RK thinks we need to once again explain our conception of what collecting oriental rugs is all about.
Basically, there are only two different kinds of oriental rugs worthy of admiration in our estimation: Historic ones and beautiful ones.
Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, ie what someone thinks is beautiful someone else doesn’t, collecting this type of rug is nothing but ego extension. It also matters not if others agree or don't with such an opinion.
Historic rugs, on the other hand, are not debatable or a function of one’s personal likes or dislikes.
This distinction is a very important one, not only to understand what RK is all about but also one that explains a major problem in rugDUMB.
Of course determining beauty, or at least what anyone believes is beautiful, is an easily done exercise, all it takes is an opinion.
But to understand what a historic rug is all about takes that ole connoisseurship, something which for all intents and purposes has never been a significant element of rug collecting.
Yes, yes, we know all about “classical” carpets, which on account of their being made in the 15th-17th century, by definition are ‘historic’.
While any definition of historic must include the age factor in this instance it just does not compute.
Simply put because 99 percent or maybe even 100 percent of classical rugs were copies of either other rugs of their type or made from a diagram provided to the weaver. They do not have those elusive qualities all genuinely historic and non-workshop examples exude.
Now then, this distinction, workshop or not, is not very hard to grasp for the classical carpet, which were all produced in workshops and can rightly be called products of “large-scale” societies.
However, for the types of non-classical rugs RK is interested in, this separation is a far more subtle one, as many old non-classical rugs were also produced in workshops.
The large-scale society workshop, whether under royal patronage or not, might have been quite different than the workshops producing these non-classical weavings, ie in size or volume produced, but nevertheless many, if not almost all, extant small-scale society weavings are still workshop production.
Unfortunately, the only way to differentiate non-workshop small-scale society weavings from ones made in workshops requires expertise, something most of rugDUMB sorely lacks.
Witness the difference between these two rugs, which are illustrated here on RK.
Left: 'Bellini', Keyhole' or Re-entrant' prayer rug, west or central Anatolia, 16th or 17th century.
1.19 x 1.52m (3'11" x 5'0").
Right: bogus late genre period reproduction ‘bellini’ sold by dennis the cheat and liar dodds to LACMA, circa late 18th century
Anyone who cannot see the gross differences between these two weavings should never venture into an auction room or a rug dealer’s shop to buy an antique oriental rug for any reason other than to cover their floor.
This comparison is, of course, one of ‘classical-type’ rugs and not really germane to any discussion of non-classical rugs.
However, the paradigm it presents is eminently applicable to what RK is talking about.
Here’s another comparison, this time with small-scale society examples.
Left: published: Kelim, Soumak, Carpet and Cloth, 1990, circa 1750; Right: Christie auction, circa 1850.
The differences between these two Konagend rugs might be somewhat difficult to grasp, however, those differences are readily apparent to anyone with a firm understanding of the type.
RK is positive the one on the left was made outside anything that could be rightly called a workshop.
We are equally as positive the other was.
Can we prove this?
Well, yes we, or anyone else with that firm grasp, can prove it by art historical comparison.
We are also sure when our forensic testing program gets started far more positive proofs will become available and those proofs will be, unlike any art historical comparison, unassailable.
RK doesn’t doubt for a minute many readers will either believe the Christie example superior to the other, or see no real difference between the two.
Whether or not one “likes” either example, or finds one more ‘beautiful', is not the discussion; after all liking, or beauty, is a nothing but a personal preference and RK has no argument with what anyone likes or doesn’t like or finds beautiful or not.
History, one the other hand as we have explained, is not a preference or something that is personal – it is fact.
So, dear readers, we hope this short post can, once again, put into perspective what RK’s orientation to oriental rug appreciation is all about and, at the same time, elucidate a subtle but highly important issue.
In closing, we recognize some historic rugs are beautiful and others not but, regardless of their pulchritude, their place in history is not debatable, well at least in the eyes of any expert.
Beauty, don’t forget, is only in the eye of the beholder while history by definition, isn’t.
The subtle nuance separating workshop from non-workshop are harder to determine than whether or not an example is historic, especially when historic can be seen as not only a factor of age but one RK refers to as archetypical.
The Konagend on the left is an archetype in our estimation, while the one on the right is a later copy.
Again, were we interested in spilling all the beans we would expound on those differences.
However, that is not our present intent or purpose, as we have spent considerable time and effort to do such in depth art historical comparisons in the past here on RugKazbah.com.
For an excellent example of that type of work we can direct interested readers to the efforts we made that prove the LACMA/dodds ‘bellini’ is not 16th century, nor is it a masterpiece of the type.
Rather, as our analysis proves, it is nothing but the late, genre period reproduction we have claimed since the get-go.
Anyone can buy a beautiful rug but to acquire a historic one is far, far more difficult.
Think about this over that cup of coffee this morning…