First off, RK does not in any manner pretend to be an expert of early/historic Chinese rugs, or any other type of Chinese weaving.
That said, we do know something about them having had our interest peaked in the early 1980’s when the Michaelian carpet was sold at the John Edelmann auction in NYC.
We attended the preview and the sale, at which time we carefully examined the carpet, and to this day remember it well.
We have over the ensuing years seen and had the opportunity to examine a few others of the type. We say this to put our comments below into perspective.
Last week the early Chinese ‘double dragon’ carpet (below) sold at christie NY for 665,000 usd
We just learned from that rag hali’s website another almost exactly similar carpet (shown below) exists in the Palace Museum Collection in Beijing.
Seeing these two visually “similar” carpets made us curious as to the possibility one is, in fact, a somewhat later copy of the other.
Now, after spending time comparing the two, we are now sure this is the case.
Can you guess which might be the ‘original’ and which the ‘copy’?
We believe the one in the Beijing Palace Museum is the earlier, and the one christie sold a 100 years or more later copy.
We are basing our theory on comparison of the details of design in the two rugs; the proportions of the various elements and their proportional relationships to each other; the coloration; and that inestimable but nonetheless determinable quality of “presence” a weaving can or doesn't emote.
Here are two sets of photo details we feel prove our contention.
The first is a comparison of the central areas and the second of the two upper dragon’s faces.
Left: Beijing Palace Museum; Right: christie NY
Notice the somewhat out of proportion drawing of the design elements in the Christie rug compared to other. Also notice the more lively interplay those element display in the Beijing Palace carpet.
Also by carefully studying both photos it is possible to see the far more graceful execution of these elements in the Beijing carpet compared to a stiffer, less life-like depiction the weaver of the Christie rug was able to create.
Upper: Beijing Palace Museum; Lower: christie NY
We see, and believe viewers will also, the Beijing Palace dragon’s face as far more life-like and animated than the chrsitie carpet’s dragon. Also the small elements in the christie dragon's face are not as three dimensionally portrayed, nor are they as colorful or proportionally rendered.
It is unfortunate the Christie piece is missing its borders, as they very well might provided clearer and much more convincing evidence to prove our position.
Regardless of this fact we can't help but state we sincerely doubt they could have been as masterful as those remaining on the Beijing carpet. And it's those borders that irrefutably demonstrate the Beijing Palace Museum double dragon carpet is a very early, masterpiece example.
Plus, logically, it makes perfect sense it could have spawned a copy like the chrsitie carpet, or who knows even several others.
Anyway, our contention is an interesting one, which might explain why the christie example only made 665,000usd.
Granted that’s a pretty good price, after all the carpet is a fragment.
But these day’s an alleged 500 year old Chinese carpet is a very hot item, one we are sure would attract great interest, both among “ordinary” wealthy Chinese buyers of Chinese art, as well as specialists worldwide.
We have heard, and also know for a fact, michael franses claims to have a number of historic Chinese carpets that are and have been for some time for sale, and it would have surely been in his interests to make sure the sale went resoundingly well.
OK, 665K is a lot of bread, but when a tea-cup sells or many times more that sum we can only conclude certain “top buyers” believed the christie example was not as early or as important as the catalog, that rag hali and others have claimed and are still claiming.
Decide for yourself…