Fragmented champion Mughal carpet; TKF Collector exhibition; Vienna, Sept.2014
Several days ago RK attended the Austria Auction Company preview and at the same time viewed the TKF special exhibition of members rugs “From Anatolia to India”, which was located in two rooms on the third floor of the Novomatic Forum building in Vienna.
RK’s standards are quite high and we set the bar for ourself even higher refusing to fall under the charms of anything that is not an archetype, or at least a prototype, of its type.
And “Oh yeah, Shirley”, every rug can be shown to be part of a continuum beginning with the earliest example and ending with a later commercial period one.
Rarely, though, some have to be positioned on a continuum of two or more types, each with some very similar, or exactly the same, iconography.
Every rug we have ever seen can be shown to be part a continuum; after all many, many hundreds of pre-commercial period(pre-1860) oriental rugs are now available for viewing thanks to the past 30 year publishing and discovery booms.
With these and the already extant thousands of older rug and carpet photos in numerous publications there is a huge database of images for study and continuum building.
So what did we think of those on view on the third floor of the Novomatic Forum?
The star was undoubtedly the fragmented “Mughal” carpet of which enough remains to dazzle the eyes of anyone who sees it.
This carpet was probably made in Jaipur, a determination that can be pretty confidently forwarded thanks to the particular coloration, the glistening colors, the jewel-like saturated dying and the supreme quality of the woolen materials. We'd date it second half 17th century.
It’s truly a dazzling, beautiful and impressive weaving.
RK sends congratulations to the lucky owner.
In second place we’d have to nominate this rarely seen type of Anatolian Village rug.
The archetype of this group was formerly owned and first published by Joseph McMullan in his well-known publication “Islamic Carpets” as plate 80.
It is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City thanks to his gifting.
McMullen’s archetypal version
There are a few other inferior examples but next to McMullan’s this one in the TKF exhibition outshines them all.
Again, congratulations to the lucky owner.
The next small fragment shown below is one we’d have to say is almost as important as the rug above, far more for what isn’t known about it than what is.
And while it presents hardly enough of the original design there is enough to suggest our belief it fits nicely among several of the earliest and best pieces in the “Orient Stars”/Heinrich Kirchheim publication. That said, it should be noted it is not nearly as early or important.
By the way, we are referring to the small group of fantastic Anatolian Village weavings at the very end of the book.
The best of these pieces were all acquired by Kirchheim as one collection (plates 196, 197, 203-213 & 217).
The TKF fragment is similar but later than plate 210, a decidedly far more ancient example yet one with more than enough iconographic similarity to cement a tentative relationship.
Plate 210 dated in the “Orient-Stars” publication 15th century, a date with which we agree
Someday in the autobiography RK has mentioned publishing we intend to tell the true, unexpurgated, story behind Kirchheim’s purchase of this group, as well as others lying behind a number of famous and legendary rug world events.
We do feel the dating of the TKF fragment is somewhat optimistic, pre-1600, and we’d prefer to date it at least 50 years later, which does not in any way imply anything negative but rather put it into proper position on a date continuum with several of the Kirchheim rugs dated circa 1500 and earlier.
Our next “favorite” was this medallion/pendant Anatolian Village rug.
This style -- a small rug with a large medallion almost always with cartouche and pendant -- demonstrates a weaving type that was very successfully produced by several generations of Anatolian weavers, both in city workshops and less organized village environments.
The TKF rug is a village example we’d date circa 1675.
The funkier appearance and more primitive materials, particularly warp spinning differences, help to separate the village examples from the more exact and regularized materials workshop pieces always exhibit.
Also subtle differences in the pile wool, its fineness, sheen and texture, are also reliable indications.
RK appreciates the spirited version the weaver of the TKF example was able to create; however, we do not agree with the caption dating(16/17th century) or the ‘Karapinar’ provenance.
We’d prefer circa 1725 and giving it a western Anatolian provenance.
The rather boring version of the main border belies possibility of a pre-1700 dating for this rug, as does the rather monotone red and blue/green field coloration.
Don’t get RK wrong here, this is a very credible weaving but compared to a champion like the one below, which is 16th century, we find it impossible to agree with such an early date for the TKF rug.
Archetypal medallion Anatolian Village rug; circa 1500; Museum fur Islamic Kunst Berlin; inv. 83.516
The next example RK noted was this unique Melas area weaving.
Here the weaver took the familiar Melas main border palmette, abstract leaf and vine and used it as six vertical stripes to fill the field.
Regrettably, the borders are missing leaving viewers, and RK, to wonder what they might have looked like.
Dating it circa 1800, as the caption does, might be a little too conservative, the gem quality wool, superb crystal-clear coloration and saturation of dyes, plus the original use of iconography surely doesn’t negate an end of the 18th century guesstimate.
The last piece RK will leave some comments about is this decidedly late, and rather boring, rug.
We know this rug well as we bought it circa 1984 and very soon thereafter sold it.
That was long before its appearance in a 1996 Christie’s auction as mentioned in the caption.
We’d date it early 19th century.
Comparing its end-of-the-line, almost unrecognizable, version of the ‘ragged-leaf’ main border with the one on the champion rug from the Vakiflar below provides more than enough evidence this rug is no earlier, and might even be better dated first half 19th century. By the way, RK believes the Vakiflar rug to date circa 1650, we do not agree with the earlier guesstimate that appears in the publication mentioned below.
Early Anatolian Village version of a 'Bellini'-style rug; Collection Vakiflar reportedly from the Ulu Mosque in Divrigi, dated in "Carpets from the Vakiflar" publication 16/17th century
Also the flaccid drawing, the rather lifeless design of the two medallions and the monotonal red/blue coloration of the TKF rug leaves much to be desired.
It was definitely the weakest piece among the 30 examples in the TKF exhibition, and we seriously wonder why it was even included.