The editorial in the December, 2004 Maine Antiques Digest, which is perhaps the best Antique Journal in America, raised an important issue: What are the responsibilities of antique collectors and dealers concerning reproductions and fakes?(11/7/2007 We have since stated for the record seeing it "in person", at a distance of about 10-20 feet during an exhibition preview in Philadelphia)
This editorial mentions a supposed Civil War period banner that “…worked its way into the marketplace and eventually to the Gettysburg National Military Park”, which is a museum and “…holy Land for Civil War enthusiasts.
A whistle blower, who is a longtime collector, became proactive and the banner was exposed as a fake. This episode resulted in “…Gettysburg being spared the questionable artifact and its money will be returned.”
The editorial went on: “Calling an object a fake can be a minefield. What if you’re wrong? The accusation alone has the potential to damn a piece, rendering it unsalable and exposing the whistleblower to a lawsuit. What if you’re right, however, and do nothing? A fake…has the potential to damage…the credibility of the industry.”
This editorial could not have come at a more opportune moment as RK.com has been mulling over what do to about the following for some days - The Los Angeles Country Museum of Art's (LACMA) recent purchase of a Turkish Carpet alleged to be circa 1600.
It surely isn't and in our estimation this rug is nothing more than a later period reproduction.
Here is the photograph of the rug:
It was purchased by LACMA’s Costume and Textile Department and while the sources of the funding are not totally clear to us, the price they paid for the carpet is. The seller is dennis dodds, owner of the maqam gallery in Philadelphia. He is also the chairman of the icoc, as well as holding other high profile rug positions. According to dodds, LACMA paid “…around 150,000 English pounds…”, about $290,000 at the current exchange rate – that’s quite a price.
Especially since RK.com believes the pieces is, at best, a late period reproduction.
It is surely not circa 1600, or even circa 1700 according to us.
In the editorial Sam Pennington, the Maine Antiques Digest’s longtime owner, breaches what he feels someone, who suspects a fake has been passed, should do. “The middle ground we advocate is, upon seeing a questionable piece, contact the seller privately and explain, in a matter-of-fact manner, all that is known. To pass along the knowledge can spare the embarrassment and financial exposure of the dealers, as well as help keep fakes out of the market.”
Fine, well and good RK says but what if the dealer is too ignorant or greedy to accept the facts about his questionable item? Also what if the buyer refuses to credence contrary information about her purchase?
This is the situation RK.com now finds itself enmeshed in and after much deliberation we have decided to go public with the story.
LACMA’s rug, which is now on view in the Museum, is nothing more in our estimation than a late period reproduction, made long after the fact. Was it intentionally made to fool or was it made as homage to the Golden Age of rug weaving in Turkey, circa 1400-1650, when the archetype for LACMA’s later piece was produced?
Frankly RK.com doesn’t care – the fact remains it is a reproduction and not circa 1600.
It rather pathetically tries to reproduce the real form and, to anyone with considerable expertise in early Turkish Carpets, it doesn’t do a very good job even at that.
Let’s take a few minutes to examine this rug in this light. Here are a few points worth noting:
1. The monotonous coloration of this rug is the first and most obvious error. Basically it’s a red, white and blue weaving that lacks large color areas with the key choice colors – purple and green – that all masterpiece Early Turkish rugs display. The coloration also renders and limits the rug to a boring two dimensional portrait, whereas genuine weavings of this period all demonstrate the ability to create that all important third dimension.
2. The all-too balanced and repetitious placing of minor borders (with the same design on either side of the main border) is a characteristic rarely seen in early Turkish rugs but rather in those made circa 1750/1800 and afterwards. Instead, the basic and universal single minor border layout is almost religiously followed, but when there are two minor borders, they are always different.
3. The unknown 'design' (11 above, 10 below) repeated across the two additional borders, or elem at the top and bottom of the rug, are also highly suspicious and weird. They look as if they were lifted directly from an early 19th century yastic, they surely never graced a circa 1600 main carpet. Novice eyes might consider them a ' nice touch' but for experienced viewers they are wrong, wrong, wrong
4. The wonky and misshapen articulation the re-entrant design surrounding the field exhibits, especially on the lower left side, would never have been allowed by any 17th century weaver worth his or her salt. This type of uncontrolled drawing is frequently seen in late period reproductions, as well as out and out fakes.
5. The two ‘ghirlandaio medallions’ placed within the re-entrant areas display too much vertical compression and besides they lack the clarity of drawing captured by all real Classic Period Turkish rugs. Both of these are glaring errors characteristic of 19th century work and are not in any way associated with 17th century weaving.
6. This vertical compression continues in the two pairs of checkerboard designed triangles, which might be better described as horizontal spandrels, seen to the left and right of each of these ‘medallions’. Again this is indicative of 19th and not 17th century weaving.
7. The insipid, amorphous designs in each of the four lobes of the central white medallion, as well as that within the small blue ground interior one, are truly comical. Rather than veritable iconography, which is what every other a four lobed central medallion on any genuine example would contain, here the lack of visible iconographic content is woefully obvious and borders on the ridiculous. Again this is typical of late 18th/19th century work. Were this actually a 17th century weaving this area would display a potent icon, a far more complex motif or be empty -- go compare this rug with the real ones. There is no comparison.
8. Surrounding them, another medallion is suggested by connecting the 12 small blue ‘star-like’ lozenges with a thin ,single blue outline or trellis. While this convention was used in the 17th century, the actual infill of these ‘star-like’ lozenges and the trellis itself would have combined to create a third dimension. They would have been drawn with far more detailed articulation and again, this lack of detail signals this carpet’s late period reproduction status.
9. The light and breezy drawing of the main border, which could definitely be features found in a genuine 17th century Turkish rug, are, in this case, the complete antithesis of the cloddy and heavy hand the rest of the carpet exhibits. Again it would be impossible to find a circa 1600 Turkish rug with this glaring differential in drawing style.
10. When the proportions of the constituent parts of this rug are carefully examined and compared to each other, as well as to a genuine rug of its alleged period of production, RK.com can not see how anyone could believe it is anything other than a copy. The proportions are altogether wrong and this, more than any other characteristic, contributes to the two dimensionality this rug projects.
We grant: RK.com has not seen in person or handled the dodds/LACMA piece. But because early Turkish rugs follow certain universal criteria and because those criteria are nonexistant or have been violated here, we don’t think, we know, this rug is a later period copy or an outright fake.
These are pretty strong words and we are prepared to back them up with more proof should that ever be required.
Let’s now review what RK.com has already done to bring this to the attention of the parties involved.
First off RK.com called LACMA and after speaking to several of the Museum’s staff we spoke directly with Dale Gluckman, the curator of Costume and Textile. After telling her the rug was, at best, a late period reproduction and enumerating the points mentioned above, Rk.com told her we would be glad to help the Museum convince mr. dodds to rescind the purchase and return the price paid. She asked for some time to “think it over” and we agreed to a week.
During this intermission RK.com called mr dodds and informed him our belief the carpet was a later period reproduction, at best early 19th century work. We also told him of our intent to help LACMA, should it wish, to have him rescind the sale. As would be expected from someone like dodds, who has offered and sold weavings RK.com has publicly questioned as incorrectly described or dated, he laughed at our concerns saying we were “…just a voice in the wind.”
We have news for mr dodds, we may be a voice in the wind but that wind will soon have hurricane proportions.
We waited the week, actually 8 days, and spoke with Dale Gluckman, who also didn’t surprise us with her reticence to re-examine the rug’s purchase objectively and in light of the points we raised in our first conversation.
Dale Gluckman knows nothing about early Turkish rugs and she readily admits it! Seems the Museum enlisted the ‘expertise’ of walter denny to vet this purchase. They also relied on several other ‘names’ in the rug world but RK.com cannot reveal those persons presently, although the situation may force us to in the future.
LACMA’s other curators, there is by the way an Islamic Department where their Ardebil rug, as well as many other Islamic weavings and objects, are held, but it seems this department and others have deferred from the get-go to Ms Gluckman of Costume and Textiles. They all have remained, quite intelligently in RK.com’s estimation, out of the fray.
So there you have it – a dealer of goods that are no stranger in raising questions - selling for an exorbitant price a questionable rug to an uniformed museum curator, who sought the advice of walter denny. A sad, sad day for LACMA, not to mention the rug world in general.
Oh, just for the record: RK.com has learned LACMA’s almost $300,000.oo rug was previously and publicly offered by mr dodds two years ago at a Show in San Francisco for $85,000.oo. This comes directly from someone who inquired the price of the rug at that show.
If this isn’t the icing on the cake, we surely don’t know what could be.
But RK.com is sure of one thing - our outing dodds, denny and LACMA’s rug will create a disturbance and, we sincerely hope it will.
For not only is $300,000.oo a lot of spare change but having a obvious late period reproduction carpet displayed in a world famous, and rightly so, museum like LACMA does little to enhance the chances for public recognition of Oriental Rugs. And that, dear readers, is what this is all about.