Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >RK examines Zaleski Village Rug Collection
Sat, Sep 13th, 2014 12:20:50 AM
Topic: RK examines Zaleski Village Rug Collection

Read about this erroneously provenanced and absurdly over-dated pseudo-garden rug below; Romain Zaleski Collection

In their latest edition that rag hali 'reviews' more of the Zaleski collection, focusing this time on his 'Anatolian Village Rugs'.

We place quotation marks around the word review because a review should be capable of both praise and critique. And since not one word of critique will ever be issued by that rag hali about someone like Mr Romain Zaleski, what is written there should not be called a review but rather PR, ie a publicity release.

We also put quotation marks around the term Anatolian Village Rugs because it is almost always thrown around with abandon by those who do not understand its meaning and, that rag hali has long been a systematic abuser.

Strictly speaking much more than 90 percent of the weavings we have ever seen published with this rubric are, in fact, city and town workshop products. Like Zaleski’s.

They are not really Village Rugs.

They are nothing but impostors hyped by dealers like Tabibnia, michael franses and others, who even if they knew the difference -- something RK sincerely doubts -- they would never admit it.


Well, do you think calling a rug workshop versus Village helps the sales pitch to trusting collectors like Romain Zaleski?

Listen up folks: Zaleski is an innocent bystander as far as RK sees his picture. He trusts implicitly names like Tabibnia and franses and is willing to open his wallet when they say do so.

OK, caveat emptor rules the game, and if collectors like Zaleski are unable to realize the difference then so be it. It’s none of anyone else’s business. But when they publish their pieces into the public arena they are game for review. And this is the spirit behind RK's effort.

And were he to ask our counsel, something we are sure will never happen, we are positive we could show him the evidence (some of which is published below and trust we have more, much more), and we are even more sure he would become convinced after viewing it.

But, alas, for both RK and Zaleski we will never be breaking bread again because those like Tabibnia and franses with their hold on his confidence will relentless work to prevent it.

Another point worth mention is the size of Zaleski's collection -- reported to be more than 1,500 weavings.

Again, too bad for him that he is not capable of acting under the tried and true premise "Less is More".

Better to have 100 unbelievably great weavings than 1,500 "good ones".

Remember “good” ain't good enough for RK; and good is never great in any language, be it Polish, French or Italian.

And while RK knows a 'representative collection of oriental rugs' is supposedly Zaleski's aim in creating the museum in Venice that will open in 2014 and bear his name we sincerely doubt such an undertaking would be as significant and important as a museum of only masterpiece weavings.

OK,'nuff said about Zaleski's modus operandi. What does RK have to say about the 'Village Rugs" that rag hali has published?

In a nut-shell: Compared to the best of this genre Zaleski’s pieces are hardly worth a glance. To call them second-rate in comparison would be absolutely correct.

By the way Tabibnia’s attempt to negate such an assessment is, and we have already heard this from him, “Well those masterpieces are in museums and will never be for sale, so these rugs Zaleski has bought are the best of what is available”.

Whether or not that is true is debatable but frankly it begs the greater issue (ie the second-rate one) and holds as little water as a Stetson after a direct hit from a 30/30 shotgun shell blast.

It’s total bunk, especially since Zaleski intends to open a museum.

So what will it be? A museum of mostly second-rate rugs?

A museum with the excuse these were the best rugs he could buy?

This falls far short of anything anyone who is trying to do something tres important would even consider, let alone undertake.

Better to collect in some other area where one can acquire masterpieces, rather than spending one’s time and money acquiring a load of second-rate examples.

Were we Zaleski’s counsel we would go through the 1,500 pieces, pick the only great examples and sell-off the rest.

But of course doing that would create a giant financial loss. After all dumping rugs back onto the market after their purchase at Tabibnia’s swank gallery, where they ain’t exactly cheap, or others purchased at auction and then marked up by his expert Tabibnia would be a disaster.

And that’s how RK has heard Zaleski acquired most of his 1500 rugs -- directly from Tabibnia, who bought the majority at auction.

To reiterate: Less is more, go for the masterpieces and resist good examples is RK’s modus operandi and one we recommend to all collectors who seek our advice.

Had this approach been Zaleski’s we surely would be praising him, Tabibnia and whoever else has been involved. But it wasn’t, leaving a great mass of eminently questionable purchases.

Back to the article: The kingpin of the published Zaleski “Village Rugs” is undoubtedly the rug below, which was purchased at Nagel Auction in March of 2012 for 70,000 euro.

RK reviewed the sale and here’s what we wrote about it then.


The first is lot, number 14, called a “double niche rug with rare border ornament” which sold for a generous but not really high price of 70,000 euro against an estimate of 20,000.

Lot 14

“Called Ushak area, west Anatolian, a provenance we tend to often see for rugs of this type, RK would rather place farther west and south into Melas region.

Regardless of where it was actually made, this rug is not really a 'village rug' nor is it “17th century”, as the catalog tries to advance.

While it is a “ pretty rug”, as walter denny once publicly described the dennis dodds/LACMA bogus Bellini that is a weaving the Nagel rug bears some not coincidental similarities with, it is surely not historic, evocative or genuinely interesting.

We'd date it circa 1750.

It is decorative, RK will gladly admit, and the price believe it or not was determined by this factor and not any other.

This rug is destined for the floor of some wealthy individual and most likely will be a dog or cat's napping place and not the highlight of any Turkish village rug collector's collection, at least none RK has even met.

We could spend several paragraphs proving how formulaic and rote this rug is by comparing its features to other examples which are 17th century and genuine village production.

Sorry but diminished interest in proving our opinions is the reason we won't but we will demonstrate, for all you Turkish Village rug fans, a comparison of one amulet this rug, and another that is 17th century, both portray.

Left: Detail lot 14; Right: Detail Konya yellow rug, 17th century or earlier, RK Collection, New York

There is little comparison here, although both details display exactly the same elements, treated in almost exactly the same manner. The differences, and there is a difference, can not be only be attributed to the skill of the weaver, though definitely this is a contributing factor.

The larger factor, and the reason for the differences, is the connection the weaver of our rug had to the historic roots of the amulet, an undeniable advantage enabling the creation of “art” and not just the reproduction of a design. Something that separates the men from the boys, so to speak.

It is also the difference between a weaver capable of producing a masterpiece weaving and one who produced a weaving that is only good.

Here's a little hint to clue you into recognizing historic connection: Notice in the yellow rug detail the clear and present depiction of the paired bird or animal head icon, they are purple, in the horizontal panel of this cross-type amulet.

This is no accident or weaving aberration, it is a purposeful reminder showing the weaver knew, because of a viable connection to the historic roots of the weaving culture, to place it here in this iconic amulet.

This connection to the weaving 'culture', or tradition if you like, is a very estimable quality, one that a connoisseur eye instantly recognizes.

Also, RK is sure had lot 14 been a masterpiece it would have sold for at least three or four times the price it brought.

Horses for courses, and we suggest readers do some work to find other masterpiece examples which display the same elements, field, spandrel and border, lot 14 apes, to see for themselves what RK means.”


Our opinion has not changed.

Here are some comments about some of the other Zaleski rugs in the article.

First up is this rather boring and droll workshop version of a “Caucasianized” garden rug.

Called “Konya Rug” and “17th century” in the article we do not know if this is that rag hali’s opinion, Zaleski/Tabibnia’s, or both.

We do know they are not RK’s.

We would be glad to wager there is some displacement of the warps, ie somewhat depressed, which would fit with our guess this rug was woven farther north and east in the Ladik region, closer to the Black Sea.

But regardless of guesstimates where it was produced it is surely NOT 17th century, this a rather blatant example of over-dating.

We must say it, and the next, are the only real grievous over-dated examples in the article. The others being all far more believable and realistic, one of the article’s pluses.

There are just too many wrong moves in this pseudo-garden rug for it to possibly be 17th century.

For instance:

The four vertically compressed Holbein-style medallions
The totally unbalanced proportional weight of the borders to the field
The poorly articulated, and misunderstood, iconography in the main border
The simplistic and poorly rendered minor borders each overstuffed with a 19th century design element
The three weirdly geeky, totally non-traditional medallions within the garden perimeter
The monochromatic field-color which, along with the rest of the design, comes nowhere near approaching anything like a third dimension, a feature most, if not all, genuine 17th century Village rug create

We’d date this rug circa 1800 and think that is generous enough.

The next, is called a “rug with plamettes and arabesques” and dated “early 17th century” in the article.

Left: Rug with erroneously named “arabesques and palmettes”; Romain Zaleski Collection

Again, we disagree and would place the production of this rug farther west and south in the Melas region.

We would also opine at best it should be dated to the third quarter of the 18th century, what we like to refer to as a clipper ship rug. These weavings were brought back to the east coast of America by the clipper ships, which sailed east during this period returning with many different types of goods, oriental rugs from Turkey being one of the more valuable and important.

In any event this rug is nowhere near early 17th century, as the following comments demonstrate

The ‘hearts’ in the main border are cute but they lack the curvilinear drawing an early 17th century rug would display
Also the fact they are sandwiched between, and touch, the minor borders rather than float within the main border’s white ground is another subtlety of early 17th century Anatolian weaving they miss entirely
The rather stiff articulation of the field pattern lacks the salubrious nature an early 17th century Anatolian Village rug weaver would create

What that rag hali calls palmettes are like none we have ever seen, the bird, or is it vulture-like, pseudo-pattern they are trying to pass off as a palmette misses the mark by miles, and miles

Plus what they call “arabesques” are also an unfathomable stab in the dark, as these paired yellow bracket-like appendages are a completely different from any known arabesque.

But they are in fact a quite recognizable archaic design from early Anatolian rugs – the paired affronted quadruped animals.

Left: detail so-called “arabesque”, Zaleski collection; Right: detail early affronted animal rug, dated 17th century in the Balpinar/Hirsch catalog Rugs in the Vakiflar Museum, Turkey

RK believes this comparison demonstrates the squiggles in the Zaleski rug are not ‘arabesques’ but rather a far after the fact attempt to emulate and copy the animals in the Vakiflar rug.

And if the dating in the Vakiflar book is to believed, there is no way on this green earth the Zaleski rug is of equal age.

RK will offer a date circa 1600 for the Vakiflar rug, which segues perfectly with our belief the Zaleski rug is circa 1800.

Two hundred years at least being a reasonable age gap separating these two rugs.

We are not going to discuss the rug to its right from the Zaleski collection called “Bergama” and dated “circa 1800” in the article.

Both date and attribution are perfectly acceptable but it is interesting to compare its main border with that of the Vakiflar animal rug.

Detail border Vakiflar animal rug

We could trace other similarities between Zaleski’s “arabesque and palmette” rug and the Vakiflar’s but the main issue is the foolishly labeled ‘arabesques’, and the comparison to the Vakiflar’s affronted animals is sufficient to prove they surely are not.

Tabibnia, those at that rag hali and many others have little understanding of the idiom and the patter in this article demonstrates how little they know, and apparently will ever as they all have been at this for decades.

The third and last Zaleski “Village rug” we have chosen is this Sarkisla.

Detail Sarkisla Rug; Zaleski Collection

There is no quibble about its attribution, but there surely is about its dating and alleged “Village Rug” provenance.

There are just too many of these Sarkisla type rugs for any of them to possibly be considered real village production.

The sheer volume testifies they are workshop production, far from genuine village or clan items.

And while the Zaleski example is a good one, it definitely is not the best of type, or the 17th century archetype of the group.

Plus dating it “17th century”, as the article attempts to float, is just too blatantly optimistic to be believed.

Circa mid0-18th century is plenty, anything earlier nothing but stretching the pizza dough too thin to make it through the oven of reality.

And, again, here’s a rug that fails to create that third dimension great woven art can, and does, produce.

What else is wrong with this picture?

Mainly, the proportions of the individual elements, and their proportional relationships to each other, fails to create that synthesis necessary to make a weaving 3D.

It is a very competent but sterile workshop copy lacking any inspiration or originality.

These are the main ones, but there are others which distinguish 17th century Anatolian village weaving from later city and town produced workshop copies.

In closing, RK is sure many will try to fault us for these and our previous comments about the Zaleski collection.

They will say we are “jealous” “envious” or just mean-spirited to write put downs of what he has done.

This of course is nonsense, we are not in competition with Zaleski, nor do we benefit or lose by speaking our mind and publicizing our comments.

Remember, we offer proof and evidence of what we say, and while readers can shrug off our comments, they can’t refute them.

Others will undoubtedly say “We need more Romain Zaleskis” in the rug collecting field and RK is discouraging their participation.

This is nonsense, we could not disagree more for when rich collectors are sold a bill of goods that later proves spurious and incorrect do you really think this is good?

Does it benefit the community? Or just the pocket-books of the dealers who sell over-dated and misattributed workshop rugs as the real thing?

Time and again this has happened: For instance Heinrich Kirchheim who, when he learned enough to realize collecting 19th century Caucasian and Anatolian rugs was bush league, sold off at a loss many of them published in his Orient Stars Collection catalog.

To his credit Kirchheim learned the truth and acted on it; too bad for him it took so long, and ended up being a financial loss.

Will Romain Zaleski also wake up?

Or has he already, this PR push with that rag hali part of a plan to divest his collection of these examples, and others of their ilk?

Time will tell…but for now RK’s comments are in the public sphere and anyone who would like to disagree can easily do so here on RugKazbah.com.

Author: francesca
email: frafiorentino@hotmail.it
Wed, Sep 10th, 2014 07:46:06 AM

RK Replies:

Greetings, Francesca:

Sorry for the much delayed reply.

Your question is a good one, but one that is quite hard to answer.

If you are specifically talking about the "clipper ship" period, which existed from around 1750-1810, and are referring only to foreign(western) iconography showing up in Anatolian rugs then it gets easier to answer.

The "Clipper ship" trade was not truly bilateral, in other words ships coming from New England in America, or England itself, did not bring cargo holds full of merchandise to trade.

Yes, there was some commerce but mostly it was the purchase of "exotic" goods, like carpets, and their being taken "home" to be sold that was the motivating activity.

So while some western goods did arrive in ports of call in the Levant we are pretty sure few of them made it into the hinterlands where most carpets were produced.

It does seem far more western influence came from France and Russia, overhand, than came from naval powers like USA and England.

This surely is not the final word on the subject, particularly because a question like this falls far from our interests and expertise.

And undoubtedly the vulture kelim icon comes directly from indigenous Anatolian sources...see this photo from Catal Huyuk

Detail photo taken at Catal Huyuk by Arlette Mellaart of the vulture 'shrine' room(level VII, 8)


Mr. Cassin, in your long experience, as you said, with clipper ship rugs, did you get any hint for western motifs to be at times borrowed? Did you find designs likely unrelated to the Anatolian tradition? Could the vultur-like pattern be one of those? Thanks.

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