Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >Great Buy or Great Mistake?
Parts I, II & III
Tue, Dec 22nd, 2009 08:30:09 AM
Topic: Great Buy or Great Mistake?
Parts I, II & III

This re-posting, which has some newly added additions, demonstrates once again the difference between a buyer/s "guessing" with an open check-book and "knowing" based on careful analysis.

Since there are no absolutes in historic rug-studies no one can claim their position is 100 percent.

However anyone, who believes their ideas are more important than expert art historical comparison, sets themselves up for pointed critique and ridicule.

RugDUMB is chock full of such examples, and while history does tends to sort out the wheat from the chaff, this often takes years and even decades to percolate through the rug community.

Witness, for instance, the now famously well-recognized errors made in the early part of the 20th century when Ghiordes and Kula prayer rugs were thought to be 16th and 17th century by noted experts and connoisseur collectors.

Today almost the entire grouping of these rugs, many in noted collections like James Ballard and other pioneer collectors, are known to be centuries later and only the best of them thought of as anything but grand-tour airport art.

The reality rugDUMB is still mired in the same faulty perceptions is fact, and this is the subject this post, which has been online here in RugKazbah.com for quite some time, examines.

The subject is the 'supposed' “ 17th century NORTHEAST ANATOLIAN CARPET” sold June 9th at Christies, N.Y.

Lot 19, Christie, NY sale June 2009

Here is the description Christie published with our comments in bold type

“It is difficult to ascribe an exact date or provenance to this carpet as no similar piece has been found or published."

Uniqueness is a double-edged sword, surely no absolute factor to understand any rug or textile. Clearly this rug’s uniqueness posed a humongous problem for the cataloguer at Christies.

Granted the rug is “unique” but so what says RK as it is ungainly, derivitive, formulaic and ugly.

It is nothing but a pastiche of motifs lifted from a variety of rugs made in Turkey and Armenia.

“Most likely, it was woven in the golden triangle area of East Anatolia/Northwest Persia in a Kurdish district for a local noble.”

Speaking of hyperbole the statement such a rug was made for a “local noble” is ludicrous and ridiculous.

Was that local noble’s cloth name-tag sewn on the back or did the cataloguer consult his/her oujii board?

Or was the auction house trying to flatter and convince the major client of the dealer, who purchased it, of its "royal" heritage?

It’s high time for rugDUMB to cease and desist from this type of nonsense, even in patently commercial auction catalog hyped descriptions.

"The general format and intense colors are akin to 17th century Northwest Persian carpets."

This is frightfully silly hyperbole, as being akin does not in any way shape or form equate to being, and in no way is this rug 17th century.

Period, end of discussion—the rug is a later genre pastiche and anyone, who thinks it is anything but, is sorely misinformed and wrong.

“The border layout of panels enclosing quatrefoils is highly unusual, and a very similar quatrefoil device embracing a lotus flower can be found in a Northwest Persian medallion carpet in the Keir collection (please see Sphuler, F., Islamic Carpets and Textiles in the Keir Collection, London, 1978, p. 98, pl. 45). However, the rosettes in the field, the minor outer guard stripe, filler motifs in the border and most importantly, the structure, relate to East Anatolian examples. The sampler nature of the design, especially in the border, further enhances this very unique, compelling and enigmatic weaving.”

Well, it is clear some thought this rug compelling, as the $206,000.oo price it made is compelling enough.

However in RK’s opinion compelling it ain’t, not by a long shot, and the $206,000 price is nothing but another example of someone paying way too much for much, much too little.

Frankly, that price was nothing but a perfect crime rip-off, as RK firmly believes and can demonstrate the reality the rug is circa 1800, a pastiche and nothing but another workshop invention masquerading as the real mccoy.

Go study this detail where the rote and uninventive use of later 18th and early 19th century ornamentation is clearly visible :

This rug is circa 1800 and the catalog’s ambitious 17th century dating is poppycock nonsense, regardless of the high price it made.

RK has no doubt the rug probably had “good” color but is that and the dream idea it is 17th century enough to get someone to empty their wallet to own it?

Clearly it was but in RK estimation this rug, like the dodds/LACMA “bellini” and others we can cite, is so far over-priced, and over-rated by those who have vested interests to protect, it is a joke.

Our condolences to the buyer.

<>Part II

RK claimed the rug sold at Christies for $206,000 is not, as presented their catalog and believed by many including the successful bidder, a 17th century weaving, regardless of where it was made.

RK has already stated it is a workshop production that is, in our opinion, nothing but a pastiche of elements lifted from earlier weavings.

We have spoken to the new owner, Milanese dealer moshe tabibnia, and listened to his rather amateurish and specious claims of how “important” and “interesting” this rug is, and frankly we feel it necessary to further demonstrate our belief by showing where a rug like it lies in Oriental Carpet History.

Here is the modello, the model, from which most of the elements of the Christie rug have been lifted.

Plate 28, page 171, “Oriental Carpets in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin".

As anyone with 20/20 vision can see the Berlin rug is centuries older than the piss-poor knock-off example tabibnia is we are sure still braying about.

Go study the two rugs and you, too, will have to agree the comparison is valid and well proves our point.

Mr tabibnia should also note the main border, which was one of the elements he was enamored of, is nothing but a somewhat interesting, but lame in our opinion, invention based on taking a mirror image, ie doubling, the design element found in the standard Transylvanian cartouche border and instead of putting in a cartouche, the designer of the Christie rug put it into a square. Whoopie wow, says RK, pass the ketchup.

RK could go on ripping to shreds, and we will read on, the stupid fantasy the mr tabibnia or anyone believes about lot 19 but frankly we find this boring and a waste of our time but we will continue to nail shut the coffin tabibnia has foolishly put himself and $206,000 inside.

It is clear to any expert in historic eastern Mediterranean carpets, even without seeing the two comparisons presented here, the Christie’s rug is nothing but a workshop invention that has no genuine historic value, nor does it have any genuine art value.

It is an ungainly, two-dimensional later period genre revival/reproduction made not in the 17th century, or even the 18th century, but circa 1800 as far as RK is concerned.

It is not a fake, just a workshop copy made most probably in Armenia.

And as far as the new owner's belief it has any "importance", "beauty" or connection to Oriental Carpet History is concerned?

RK can only say keep trying, sir, perhaps next time you will get it right though we doubt, without someone of RK's calibre to help you, the chances of that happening might just be slightly less than an ice-cube has in a hot pizza oven.

<>Part III

RK has already demonstrated well beyond any unprejudiced observers viewpoint our position the Christie’s rug is nothing but a workshop invention – what we like to call a pastiche.

There should be little disagreement with our analysis, well, little disagreement from anyone unprejudiced.

When we spoke to mr tabibnia just after the sale, and before our first posting on the Christie’s rug, he was reluctant to believe our position.

Quite frankly our posting this analysis on RugKazbah.com was almost exclusively for his account, as he disbelieved our statement the rug he paid 206,000USD for is not what he “thinks” it is.

Not to belabor the point, but whatever tabibnia thinks about the Christie rug is worthless compared to what RK has, and will continue, to prove using art historical comparison, not tabibnia-style silly patter.

Again, we believe we have already proven our point -- in black and white for all to see here on RugKazbah.com -- the rug is the pastiche, later genre period workshop revival/reproduction we told tabibnia it was from the get-go.

Since posting our analysis, which by the way we can flesh out further should it become necessary, we have not spoken to mr tabibnia.

We did, though, have two quite long telephone conversations about it with him before.

During both of those calls tabibnia’s dealer hyped-rationalizations about the rug, and his reason(s) for purchasing it, stuck us as specious.

In fact we found just about everything he said about the rug, and his purchase of it, to be nonsense.

One thing that is not nonsense is the fact he, or someone on his behalf, shelled out $206,000 for it – that’s alot of money for a rug RK believes is an ungainly, ugly surely mid-18th century at the oldest, workshop invention masquerading as a genuinely older Village rug.

In those two calls tabibnia kept harping on the little animals between the large boxes in the border.

detail of the animals in the border of the Christie rug

He said “If the rug is the pastiche you claim where did those animals come from?

Well, we said "they surely did not come from heaven" and we also remarked we remembered seeing them, and now we will reveal to all, including mr doubting thomas tabibnia, where and how they ended up on his 206,000 dollar mistake.

But first let RK reiterate what we are talking about when we use the words late genre period reproduction, workshop and pastiche.

Anyone who has read our analysis of the dodds/LACMA bogus bellini should already recognize these terms but for those of you who have not read RK’s extensive reportage on dodds’s LACMA rip-off, or for those of you with short memories:

1. late genre period reproductions appear to have been made in many rug weaving areas at all many different times.

Sometimes these efforts were made as “revivals” or homage to/of the work by earlier weavers, other times they were purposely done as reproductions to fool naïve and unsuspecting buyers.

RK knows a number of pre-19th century rugs that fall into this classification.

2. workshop production is basically factory production where the weaver is working from a given specific design with materials given to her/him either in a factory setting or in some other place.

The significant fact here is that the weaver is not weaving for any reason other than to fulfill an order from someone outside their familial situation, and while this is a broad description it should be obvious a weaver who is not the designer, who is working in a workshop with materials that are given, is not doing what weavers of genuine Village rugs did.

The workshop rug is, like the late genre period rug, nothing but a copy or invention created by someone who is not the weaver of an original.

This class of weaving, when well-done, can be difficult for anyone but the most highly experienced to recognize.

But they are recognizable, and while the dodds LACMA bellini is a blatant example of a workshop pastiche, the Christie rug – because of it’s apparent “uniqueness” – is not as blatant; therefore, it is more capable of fooling all but the most experienced.

However, regardless of its “uniqueness”, it is still nothing but a pastiche workshop copy.

3. pastiche has the following dictionary definition: "an artistic composition made up of selections from different works – a potpourri or a hodgepodge".

In using the term pastiche RK implies the individual elements of its design have come from a number of earlier, often disparate, weavings where are, almost always, then used out of their former context and position.

The rug tabibnia bought at Christies is all of the above, and this exercise contains visual proofs anyone, who is at all conversant in oriental rug design, should be able to figure out.

We admit we wrote this one primarily for mr tabibnia’s benefit, but perhaps his abilities to extrapolate the nuance of differences between his $206,000 mistake and the far older and undeniably greater masterpieces, it copied, is still not apparent.

So, should that be the case, we will now spell out in no uncertain terms how those animals in the border he was harping on were “invented” by the Christie rug’s designer and, of course, where they came from originally.

First off let’s start with a rug that is in our estimation mid-18th century – ie somewhat but not very much earlier than tabibnia's, which please remember we date to the circa 1800 or the early 19th century:

Plate 17, page 210; Carpets-Vakiflar Museum Istanbul; 1988.

This rug is dated "16th-17th century" in Vakiflar book but, as we wrote above, RK believes it to be later, circa mid-18th.

It’s not an impressive Turkish Village rug by any means but it is miles above the pastiche mr tabibnia now has hung around his, or some client's, neck and we cite it here only for this reason:

detail showing one of the eight rows of animal-like “latch-hooks"

These latch-hooks are based on similar representations of “animals” the following far earlier masterpiece Turkish Village rugs display.

Plate 31, page 238; Carpets-Vakiflar Museum Istanbul; 1988.

This outstanding Village rug is dated in that book "16th-17th century", but RK would date it circa 1600-1650.

It should be obvious it is much earlier than Plate 17 but the authors, Belkis Balpinar and udo hirsch, were not experienced or expert enough to see, what we trust, our more astute readers now can.

The rug's actual age is not important to this discussion, and RK only mentions age to show how difficult it is for most alleged “experts” to really understand the nuances of genuine Village rugs.

We illustrate this rug for the following:

detail of Plate 31 showing two of the eight animals that appear in the field

Look carefully at these animals and notice the two smaller more skeletal animals contained within their bodies.

Both these larger and, more so, the smaller animals, bear quite a nice similarity to those in the border of the Christie’s rug – in fact we see an undeniable relationship.

But we realize someone like mr doubting thomas tabibnia might not – that’s why we can not only show the smoking gun but let him smell the gunpowder and see the flash of fire from its barrel.

detail from a rug Rk considers to be a genuine masterpiece Turkish Village rug of the 16th century.

Here is that rug:

Plate 30; page 236; Carpets-Vakiflar Museum Istanbul; 1988.

The detail of the animal comes from one of the eight squares, four that are part of the medallion and four which surround it – two below and two above.

detail Plate 30 showing one of the eight squares, some of which have animals in their opposing quarters

Frankly we find the animals in the tabibnia/Christie rug to be insipid, stupid and nonsensical in comparison to those in any of the three genuine Turkish Village rugs we have cited.

It should now be clear where the animals on the Christie’s rug come from – we have proven it in spades, and while we know there are readers who will discount what we say, honestly, we couldn’t give a damn what they think because we know anyone with rug experience and an open mind will have to agree we have proven our point -- even mr doubting thomas tabibnia.

RK was surprised tabibnia focused and fixated on the animals in the border of the Christie rug as being anything significant or important, let alone worth hanging his hat on.

But foolishly hang his hat on them he did.

RK has never believed tabibnia to be an expert, especially on early Turkish Village rugs or Turkmen.

But we did believe he was enough of a big talking ruggie to know the difference between a blatant workshop weaving, like the Christie’s rug, and the real thing.

Clearly we gave him far more credit than he is due.

We could go on citing and referencing other facets and aspects of the Christie’s rug to further explain and support our position but our desire to do more than what we see as a minimum to prove our point has been accomplished.

In closing let us unequivocally state no one can really know the "exact" age of any of these, or any other pre-mid-19th century, rug.

However, any weaving can, through concise and careful art historical comparison, be placed on continuum of rugs of similar types to get comparative ages—and that’s what we have done here as well as in all our other writings and research on carpets.

Anyone can blow silly patter and opinions out of their mouth, as mr tabibnia has done here and in other conversations RK has had with him, but to put down on paper cogent analysis and proof separates the men from the boys, so to speak.

There is an over-riding issue here – and that is perceived “beauty” and “importance”.

It should be frightfully clear, from what we have written about the Christie’s rug, we find it to be sorely lacking in both those criteria – it is not beautiful nor is it important.

Just because a bidder like tabibnia is pushed by an underbidder, who was peter pap, to pay 206,000 dollars doesn’t turn a pigs ear into a silk purse with a gold and diamond clasp.

Far from it, and whether or not tabibnia can sell the rug at a profit to someone naive enough to believe his 'sales- pitch' and spiel is not the issue here.

Clearly there is a huge difference between commerce and art appreciation – a difference it appears mr tabibnia and the under-bidder are completely unaware.

And by the way knowing who the under-bidder was, peter aka pee-pee pap, well proves our point, as mr pap is even far less equipped, not only in financial terms, than tabibnia is, or appears to be, to know a later genre period revival/ reproduction from the real thing.

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