Friday, April 11, 2008

Color and Authenicity in Oriental Rugs

Harold Keshishian always used to tell me that the three most important things about a rug is color, color, and color. No doubt color is king but with ethnographic textiles context is important as well. I am reminded of this by the mafrash to the left and it brought to mind another piece. Wertime has an unusual piece; Rare Shahsavan Band in the John Wertime Collection. It is an intact 22 foot band which in itself a little longer than average for a pack band. The unusual part is the detail combined with pristine condition. The Shahsavan like the Turkmen both use trellised domed tent. Not surprising since the Shahsavan are primarily Northern Azeri which is a branch of the same ethno-linguistic group as the Turkmen of Turkmenistan. Tent bands are typically around 45 feet since the average trellised domed tent or yurt is 45 foot in circumference and 12 foot across. Pack bands are typically 12 to 20 feet so this one is slightly longer than average but not nearly long enough to be a tent band. I was struck by this mafrash from John Wertime as I looked at it again. The color is superb, the structure is less common (weft-float brocade) it dates to the second half 19th century and it is an intact mafrash. All these things make it very special. Karabagh Mafrash Complete Bedding Bag Weft Float Brocade from John Wertime

On the dating of Oriental Rugs:

Circa 1656 Tekke Juval
On the dating of Rugs:

“They can't all have been made in 1875, some must be older.” This bon mot from Harold Keshishian is as true today as the day he said it. For a number of reasons if a rug looks old dealers or auction houses have traditionally dated it to circa 1875. This is mainly because if a rug later is shown to have a chemical dye it is within the range where a chemical dye could have been used. So it is a safe attribution and a huge number of rugs got assigned an attribution of circa 1875. But in that group some are newer and conversely some must be older. We have reached a point where there are a growing number of rugs that considerably predate 1875.

Pioneering work by
Jim Allen working with the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as that of Dr. Jurg Rageth, c14 (radio carbon dating) became a tool in carpet studies. A growing number of rugs have been dated significantly earlier than 1800 and each discovery makes it possible to date other rugs in the time frame that at one point was thought impossible.

Once Jim Allen's
17th century Tekke Juval was dated Circa 1656 it made it possible for others to suggest a rug was of a certain date in relationship to other rugs. It has become what I call a marker rug. Since as far as I know it is the oldest Tekke weaving to date it allows people to use it as a marker in dating their Tekke weaving. More to come...