Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >grogan's acor sale
Sat, May 27th, 2006 11:09:33 AM
Topic: grogan's acor sale

In April, Boston, Mass. will be buzzing with many rug dealers and their inventories -- thousands of rugs schlepped there in the hopes of putting down some good business at acor.

If the past meetings are to be the judge, they should be quite happy with the results.

However, this time in 2006 the overall economic situation is not exactly booming and these dealers will have to compete with two major auctions that are planned for the Saturday afternoon of the weekend acor is happening.

Both grogan's auction house and skinners Boston are holding sales that have been touted as supposedly .their best in years

The jury is still out as far as skinners goes but grogans catalog is out and RK has already seen the offering.

Detail lot 112, estimate $10-$15,000

The rug pictured above is, believe it or not, our favorite piece in the sale.

RK's faithful readership knows we dont usually go for Persian Rugs but this 18 foot runner has got it all as far as we are concerned color, beauty, condition and rarity.

While its not a rug we are at all personally interested in, it does make us sit up straight and say: "Great job" to the nameless weaver who created it.

Called, in the catalog, an UNUSUAL AND EXCEPTIONAL FEREGHAN SAROUK RUNNER, Persia, circa 1875, a description we don't necessarily agree with and based on the spectacular drawing and scale, wed put it back a bit earlier, maybe circa 1830-40. We see this as a bit more likely than grogans circa 1875.

However, all things considered, whos to say it might not even be somewhat older, circa 1800? It's a great piece of weaving, in all respects.

We also believe it is not a "Fereghan Sarouk", probably more likely from what is called the North-West Persian (NWP) Area but, until we can handle it, we will only suggest grogan's provenance and dating could be incorrect.

We doubt there are synthetic dyes present but should they be there then, of course, grogan is more correct than our making the rug a generation or two older.

According to grogan the piece can trace its history back to The H. Michaelyan Collection and its sale at Parke-Bernet, October 11, 1952, lot 113.

Our more astute readers will recognize that name, Michaelyan, and remember some of the rugs from that collection sold by John Edelman at one of the more famous auction gallery sales he mounted after he left sothebys.

RK thinks its a pisser of a long rug and we are sure it will do very well on sale day, unless grogan has omitted noting any grievous condition problems.

Lets take a minute and mention a few bits about mr grogan while we're at it: Some readers probably know michael grogan started out in the rug department of sothebys about 20 something years ago as the junior to bill ruprecht with both of them under, then, department head John Edelman.

Edelman soon left to start his own auction gallery with two partners, leaving ruprecht in charge, with grogan as his assistant.

Its an interesting and somewhat humorous tale, the goings on in the rug dept at sothebys when they shared the head job, eventhough grogan was ruprechts junior in name, he surely outshined ruprecht, aka bozo bill, in every other respect.

That story of sotheby's rug department finally ends with mary jo otsea, the secretary, becoming the head of the department when ruprecht, who is a world class midget-brain, sycophant, toadied-brown-nosed bootlicker in RKs opinion, assumed other, more important positions, eventually until he became the president of sothebys.

RK knows the real, behind the scene reasons a dope like ruprecht was catapulted into the presidents swivel chair but the why/how this happened, as well as other tales from behind the podium at sothebys rug department are for another day. They make fabulous reading but RK has not the energy nor the time to recount such saga now.

They are true life comedies but they will have to await a more auspicious opportunity for their public airing.

Now, lets go back to mr grogan and his sale -- The Laurel and Hardy look-alike team of ruprecht and grogan, aka little and large as the two comedians are known in England, remained together in charge of the carpet dept at sothebys until the mid-1980s when grogan left sothebys to start his own auction house in Boston, where he remained for some years until he moved the business to a suburb of Boston where it is presently still located.

It is a general antique auction house but grogans interest in rugs has served him well and allowed him to score a number of pieces himself and then put them into his sales or sell them privately.

We have heard a number of lots in the upcoming sale are owned by him and while we find nothing unusual about this it is fairly common for an auctioneer to own and sell his own merchandise we do think all personal interests on the part of auctioneers should have to be disclosed to all potential buyers.

However, there are no legal prohibitions to regulate this type of selling and auction houses and auctioneers, not only grogan and co., often sell their own merchandise without disclosing their ownership or interests.

We have had numerous contacts with grogan over the years and found him to be agreeable and friendly but definitely not as expert at rugs as he believes.

In fact, grogan thinks he is a genuine expert and while he might be way ahead of some ruggies, his expertise is surely not close to the level RK would call expert.

Weve looked carefully through the entire sale and, regardless of the hype being spun around it, we are not overly impressed.

Some time ago, here on RugKazbah.com we reviewed a sale also held outside Boston -- the late Morton (Bob) Bradley Sale.

While not as large overall as grogan's, this auction had, at least in our opinion, as many, if not more, interesting and worthwhile pieces.

Our review of that sale is still online -- it is in this very Topic Area and we suggest readers take a look there to make up their own mind.

In any event, over the next while we will illustrate some of the lots from the grogan sale and provide commentary we feel is far more accurate and honest than grogans guesses and guesstimates.

We will also critique instances where grogans cataloging performance for this sale, like that of most other rug pundits of his degree, falls far short of his I am a rug expert rhetoric - these people sure can talk the talk but stumble like inebriated hobos with their shoe-laces tied together when it comes to walking the walk.

So stay tuned for more about this sale..

Author: www
Sat, May 27th, 2006 11:09:33 AM

Hi Jack,I know that it is you! you can't hide from me

Author: robert
email: a
Wed, May 3rd, 2006 06:17:59 AM

RK Replies:

Yes, Robert, often auction house estimates are set purposely low to "entice" buyers.

However, when the estimate is, like the example you cite of skinner, $800-1200 and the object then makes a price of $226,000, no one in their right mind could believe this demonstrates anything other than complete ignorance and gross incompetence.

Here a photo of the screen:

It's one thing to have an object sell for a small multiple of the estimate, like 2-5 times, but when it sells for 188 times the high estimate, as in this instance, no auction house can possible explain their stupidity with a flimsy excuse like that.

As far as RK is concerned, especially with antique and historic weavings, rarely are auction prices reflective of the value an object carries.

Mostly, auction results are too high nowadays and the reasons for this are many but we will cite the major one -- the realization physical assets, like art and antiques, are not only socially important avenues of interest but they are now well recognized as "investments".

The result has been too much stupid money chasing too few great objects or, maybe, just ordinary objects incorrectly perceived as great by inexperienced or inexpert buyers.

We attend a number of auctions each year, from small country sales to major city ones, and have found the scenario we paint above to occur enough times to prove to us it is a reality.

Then, of course, there is the other side of the coin where a great object sells for a pittance.

While this occurrence is rare compared to the opposite, it does happen.

How do we know? Well, let's just say we have been the recipient of the bird of paradise landing on our auction paddle more than once.


Speaking of ridiculously low auction estimates how about this one (below), which I took from this weeks Bee newspaper.

Although not dealing with rugs, it certainly demonstrates a point, namely that even the so-called high-end auction houses often get it wrong; in this case very wrong.

Under-valuations such as this are not likely to be due to the desire to entice bidders, rather, due to gross ignorance of the market on the part of the house expert. In the face of ever increasing auction commissions, this is inexcusable, and shows disregard for both the seller and the potential buyer.

In this case the consignor should have known better too, but that still does not excuse the auction house.

Ironically, there was a similar but very damaged Chinese screen on the Antiques Roadshow a few weeks ago, with an estimated market value of $30,000 to $50,000, suggesting the result was not due to "auction fever".

One can envision an alternative scenario with an ignorant consignor and only one knowledgeable (or deep pockets) bidder. Then again, thats one of the exciting things about auctions, the possibility for a fantastic bargain

Chinese Eight-Panel Screen Hurdles To $226,000 At Skinner Asian Sale

BOSTON, MASS.- An Eighteenth or Nineteenth Century Chinese eight-panel screen was the high lot at Skinner's Asian works of art sale on April 29 when it sold for $226,000 against the $800-$1,200 estimate.

The screen was among a group of lots deaccessioned by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to benefit the acquisitions funds.

Its rosewood frame had archaic carvings and one side displayed a textile collage of birds and flowers, while the other side had soapstone carvings of the Immortals.

The screen sold to a Hong Kong dealer who had previewed it but who was not in the salesroom during the sale.

Author: jc
Thu, Apr 27th, 2006 02:35:09 PM

The Tekke ensi grogan sold is still kicking up a major dust-storm of tongue wagging, something RK finds amusing and quite comical.

Pouring over the intricacies of its design articulation might be a fun pastime but it will lead no one to the truth about this piece.

That truth, well at least in our estimation, is not too difficult to ascertain -- the rug is a workshop piece and not one we would call real Turkmen.

We remember a similar piece that brought us to the same conclusion. It was illustrated in the Milan icoc exhibition catalog called "Sovereign Carpets".

We did not attend the Milanese affair so we only have the books picture and structural analysis to go by.

It is quite interesting to note these rugs, the grogan ensi and the Yomud namazlyk (prayer rug), have similar braided warp ends and kelims.

Also they both have that workshop look about them, leading us to believe they are city or town rather than small village or clan production.

Both are out of step, in many subtle ways, with the mainstream pieces RK believes are clan production.

In the Milan catalog, the Yomud piece is dated 18-19th century, something we see as gross over dating. Wed place it, and the grogan piece, circa 1840-1860.

There are not many pre-commercial period Turkmen rugs as upfront with their designs as these two pieces.

This is the strongest clue to makes us suspect them as revivals rather than originals.

What characterizes an upfront design and how do we define this term?

Simply put, the grogan ensi and this Yomud prayer rug are one dimensional, have no real nuance in their drawing and little to no mystery inherent in their patterns and these shortcomings prevent them from captivating the attention of sophisticated viewers for long.

They both, because of those simplistic designs (that might at first, or to eyes less trained, seem complex but after careful analysis prove not to be), scream look at me but after getting your attention fail to communicate anything deeper or more responsive.

Also both have some very uncharacteristic design-work -- the highly divergent use of four rows of boxes (added to the unique affectation of alternating of the direction of the ovals within them) in the panel above the niche on the grogan ensi and the totally bizarre pentangle above the niche of the Yomud being the two most obvious.

It is interesting to note the similarity of the panel above the Yomuds arch (red ground with floating mini-boteh) with the aberrant treatment the weaver of the grogan ensi chose to invent. While they are clearly different both these treatments read quite similarly and, we are sure, there is possibly some additional connection here.

But, as far as weirdness goes, the Yomud has the Tekke ensi beat by yards notice that funny niche placed under the mirhab; the geeky skeletal trees sandwiched between the borders and, wow, that highly specious kabba shaped pentangle connected to the mirhabs point by a thin fine line. We challange anyone to show us another genuinely old Turkmen rug with such an unnatural and flimsy support structure for any aspect of the weaving's design -- especially one as centrally positioned as that 'floating' pentangle.

This is invention not tradition and while the Yomud namazlyk is easier to categorize as workshop RK strongly feels the grogan ensi is equally as commercially concocted and contrived.

In the final analysis we see both these rugs as historically unimportant freaks in a Cirque du Soleil Turkmen sideshow.

Author: robert
email: [email protected]
Mon, Apr 24th, 2006 01:11:19 PM

RK Replies:

Tekke animal tree ensi and the various related spin-offs are, as far as we are concerned, later editions to Turkmen weaving and are not part of the archaic period of their weaving history.

Some months ago we published a detail from a Turkmen pile piece we felt was 400 plus years old.

This icon is, in our estimation, the seed from which the animal-tree ensi grew.

Of course we recognize the image of a tree and two flanking animals is a very old one but, in all reality, that mythology per se may never have played any part here -- and lets all remember the 7000 plus year old statue of a seated female with two leopards at her side that probably represents the real source imagery.

Here is the detail again:

We also illustrate the two ensi from the Washington icoc catalog you mention:

number 6 on the left and 7 on the right.

Both of these are what we call animal-tree spin-offs as they mimic but do not completely represent the full animal tree design.

You are right in suspecting connection here but realize the animal tree design and the Turkmen ensi animal-less copy, like numbers 6 and 7 demonstrate, are both direct derivatives of the archaic icon we illustrated above.

There is no doubt accretion, deletion, combination, re-combination and invention of design occurred at an ever accelerating pace, even when considering pre-1850 Turkmen pile weavings.

Perhaps no group demonstrates this better than the Tekke and while 6 and 7, as well as the grogan piece, are venerably old ensi they are also degenerate when compared to a far older survivor like the detail we published.

We will admit the ensi the detail comes from is not nearly as flashy as any of these three -- the grogan example being the flashiest -- but its connections to the cultural history all genuine Turkmen weavings share are far more important and significant.

As for the grogan ensi spin-off version? We find it to be more affected and less genuine than either 6 or 7, mostly because of that "flash" element its rendition can not help but communicate.


Sorry. Actually, it was not the Dodds Engsi I was thinking of but rather a Tekke Engsi from the 10th ICOC included in the special Engsi exhibition (Figure 6 or 7 in the publication World of Carpets).

The two pieces seem quite similar.

Author: robert
email: [email protected]
Sun, Apr 23rd, 2006 08:51:58 AM

RK Replies:

The ensi at grogan, lot 106, was, along with the Borjalu Kazak, the source of a lot of buzzing and questioning all weekend at acor.

Here is a photo of the ensi:

We heard about it some time before the sale and as soon as the catalog was out we were sent a photo.

From the get-go we knew it was not a piece we were going to go after, so our interest in it was nil.

When we first viewed the sale on Thursday we had a good opportunity to examine it carefully.

After doing so, our opinion of the piece was unchanged and while we recognize it is pre-1850 and somewhat "unusual" we'd have to call it nothing more than a pastiche.

Why it was called an "Unusual Turkoman Ensi" in the catalog, when in fact it is a stone cold Tekke ensi, can only be ascribed to grogan's less than expert abilities at rug identification.

There were a number of other instances where this was demonstrated and we'd suggest mr grogan face the reality he is not a rug expert but he can bask in the fact his rug savvy is way ahead of any other American auction house's.

We can also state grogan is a good marketer and the rug sale results proved how good he is at setting up the old auction fever stratagem.

For us, this Tekke ensi is an example of Turkmen "workshop" weaving rather than a genuine piece made within the traditional cultural format.

We date it to 1820-1840 and no earlier.

We also believe it was made in Khiva either as a special homage to examples produced by earlier generations of weavers, or as, believe it or not, airport-art, i.e destined for sale or trade rather than use.

The fact no one knows anything about pre-1850 Turkmen rugs -- why they were made and who made them -- complicates any attributions or attempts at identification and our ideas are just that -- our ideas, they are not provable nor do we present them as fact.

However, we have seen and handled literally hundreds of early Turkmen rugs and our ideas are based on the experience and knowledge we have accrued in that process.

We also own several Tekke ensi we feel are seriously older and far more genuine than this piece and, unlike many, we were not seduced into believing it was/is "important".

You are very correct, Robert, in believing it will clean up but we are positive the colors will prove to be harsh and inharmonious -- and this will, as far as we are concerned cause the end result to be, at least in our refined vision, no better than it looks in its filthy dirty, moth eaten present state.

The buyer, who has been identified as ebberhard herrmann, will, we are sure, find out what we have written here is true and factual when he receives the rug.

More than this we have no time right now to discuss but, yes, we agree the price was very high -- typical auction fever.

As for any analogies with the dodds ensi? -- here we do not agree with you and are somewhat curious what made you think there were any.


In reference to the Grogan engsi, circa 1800, estimate $1000-2000, when I first saw it on their website it reminded me a little of the Dodds Tekke engsi published in Atlantic Collections, among other places.

It has some rare features, which suggest that Turkoman engsi diverged from a common ancestral source. In other words, early engsi share highly significant ornaments and the way in which ornament is deployed.

On later engsi both ornament and its deployment is debased and stereotyped, in addition to being overabundant and superfluous.

Initially, the coloration was a turn-off to me, and it looked as though it might have been intentionally faded.

In retrospect, I dont think that this is the case, any fading appears to be natural and the brown-red coloration, though not that common in Tekke engsi, is found in some early Tekke, Yomut and Arabatchi work, in particular.

After a good wash and some careful conservation it will be very presentable. However, whether the price paid was fair or a case of "auction fever" can still be debated.

Author: John Lewis
email: [email protected]
Sun, Apr 23rd, 2006 03:51:58 AM

RK Replies:

We attended the grogan preview and sale, so we got a chance to examine the ensi and watched it sell to a phone bidder.

We had heard there were a number of people interested in the piece and, in fact, were asked by some what we thought about it.

To make this quick, as time is short, we did not think much of it, though we recognize the ensi was pre-1850 and believed to be "important" in some people's eyes.

It is not in ours.

So while the price it made proves old and very damaged Turkmen weaving can (and should) bring big prices, in this instance thoughts this ensi was "important" are misguided and, flatly, incorrect -- we see it as way too much to do about way too little and the $35,000 price as dumb as the $1-2000 estimate.

We also have a good idea who the buyer was and know if that person saw the same ensi on the floor or wall of any rug dealer's shop with a $6,000 price tag, he would walk past it like it was a plate of day old cold, hard spaghetti covered with congealed canned tomato sauce.

This piece provides a perfect example of the power of auction action and fever and nothing less. The ensi was, like many other auction prices off the mark.

Why? That will have to wait until next week when we plan to review the sale, and this piece as well, with more photos and commentary.


What is your view on the grogan ensi (estimate $1000-2000) and sold for $35,000?

A good price but how to action houses get is so wrong?

Author: jc
Fri, Apr 14th, 2006 11:23:06 AM

We have been quite occupied and have not had any time to finish the preview of grogan or skinner's sale.

We will try to do it this weekend but no promises...

Author: Ashok Patel
Wed, Apr 5th, 2006 06:09:33 AM

RK Replies:

Glad the dog didn't eat the references.

Well, Ashok, you have now put yourself firmly into the disingenuous rug-groupie pile, since your comments about those who hold their info private and do not make it public ring rather hollow.

We can only view your response as an excuse and we are sure others see it similarly.

The rug world is stuffed with those who make outrageous statements or claims and then, when confronted, rely on lame excuses, bluster and innuendo to weasel out of supporting them.

You have lots of company to fraternize with so we suggest once again you forget about RugKazbah.com.

We were already tired of your act long ago and now, after this episode, wish you well but do that, well, somewheres else.

We trust you've got the message, now -- if not, here it is in plain old English: Get lost.


Thanks Jack, I think this is about as far as I best go for any number of reasons. I cannot support my argument without citing the work of another. He however has asked me not to drag him into this. So I think I best stop here.

Author: Ashok Patel
Tue, Apr 4th, 2006 06:20:11 AM

RK Replies:

1. That term, "supplementary reserve", is, in our opinion, a poor one. Why? Because it uses inapplicable wordage in attempting to describe something that already has far better extant phraseology.

But we won't beat the bush on this any further than suggesting a "panel below (or above) the field" as more appropriate.

2. We are sorry but we do not share your admiration for sothebys catalog blurbs. Why? Because they are often pedantic and pompous. Plus, significant info is sometimes purposely left out to increase possibilities of sale, rather than supply complete info for the buyer.

We dont know who scribbles the descriptions and frankly could care less.

3. As for the possibility this soumak is Afshar?

Well, this too appears to us to be a misuse of a recognized term. Why? Because the term Afshar has quite a specific meaning in the world of rugs --it conjures up various types of post-mid-19th century weavings that are well known to be Afshar.

None of these pile weavings, by the way, are at all similar, in any ways, to the soumak -- so why call it an Afshar?

RK realizes well the name Afshar has far more ancient and historic Near Eastern associations and surely some of that history and those associations included weaving.

However, we do not have any positive info or any representation of what those ancient Afshar weavings looked liked, or were like.

So our calling the soumak Kazak -- Lori Pembak specifically --is, as far as we are concerned, much closer to any reality and, more significantly, more descriptive to anyone who knows.

After all the soumak does have those "pastel"-ish colors Lori Pembak pile weavings display, as well as the coarser weave we see in Kazak, as compared to Kuba and Shirvan area soumak.

We would be interested in your trying to demonstrate support for your Afshar thesis and for that soumak, rather than just a pronouncement with no supporting documentation or valid argument.

Your serve, Ashok.


Thanks RK, I will quit screwing around so much.

The term "supplementary reserve" is used to describe the panel under the main field boxed in by the borders.

It is not that common but I picked it up from Sotheby's auction descriptions where they use it to describe that panel on Transylvanian rugs. I use "supplementary subordinate reserve" when the panel is under the field as opposed to over the field as it is on most Transylvanian rugs.

I love Sotheby's catalogs, do you know who actually writes the detailed auction descriptions. Do I think it is Afshar?

Yes, somebody wove it and if we are correct in where it is from then the people in that region were Afshar or Armenian. I am picking Afshar.

Author: Ashok Patel
Mon, Apr 3rd, 2006 05:29:52 PM

RK Replies:

RK has been interested in soumak since the late 1960's and we have never heard the word "gobbich" before.

Not only in context with these weavings but in any context.

Guess you and "Dinneen" speak gobbledygook. Too bad we don't or we'd join in.

Plus are you implying the loops seen on the "Kazak" soumak are an "Afshar" affectation?

In fact, Ashok, what are you insinuating with this comment?

And by the way, RK has decided to bless senor Ashok with a capital "A", instead of the small "a", to acknowledge his having done some homework, as well as carrying some noticeable passion for early rugs. Those people whose efforts, passion and whatever have proved them to be worthy of having the first letter of their name capitalized receive that treatment here on RugKazbah. Those whose efforts have proven less satisfactory suffer the alternative.

This is just one other small RK kudo for you, Ashok.So now don't go and let me down and start acting like a clown, right?

Also your term "supplementary subordinate reserve" is another RK has yet come across.

Is this more gobbledygook?

One more -- do us a favor and use one name, you're fooling no one by trying to use an alias. If you persist in clowning around we'll take back the "A".


The loops are seen in Afshar bag. The main border is an Afshar border. Afshar tribes lived north of Lori Pambak south of Tblisi in southern Kartli. Of the Kazak tribes in the Moslem era many were Afshar. If they were under the Yyerevan Khanate they would not have been Kazak would they? The supplementary subordinate reserve is clearly Kazak. When I see a supplementary reserve, subordinate or not I think Kazak. I am sure this is the way RK figured it because he is the FacioGnosis but why do you disagree Dinneen?

Author: Little old peanut brain
Mon, Apr 3rd, 2006 12:59:55 PM

RK Replies:

Don't fall down and hurt yourself now, ashok. Better becareful doing your whooppee dance around your desk.

Little old peanut brain replies:

I did not tell you the truth oh great one. I did not dancearound my desk because is pushed up against the back wall of the7-11. Actually I danced the happy dance in front of the desk andall the way over to the main cooler. After work today I shall buya double big gulp of Mountain Dew and dring a toast to yourgreatness.

Author: Dinneen
Mon, Apr 3rd, 2006 11:54:42 AM

Lori Pambak? With the gobbich closing loops? I think not.

Author: little old peanut brain
Mon, Apr 3rd, 2006 09:39:57 AM

RK Replies:

Don't fall down and hurt yourself now, ashok. Better be careful doing your whooppee dance around your desk.

As for the rest of your exuberance: ?

What are you talking about?


Wooooo Hoooooo! I got you Jack, I got you good. I just did the happy dance all around my desk. Of course it is a Kazak. Lori Pambak? Maybe but I would have said a little north of there but on this I will not argue. I figured that you had to know and were just being selfish with your wisdom. Old doc Thompson is not the only one who does not tell everything he knows. I also notice you slipped Grogan in as a RK certified "Rug Expert". Thanks. I feel like my little old peanut brain is running on Hi-Test today.

Author: Ashok Patel
Mon, Apr 3rd, 2006 08:16:11 AM

RK Replies: Since no soumak bag has yet to be positively provenanced to any specific weaver, clan, village, town or location who's to say this bag, or any other one, is a this or a that? Surely not us.

And if you read what we wrote carefully, you will see we did enter the caveat "so-called ShahSevan". Maybe it's time for new glasses for you, ashok?

After collecting and studying these weavings for decades, RK has some definite ideas about the provenance of some pieces but, that said, these are only ideas, not fact.

So, ashok, if you are sure you positively know, let's see you put that in writing instead of more bleating around the bush.

We will, however, help you along and reveal what we think about this piece -- its a Kazak soumak, specifically Lori Pembak, made at the end of the 19th century.

Your turn now...


RK I am shocked baffled, mystified, and astounded about what you said about "lot 3 a so-called ShahSevan Soumac Bagface dated in the catalog to 1875". Are you not the sublime faciognosis? How can you miss that the bag is not Savan. Shahsavan is old form and out of date. Since the revolution the propper name of the people is Savan. But Shahsavan or Savan to the side this bag is neither and you missed it. Is the real RK on vacation and you are a fill-in some sort of low budget RK-Lite.

Author: jc
Sun, Apr 2nd, 2006 12:14:32 PM

Many rugs that sell at auction, even some for high prices, would not be as easily sold in private. By private, we mean person to person be that dealer-to-dealer, collector-to-collector, or any other combination.

Why does this happen and why do rugs sell at auction better than in private?

This question, which might seem a strange way to begin an auction preview is, notwithstanding the incongruity, quite pertinent to any auction preview or review. We have discussed it at length here and dont intend to revisit that now.

However, we have mentioned the almost total invisibility of any real market for historic Oriental Rugs here on RugKazbah.com before and believe it is important to do that again.

The most credible statement about this mythic market for Oriental Rugs was uttered to me some years ago in reply to a question posed about a disappointing auction sale result: Thats what the market valued the piece at on that day.

Well, we responded Markets are not measured by what happens on one day but, rather, what happens on many successive ones.

Sure, markets move up, down and even sideways but unless there is some bottom, i.e. consistency, to those movements there is no real market or anything that could even be so characterized.

Such is the situation for historic Oriental rugs -- there is no real market and anyone who says different is either a fool or a liar.

What does this have to do with grogans sale? Well, frankly, nothing that it doesnt have to do with any rug sale its a fact we all must face. The reality rugs mostly sell for more at auction is part and parcel of this situation.

OK, then, you might ask yourself why does RK mention it now?

We mention this to, once more, bring attention to the lack of any positive criteria or factors pertaining to historic Oriental rugs that could be used to compare and contrast them, and of course, to value them.

All this is obvious and we are sick and tired of hearing ruggies talk about the rug market as if there really was one there's not, face the facts boys and girls.

Lets now take a gander at a few of the pieces grogan is offering but first a word about the estimates.

Auctioneers love putting stupidly low estimates on pieces, often on quite valuable ones. Why, which is what we always ask them when discussing this practice, put a $1000 estimate when the piece will bring many times that price?

The answer is invariably to interest buyers aka to entice them with low prices to get them to bid.

We have always thought this to be bogus; for if those bottom fishers, who are clearly price oriented could bid high for a piece they would and would not need the enticement of a low estimate to motivate them.

We say this because the estimates on many of the grogan lots are way, way off mostly to the low side.

Maybe that makes grogan look good to his consigners but, to anyone who knows the material well, it just makes him look disingenuous or plain stupid -- take your pick.

Hopefully, one day there will be positive criteria to judge rugs and, on that basis, a real market for them can be developed until then we will all have to suffer through the illusionary one that presently exists.

The first lot we will take a look at is lot 3 a so-called ShahSevan Soumac Bagface dated in the catalog to 1875.

This bag is surely not a world-beater and is far down the line from the best of this type. The drawing and color are passable and the $2-3000 estimate is one of the few we saw that is well put.

Soumak bags have been for decades very popular and sought after, their prices well reflect that interest.

Recently a far better, but still not best of type, bag of this design sold at bozwells for more than 40,000 dollars.

Dont expect any similar fireworks from this one at grogans.

We dont like it much but at under $3500 its a reasonable buy for a collector and thats about where we see it selling on sale day.

As far as we can tell, lot 87, which appears to be a type of Karabagh, is incorrectly catalogued as a Talish Rug, something we are positive it is not.

And grogan, who fancies himself as a rug expert, should have known that as well.

Talish area rugs have very unique wool and dye qualities both missing here as well as a certain delicacy in their drawing missing here as well.

Sure the word Talish adds value but when you estimate a rug for $5-700, why bother trying to add value with a misappropriated provenance?

No, senor gorgan missed the boat here, one he should have made it up the gangplank on.

This Karabagh is not very interesting -- a fate wed consign most of the lots in not only grogans sale to.

By the way, mr grogan, this rug is actually a prayer rug and if you look at it carefully enough, with that in mind, you will see the implied mirhab and reason that large quadruped is positioned where the weaver placed it.

Lot 25, called North-west Persian in the catalog is usually not the type of rug we candle to.

However, the weave of this rug looks superior, as does the coloration and expert drawing. We like it and, once again, think the estimate, $2-3000, is foolishly low for a rug of this age and quality. Look for this one doubling or better that silly estimate of grogan.

The Akstafa prayer rug, lot 27, is dated in the catalog to late 19th century because, as we suspect, there are some synthetic dyes present.

If that is the case, why put a $3-5000 estimate on it when, almost everything else in this sale, is under-estimated?

At least we should be able to expect some consistency but, obviously, that is rare in the rug world, now aint it?

We dont like this prayer rug and expect it will be unsold, unless the reserve is much lower than it would appear to be from the estimate.

Since we have been so negative we thought to end this installment of our grogan sale preview with a piece we can say something nice about.

Lot 116, a Turkish yastik, is also foolishly underestimated at $1-1500.

This is a rare type -- often found on a crme-colored white ground --, the best of which always exhibit a far higher level of design articulation, delicacy and far better proportions.

That said we do like its robust provincial quality more than any of the other of the gaggle of yastik grogan is trying to move.

We do, however, find the drawing to be a bit cloddish and exaggerated.

While on the flip-side, we do like the golden colored field, spirited rendering of the main border drawing and the contrasting red ground color used for the elem.

Again, the estimate, $1-1500, is way low and we expect this to outperform that range by much, as well as its outperforming any of the other yastik in the sale, none of which is even close to the level this one achieves.

As time allows, we will add another installment of this preview, so stay tuned for more about the grogan/acor sale here on RugKazbah.com.

Author: Ashok Patel
Thu, Mar 30th, 2006 08:29:40 AM

RK Replies:

Sob Sob Your story almost made us cry...well, almost.

Phuleeze now, ashok, cut the BS.

We have already written about jon thompson here and while we, too, recognize he knows about, and has studied, rugs for a long time, we'd have to agree he is not a straight up or honest individual. He is not a thief, just an overly ambitious, paranoid bigot, who cares for little others than himself.

His story really starts when he wrote the first piece for that herrmann catalog.

Before then he was pretty much a nobody in the rug world, and ridiculed in London for his penuriousness collecting modus operandi.

But when herrmann introduced thompson to the inner sanctum world of german rug collectors, thompson siezed the ball and ran to the goal line before herrmann even knew what had happened.

Anyway, and as we all have seen, thompson has moved up from rugs into more important universes...good riddance to him says us.

Anyway, ashok, you are free to email RK to reveal yourself. We can truly understand why you do not want to do that publicly but you should, at this point, not fear to email us in private.

We will protect your identity should you choose to avail yourself of that option.

But, in any event, quit the sob stories, will'ya.

By the way, our webmaster just finished installing our new search engine and putting thompson into it yielded 36 references.

Go check them out to read what we have written about johnny-boy or to find any other information posted here on RugKazbah.


Thank you RK. It is hard to pick an expert who you will not rip to shreds. For example Jon Thompson has a great knowledge but I believe that he only tells what is convenient. I just do not think he is a straight up gentleman. But he knows something.Please understand that I am a nobody. I get paid by the hour in a dead end job in my cousin's business and if there is a little to buy a rug book at the end of the month God blesses me. I do not want to announce to the world who I am since I know what sick suckers most of them are. I just want to learn about rugs so that there is a little beauty in my life. There has not been much since my wife died.

Author: Ashok Patel
Wed, Mar 29th, 2006 07:10:31 AM

RK Replies:

There is an early Bob Dylan song lyric:
"I was so much older then, I am younger than that now."

We cite this because changing the word 'older' to more knowledgeable about rugs and 'I am younger than that' to I know less about them would aptly describe Ian Bennett.

During the mid-1970's to the mid-80's, when RK lived in London, we were very friendly with Ian and found him always to be an incredibly intelligent fellow who knew a lot about rugs.

In fact, most of the early hali's were written, single-handedly, by Ian, while franses and co invariably took the credit.

Bennett was the workhorse at the hali office and there is no doubt without his expertise and smooth writing style there would not have been a hali magazine for long.

Also we heard, many times, how much of the early writing attributed to and authored by michael, aka little lord, franses was ghost written by Bennett.

Go compare pre-1983 articles written in franses's name with the ones written after that date. There is a definite difference in the writing style and content level one that is very noticeable and supportive of such thoughts.

Ian Bennett is one of a few individuals who gave a tremendous amount to the rug world and has received little in return.

Unfortunately, Ian Bennett had some "personal difficulties" and in dealing with those problems lost most of the edge he had with rugs.

It is truly a pity because Bennett was a wellspring of information and the carpet world has suffered somewhat for his loss.

So we would have to have Bennett on our short list of experts, however, he would be there for the work he did long ago as, since then, he has contributed little of value.

And, in our opinion, Ian's best contributions deal with "high culture" or " large-scale society" weavings (Classical Safavid and Ottoman), not with what we call "low culture" or small-scale society ones (Village and Clan weaving from the Caucasus, Anatolia and Turkmenistan.)

So, yes, Bennett gets the experts nod from RK. What about John Mills?

Well, here we don't agree.

Mills is definitely a bright, highly intelligent and diligent researcher and we have read with interest some of his work, which is almost exclusively oriented to those large-scale society weavings that don't interest RK very much -- we prefer the gutsy style and far more potent iconographies of small-scale society ones.

Regardless of that preference, we have a great amount of respect and admiration for Mills's study of rugs in early European paintings but we don't swallow hook, line and sinker many of his conclusions.

In fact, we wrote and published on RugKazbah.com a rather extensive critique of a long and well-illustrated article Mills wrote some years ago.

Basically we took him to task for errors we found in his 'thesis' and, particularly, his dating of some of the pieces he used to present that thesis.

Perhaps readers who question our dismissal of Mills's supposed "carpet expertise" will want to read that. Entitled "A Tail of Two Prayer Rugs" Parts I, II, III and Epilogue, these posts can be found in the "Archive" and we suggest serious readers should visit or re-visit them to see the issues our commentary raises.

Here is a quote from Part I that should put our opinion of Mills into some perspective:
"While Mr. Millss insight and knowledge about carpets in paintings is well proven, his ability to determine their age is surely not."

So, ashok, you stepped up to the plate and batted a solid 500, which in the major leagues would get you a nice fat salary and a legion of fans.

Here on RK's board we will also salute you, as your first picks were excellent and show you have done some homework.

Now, how about revealing yourself? By doing so you will increase the possibilities of mining more info here on RugKazbah.com.

Try it, you will, we promise, be surprised.


This sounds like a fun game. How about Ian Bennett and John Miills. Them is so smart they make my little peanut brain ache (as my friend Gabe would say).

Author: Ashok Patel
Tue, Mar 28th, 2006 07:00:32 AM

RK Replies: You are persistent, ashok -- a persistent anonymouse...

OK, you are somewhat correct but not entirely.

There surely is not a plethora of individuals who RK would bestow the title of rug expert on.

However, there are some and while RK is not afraid to voice our views, opinions and ideas in public we do reserve the right to keep a lot of what we know private.

So, sorry, but your question will have to fall into that private area.

How about you and the rest of the readers, who look in here daily, suggest the person or persons you believe to be experts?

RK will be glad to agree or disagree and perhaps this little exercise will go some distance in providing our views on this topic.

By the way, dodds, professor price=clown, pacquin, grogan etc. are surely not on our short list of experts and, hopefully, they're not on yours either.


RK say -his expertise is surely not close to the level RK would call expert- I will bet dollars to donuts that you cannot name three experts alive today. I will make it easier for you. You may include yourself as one of the three.

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