Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >Is the Marby Rug a FAKE?
RK says YES
Sun, Jan 2nd, 2011 02:57:55 AM
Topic: Is the Marby Rug a FAKE?
RK says YES

The Marby rug; Museum of National Antiquities; Stockholm, Sweden

RK likes to bust bubbles, especially when they are ones no one else has the expertise or courage to tackle.

Our putting the Richardson prayer rug in its place might have ruffled some feathers but the bubble we are going to stick the pin of reality in today will, no doubt, ruffle a whole lot more.

In the early 1990’s we ventured to Stockholm and Göteborg, Sweden to examine the collection of early textiles illustrated in Carl Johan Lamm’s Carpet Fragments publication, as well as others conserved in the two museum collections.

It was not the first time we had visited Sweden, nor the last – we like it there, and highly recommend anyone who is thinking of visiting during the time of the icoc to make the trip.

We’d suggest spending more time than a weekend as there is much to see and do besides rushing around to listen to the usually boring ‘lectures’ and seeing dealers and collector exhibitions that are far more politically than quality chosen.

But we did not start this missive to replay our previous icoc warnings, so lets get back to that bubble we have set our sights on busting.

While in Stockholm we had the opportunity to see at very close range the Marby rug.

pop…..Pop…..POP – it ain’t old.

Regrettably it was encased in plastic and we were unable to get a hand on it, but we did get real close. Real close.

Close enough to be 99.9999% sure it ain’t as old as it claimed by all; fact is we believe it is not even 100 years old.

RK can definitively state we do not in any way believe that rug is 15th, 16th, 17th or even 18th century.

We believe it is a fake placed in the church, where it was found and allegedly spent centuries, to trick bamboozle and deceive.

And that it did. Here is the official blurb about it:

Marby Rug
Holding Museum: Museum of National Antiquities, Stockholm, Sweden
Original Owner: Church of Marby, Jämtland
Museum Inventory Number: SHM 17 786
Height 160 cm, width 112 cm
Material(s) / Technique(s): Wool; knotted.
Date of the object: Hegira 700–823 / AD 1300–1420
Period / Dynasty: Ottoman
Provenance: Anatolia, Turkey.
Description: One of the few examples surviving in Sweden from a tradition of carpet–making in the early Ottoman period in Anatolia. In 1925, the so-called 'Marby rug', Sweden's oldest preserved oriental carpet, was found, cut in two pieces, at the abandoned church of Marby, a village in the province of Jämtland. Belonging to the group of animal carpets, it shows red, stylised birds standing symmetrically on either side of a tree set within octagons on an ivory ground. The birds and tree motif has been long known and very common in Central Asia. To judge from their presentations in Italian paintings of the 14th century, animal carpets with a tree flanked by two birds already seem to have been popular at this time. However, they reached the peak of their production and circulation during the first half of the AH 9th / AD 15th century. The provenance of this rug from a village in Jämtland in Sweden is important as it shows that the export was not restricted to Italy, but also reached the Baltic region. Animal carpets disappeared towards the end of the AH 9th / AD 15th century.
Apart from the Marby rug, some fragments with the motif of birds flanking a tree from Fustat in Egypt are known and there are two completely preserved examples. The first was found in a church in Italy and is now in the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin, Germany, and a second was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1990.
How object was obtained: Bought by the Museum of National Antiquities in 1925.
How date and origin were established: The rug was dated by radiocarbon (Carbon-14).
How provenance was established: The patterns of the border and the guard strips are characteristically Anatolian; the guard strips also appear in another group of early Ottoman carpets discovered in the 'Ala al-Din Mosque at Konya, Turkey

Before we discuss some of the myth and misrepresentation dispensed above let RK present the possible modello the artiste who created the Marby copied.

Anatolian animal rug RK dates circa 1600

Here are the two side by side, any questions?

left: detail of an animal rug illustrated in “Early Turkish Carpets, Yetkin; right: detail of the Marby rug, erroneously in our opinion dated 14th/early 15th century

RK published our research and commentary on the Lamm textiles in 2004 online in the Weaving Art Museum’s exhibition “Ancient Carpet Fragments”.

Here is what we wrote about the Marby rug:
As is mentioned in the introduction, Lamm originally published these fragments as part of his effort to place the Marby Rug in its proper perspective.

I have my doubts about how old this carpet is and, though Lamm and other experts believe it to be 15th century, suffice it to say I don’t.

The more simplistic rendering of the animals shares some parallels with this fragment(ed. pictured below) particularly the long horns and shape of the animal’s head.

Plate 13, “Carpet Fragments”, Carl Johan Lamm; republished as Plate 11 in the Weaving Art Museum “Ancient Carpet Fragments” exhibition

But the rest of the iconography and some of its physical details don’t appear to place the Marby rug within any of the early groups of these animal rugs and surely do not imply and deeper connection to these fragments.

Comparing the Marby to a genuinely ancient animal carpet like this one in the Islamic Museum in Berlin should return a “no way” verdict from any expert.

Lamm, Pope and other carpet scholars and researchers are long dead and they cannot revisit their opinions on the Marby.

However, many of today’s crop of wanna-be and pseudo-experts continue to forward the bogus opinion the Marby is a 14th/15th century weaving.

The official story above makes reference to the animal rug in the Metropolitan Museum in N.Y. as a significant analog for comparison.

Animal rug purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and dated by them to the 14th century, dating RK also opines is seriously flawed.

RK knows this rug well, as we personally examined it long before the Met’s ex-curator dan aka do nothing dan walker championed its purchase in 1990.

We had the opportunity to examine this rug when it was with several other now famous early ‘Anatolian’ rugs -- the cut in four animal rug illustrated in Kirchheim’s “Orient Stars” and the “Faces” rug -- in the London home/gallery of Lisbet Holmes.

Just to reiterate what we are already on the record as stating, we do not believe the Met’s rug is, as they contend, a 14th century example made in Anatolia(Turkey).

Our position is as follows: The Met’s animal rug, which they paid 750,000 dollars for, was made in Persia, is an Afshar, and we date as late 17th century.

The 14th century c14 dates, the Marby and the Met’s animal rug returned, are in our opinion specious to say the least, and again demonstrate the danger of believing the reliability of c14 dating for many oriental carpets.

There was a genuine 15th century animal rug in the group Lisbet Homes had for sale but we never saw it; it was sold just before RK got wind of her having these rugs in her gallery.

It was sold to a very astute Italian collector, who presumably still has it in his collection.

RK has seen a good large transparency and we definitely believe it is the real thing, a 14th/15th century Anatolian animal rug.

Before we leave this tack we must also reiterate another of our previously stated for the record positions: The Kirchheim cut in four-part animal rug, which by the way he sold for a reported 10 million dollars, is Kurdish, made in eastern Anatolia, and dates according to us early 17th century.

Animal rug, ex-collection Kirchheim, illustrated in “Orient Stars”

Again it too is copy, but a provincial one, of the earlier animal rugs seen in the Italian paintings of the 14th century and later. The goat hair warp, somewhat looser and funky articulation of the pattern unmistakable signs to support our contention.

By the way, the animal-in-animal icon this rug and the Met’s show can be traced back to an Anatolian slit-tapestry fragment RK discovered on our research expedition to Egypt, which we illustrate and mention below.

Anyone who views the Marby next to a rug like the one in Berlin must come to the conclusion the Marby is a two dimensional poster, and late copy, compared to a great work of art like Berlin’s.

In the official publicity for the Marby rug reference is made to a small group of rare textiles from Fostat in Egypt that show two animals on either side of a “tree”.

RK is also very familiar with these as well, as we studied them in the flesh on our 1989 research expedition to Egypt.

We illustrated several, some previously unknown, in the “Cult Kelim” catalog we wrote and published in 1990, as well as republishing them in the Weaving Art Museum website’s exhibition “Cult Kelim ” in 2002.


One in particular, which had not previously been known, provides what we believe is the earliest known version of this iconic pattern.

slit-tapestry medallion depicting animal in animal, in this case anthropomorphic birds; cover photo, “Cult Kelim”; Cassin; Islamic Museum collection, Cairo, Egypt

Here is another from the “Cult Kelim” catalog and the Weaving Art Museum exhibition.

Fragmentary slit-tapestry showing animals flanking a “tree”; Islamic Museum collection, Cairo, Egypt

We would like to get some samples of the Marby rug, the Berlin animal rug and several of the ancient fragments we illustrated here, plus others from our previously published related works, and do some comparative testing.

However, this seems highly unlikely as the museums in question are not prone to allow even small snippets of there textiles to be taken for analysis.

Regardless, we can comment further on the quite nonsensical references made about the Marby above and, while we’re at it, those made in the Met’s official blurb about their “animal rug”.

Calling the Marby’s “border and guard strips(sic) characteristically Anatolian” is true but what a flimsy place to hang one’s hat this rug is 600 years old.

And even more laughably it is the only one cited.

Same goes for the ‘curator’s comment” about the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s ‘animal rug’ published on their website.

Curator Comment
When this rug was discovered a few years ago, its unusual field design—rows of animals within animals—was otherwise known only in a rug depicted in a Sienese painting of about 1410, The Marriage of the Virgin by Gregorio di Cecco di Luca (National Gallery, London).

The pattern of the painted version, partially obscured by standing figures, was not comprehensible without the Metropolitan's rug.

The field design probably derives from medieval textiles patterned with single or paired animals in compartments.

This purchase, hailed in rug-collecting circles, brought to the Museum one of the best preserved, earliest Turkish carpets in the world.

Only two other carpets of a similar date are known.”

This amateurish say nothing commentary is unworthy of a museum with the stature and reputation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and past that comment we have nothing further to say.

Oriental rug studies, God what a misnomer, is full of erroneous lore and myth, not to mention out and out deception, and while we believe others might have suspicions about the Marby none have broken the ice to comment.

So you might think now after RK has floated our super icebreaker frigate thru the Marby others will remark that we are either full of the brown stuff or we are right.

But guaranteed just like the bogus dodds bellini story RK crushed and reduced to dust our doing the same, although much more briefly, on the Marby will not engender any comment.

And equally revolting the icoc rug-sheeple will troop off the Stockholm, stand in front of the Marby encased in its plastic box, and marvel at its alleged antiquity.

What else to expect in rugDUMB?

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