workshop produced “classical” carpets.
And yes, RK believes it totally bogus the “classical” carpet oeuvre has displaced, and actually almost removed, non-“classical” examples - if museum exhibitions, save the Weaving Art Museum’s, are any guide, from the public eye.
But what else can be expected from someone like franses, and rugdom in general, where a somehow curiously adopted inferiority complex appears to rule the roost?
It’s clear franses gave up on non-“classical” rugs because of the lack of information, provenance and fact surrounding their origins and original meanings. And it is equally apparent why he, and rugdom, have embraced the far more easily provenanced “classical” carpet.
The art and artifacts of large-scale societies have always been considered as “important”, while those made in small-scale societies, like those that existed in Turkmenistan, the Caucasus and the vast majority of Turkey and Persia that was not ruled by the Ottoman and Safavid dynasties, are considered “peasant” work.
There is little doubt franses is not alone in pushing this idea both overtly and covertly. But when all is considered he is the poster-boy and cheerleader and his report from Paris does little, in fact nothing, to demonstrate he understands the import such “peasant” weavings provide for the study of all oriental carpets and, more regrettably, that he is even interested in finding out.
Intellectual curiosity never made anyone rich and since little lord franses’s modus operandi, in our past experiences with him and ongoing opinion, always revolves around making a buck it is no wonder his trip to Paris was nothing more than one more excuse to bray the virtues of “classical” weavings and avoid at all costs mentioning the fact examples of non-“classical” carpets are equally as admirable and mentionable.
Oh, and by the way, we also can translate this bit of franses-speak:
“Sadly, the Maciet Mamluk fragment is in dire need of cleaning to bring its colours to life, for beneath the dirt lies one of the greatest ‘old masters’ in the collection.”
Dirty the rug might be but, and we are 100 percent serious here(aren’t we always) it would be a sacrilege to allow franses’s firm “Longevity” to clean it or any of the others.
It is fact, because we saw many of the rugs and kelim that ended up in the kirchheim collection and others as well, prior to their having been “cleaned” and “conserved” by franses and “Longevity”.
After the “Longevity” treatment we can emphatically say they would have been let untouched.
One did not have to be an expert to see the miserable quality of work franses’s “Longevity” studio perpetrated on those rugs, some of them great ones, that will now and forever bear witness to franses’s rather silly claims of being the best in the business.
Hopefully, franses’s not very disguised ploy to get some business, cleaning not only the Maciet Mamluk but others, will be ignored by the Musée des arts Décoratifs and any other institutions or collectors who might believe his hype and publicity.